What is the Best Cloud Backup service for Mac?
Today we are going to answer that question.
Most of my friends believe that Google Drive and OneDrive ARE a backup. Which they’re not, they literally state it in their T&C’s.
One of the reasons I wanted to do this post, is because MOST online ‘Best Cloud Backup’ reviews I’ve seen so far, are only really interested in one thing. How much money can they make on affiliate links?
Like last year's version, I’m going to sign up with an account for all of the top names - iDrive, Backblaze, Carbonite, and a new one for this year's video, Acronis.
For each of those, I’m going to cover Price, User Experience, Backup, Restoration, and of course Security.
I’ll link any discounts I find at the bottom of this post. So with that said, let’s start off with iDrive.
iDrive is the one that tops many of the online reviews, but does it deserve to be?
For pricing, iDrive is insanely cheap, because yes, I did find a discount - and it’s damn impressive. $7.95 for your first year for 5TB of storage. It’s almost too good to be true.
After the first year, you’ll pay $79.50 for 5TB or $99.50 for 10TB
Those prices are for one user but for unlimited computers, which is very good compared to others who limit you to a single machine.
You can use this on Mac, PC, iOS, and Android and it supports external drives as well as backups for some of the most popular NAS devices.
If you have a tonne of data to either backup or restore, then iDrive can ship a hard drive for you to backup to, and then send it back to them. You’ll have to pay shipping fees outside of the US, but this does take care of the hardest part of these backup services.
For the actual backups, It does have continuous protection, though you do have to enable this manually after installing the client, and it still only works with files of up to 500mb in size. With any larger files getting taken care of in its daily backup job you’ll need to configure.
For those backed up files, iDrive will store up to 30 previous versions of those files, rather than 30 DAYS of history. Which is a much better approach than Backblaze.
In terms of backup speeds, I’m actually glad to see that the issues I had last year SEEM to have been resolved.
I can now backup my files and iDrive will max out my upload bandwidth. So I can basically upload to iDrive as fast as my connection will allow me.
For restoration, those of you in the US will definitely get a better service. They have an overnight shipping option for their physical hard drives with your data, but for anyone outside of the US you’ll have to wait for the drive to ship.
Otherwise, if you want to just restore a file within iDrive itself then it’s a simple case of browsing for the files or folders you want, choosing the location you wish to restore it to and then you wait.
When I say wait, whilst the upload speeds were fast enough to max out my connection. The download speeds weren’t. It definitely felt like it was throttled - I hit about 600Mbps briefly before it seemed to get capped at less than half of that. So if you plan on downloading gigs or maybe terabytes of data, you might want to be prepared to wait or use their drive shipping service instead.
Security for your online data is very, very important, considering you may be backing up almost everything on your Mac to these services. Cat pictures included. So It’s reassuring that iDrive does let you set your own encryption key for those backups, though do be aware that you and ONLY YOU will know those encryption keys. So if you lose it, then you will lose access to your data.
So it would be a very, very wise thing to store these encryption keys in a good password manager.
Overall, the pricing is good, the clients nice, and unless you have very fast upload and download speeds like I do, then the backup and restoration speeds will likely not be a huge issue for you either.
Does it deserve to be Number 1 in all of these online reviews? I dunno.... and speaking of number 1’s. Over now, to last year's winner - Backblaze.
Backblaze costs just $7 per month for Unlimited storage with no caps on file sizes, AND it can also backup any attached external drives for that price, though there is a caveat which we’ll get to in just a sec. It also doesn’t back up a NAS drive as that’s a separate service that they offer.
For the backups, you get 30 days of version history by default BUT pay just $2 more per month and you can extend that to a full 1 year of version history, something which I would definitely pay for if you consider signing up. They also offer a ‘forever’ option where they charge you half a cent per GB per month for any files stored beyond that 1-year history if you needed that too.
Something to be aware of here though is with 30 days of retention and particularly those with attached USB drives, there’s an overly complex article to read, which explains what happens to your data if you don’t use your machine for 30 days [https://help.backblaze.com/hc/en-us/articles/217664898-What-happens-to-my-backups-when-I-m-away-or-on-vacation-?mobile_site=true] and it’s one reason why I’d definitely recommend paying the additional $2 per month to extend that to a year and possibly even the forever option too.
Essentially, if you plug in a USB drive once and back it up to Backblaze, and never plug it in again. Then 6 months later you want to recover it, and the data will be gone because it’s gone past 30 days and it’s not seen the USB drive for 6 months. So just be aware of that.
The second thing to be aware of is that by default, Backblaze excludes a LOT of file types and system-level files and folders from the backup.
So whilst Backblaze can be a great solution for backing up files and folders with your data in them, be careful to check the exclusions to be sure that you are actually backing everything up that you want.
The client itself defaults to continuous backups which are good, so it just backs up constantly as you make changes day-to-day.
I actually quite like this client as it integrates with the System Preferences Panel, rather than being a separate app that you have to launch. It fits in really nicely as a Mac app.
Upload speeds for doing those initial backups - are incredibly good. This impressed me last year and it impressed me again this year. FULL speed uploads that maxed out my internet connection at over 120Mbps until it was finished. VERY good for those of you with fast connections and a lot of data.
🛒 Backblaze: https://geni.us/ceWfs8
Though to get it to do this, you do need to go into the settings and set it to unlimited bandwidth and set the number of backup threads to the max number, even though it warns you that it’s only recommended for ‘fast computers and VERY fast networks’ and still recommends no more than 6 threads. My, now I guess, old, M1 Mac Mini barely goes above 10% CPU when backing up so there are absolutely no issues here.
For restoration, same as iDrive, you can get Backblaze to ship you a drive that you do have to pay for, but you’ll be refunded if you ship the drive back to them in good time. I guess they’re trying to stop people stealing the large drives they’ll be shipping out - so makes sense.
Again, it’s great for those in the US, but anybody outside will be subject to additional shipping charges.
Unfortunately, the client itself doesn’t let you restore files, which is a bit of a shame.
You are forced to sign in using a web browser, and anything more than a single file takes a while for Backblaze to zip it up, which means for large restorations you could be waiting a very long time whilst ‘Your backup is being prepared!’
BUT, once you do get it, the download itself is actually really quick, and it maxed out my download speeds so I can’t really complain there, I just wish you could directly restore from the client like with iDrive.
For Security and again, like before, Backblaze lets you set your own encryption key, which means only you have access to your data - again, if you lose the key then you lose access to your data too. BUT it means it’s so much more secure because Backblaze themselves can’t access it.
Overall, a pretty solid service. Unlimited storage, at a good price with fast transfer speeds. I think the only negative here is the confusing issues with providing 30 days of retention, particularly when backing up external drives, so if you do go with Backblaze, just be sure to check the box to extend that to a year at a minimum.
A quick pitstop in now, to Carbonite!
This is going to be a VERY quick pitstop for Carbonite, because whilst their website has had a facelift since we last looked, Carbonite STILL does not automatically backup any file over 4GB in size, unless you upgrade to their crazy expensive Carbonite Safe Core service.
I don’t want to be caught out because a file has crept over 4Gb in size, I didn’t realise it, my computer has blown up, and now I’ve lost my files because of a stupid backup service that didn’t back up due to a technicality.
So my advice, skip carbonite and look at one of the other options here. If you want the full review, it’s basically the same as last year - so feel free to re-read last year's blog post.
Anywho! Next up, is one that actually, really, really shocked me when I reviewed it. I wasn’t even planning on reviewing it in the first place, but I am so glad I did.
Before that, you know when I mentioned complicated things like storing your Encryption Password somewhere safe? Well, Synology has a totally free, Password service which can help you with that.
I know right! Aren’t Synology those people who just make NAS drives? Yes, they are, but they also do this.
Their C2 Password service lets you automatically generate and securely store passwords across multiple devices. There’s a free tier that has basically all of the features you could need, right out of the box. There’s also a family plan for a very low cost of £4.99 a YEAR for up to 6 users.
All Data is stored with end-to-end encryption, with zero knowledge so only you have access to your data.
There are no weird limitations on the devices you can use it from, or the number of passwords you can store, like other free password managers. And it’s genuinely a fantastic option if you are looking for a free or low-cost password manager.
So, check them out: 🛒 Sign up for your FREE Synology C2 Password Manager: https://geni.us/SynologyC2
With that said, let's move on to Acronis.
Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office
Whilst a mouthful of a name, it also does a mouthful of things.
From backing up online or locally with a full system image or individual files to cloning your hard disk, to backing up your Microsoft 365, Outlook.com, and OneDrive account, though not your Google Account. It also comes with some more advanced cyber security protection with built-in anti-virus and anti-malware protection.
Phew! See what I mean?
Because of this, Acronis is priced very differently from the other products we’ve tested here.
For $124.99 per year, you get 1TB of cloud storage, and you can upgrade that to up to 5TB at a cost of $284.99 per year.
BUT, as I’ve just mentioned and as you’ll see below - that includes not just online backup, but a tonne of other features as well. If there’s one thing I would say about choosing an online backup service, don’t discount something based on price alone.
I reached out to Acronis after writing this and they offered a 20% discount when using the promo code ‘PeteMatheson2022’ - so make sure to use that when signing up.
As far as the overall User Experience goes - I’ve got to give it to them, I actually really like the Acronis client. Yes, there is an awful lot to it because of those extra features. But it looks good, it’s not overly confusing, it works, and so far, other than the physical limitations in terms of the size of data you’re backing up, I’m yet to see any other limitations.
All of those additional features I mentioned can be enabled or disabled on a fairly granular level, and I like that, perhaps because it’s targeted at a more ‘tech savvy’ person to begin with, but I really like this approach.
Acronis also offers a data shipping service similar to the others, but you provide the drive and ship it to them, and they return the drive to you once done. So this does mean that you’ll need to pay for that drive first, it’s a shame there’s no service that’s included as part of the price.
For backups, Acronis actually had one of the best overall experiences for me. It maxed out my upload bandwidth to the Acronis Cloud servers, has a really simple and easy experience to configure those initial backup jobs, and with tonnes of flexibility over what you back up. From local to local, local to cloud, backing up your 365 there’s just a tonne of flexibility here.
The only thing I did notice is that the upload speed reported by the Acronis client seemed to be underquoting the speed my Mac was actually uploading at - which is only a cosmetic issue.
You also have the ability to configure email notifications, which I love.
The good news continues with restorations. It’s a really simple process AND it’s fast and basically maxes out the download speed of my Gigabit connection if given a chance. In fact, attention to detail here, if you try and restore a file that’s already there, the program will instantly realise this and not re-download everything from the cloud again. It’s a really minor thing that probably nobody else would be stupid enough to do - but it just shows that they’ve gone that step further in making what seems like a really good restoration experience.
And it doesn’t stop there either!
Because with Acronis, you also have tonnes of options in terms of restoration, to the point where you can even do what’s called a bare metal recovery, which if your mac has totally crashed, and you’ve lost everything, including the operating system, you can restore the whole thing - assuming you have configured a backup job in the first place to capture the whole system image. These features are why it’s not just a $7 per year or $10 per month service because you do seem to get so much more.
Acronis has it nailed when it comes to Security too. Zero-knowledge encryption yes, but with the additional features that it has such as malware protection, it even offers electronic signatures as an add-on feature. But they’ve got this down to a granular level, you can even choose which Wifi networks you want to use when backing up, so if you had a laptop, you could tell it to only use your home network to back up and then never worry about using Public Wifi again, only to discover that your online backup program has swallowed up all of your bandwidth.
Similarly, with intelligent battery monitoring, it doesn’t back up whilst on a low battery. It’s simple things like this that make me think that Acronis has actually thought long and hard about how a backup product should work from a user's perspective.
To add to my overall good impression of Acronis, they’ve been in the backup business for a very long time. For years and years, I’ve been using Acronis products as an IT engineer - so it’s another check in the box for me that actually, of all the backup providers, perhaps Acronis is the one to rely on here.
If you have read all of this and are still confused over which one you should be using to backup, then I’ll give you my take on what you should do.
If you don’t have much money to spend, then iDrive wins hands down, at least for the first year.
If you have terabytes of data then Backblaze, as long as you upgrade to the extra year or more of retention.
But actually, if we ignore the price, then I’m genuinely impressed with Acronis. It’s got possibly the best product and service here of all the backup services, so much so that I’m actually going to follow this post up with a full review of Acronis, so subscribe to my newsletter for that.
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In the meantime, now you’ve got your backup system sorted, go and find the best cloud services to store all of your photos from your mobile phone.
🛒 Acronis: https://geni.us/AcronisCyberProtect (Get 20% Off when using coupon code: PeteMatheson2022)
🛒 iDrive: https://geni.us/A9yA
🛒 Backblaze: https://geni.us/ceWfs8