The best cloud data backup

Google Drive and iCloud are the default backup for most of us, storing our documents and media. But there are more secure options -- we've tested them and selected the best.

Best cloud data backup service: SOS Online Backup

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Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS

Price: $80 per year or $8 per month

It's important to back up your entire hard drive, but sometimes you just want copies of your documents, photos, and other media. You also want access to your files anywhere, on any device. That's why so many of us have turned to online data backup. You may already use Google Drive or Apple iCloud, which are convenient but have some limitations. It may be worth spending a little money to use another service (and to keep your data separate from your other Google or Apple stuff).

We evaluated a long list of cloud backup services, and SOS Online Backup has won our top recommendation. When choosing a cloud service, you have to look at pricing, payment options, OS compatibility, and the geographic location of the servers. But when you're putting your personal data online, the most important factor is who has access to it. Ideally, only you do. But most of the cloud backup services that we checked out keep a copy of your decryption keys, including Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, and OneDrive.

SOS Online Backup is on a short list of services that offer optional client-side encryption, so that only you -- and not the service or anyone else -- can decrypt and view your data. Some services that use client-side encryption won't even give you a password reset option; SOS is one of them. If you're serious about your privacy, you should use a password manager instead for password changes. Client-side encryption is important enough to the security of your personal data that we actually disqualified the cloud backup services that didn't at least offer it as an optional feature.

On top of its privacy protections, SOS offers unlimited storage for a reasonable fee, unlimited optional retention of deleted files, unlimited file versions, continuous file syncing, and direct data backup from Android devices. Unfortunately, iOS users can't back up more than contacts and photos, but they can still access and download their data in the cloud. SOS Online Backup doesn't tick that particular box, but we think it's the most complete package and your best backup option.

More cloud services for data backup

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Carbonite Personal

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS

Price: $60 per year for unlimited storage or $100 per year with local backup

Pros: Unlimited storage, low price, free 15-day trial, optional courier service (Carbonite will hand-deliver an encrypted drive containing your data), and a hybrid option where you can use an external drive to mirror your cloud data.

Cons: 4GB file-size limit; client-side encryption available only with the Windows desktop client; no monthly payment option.

Bottom Line: Unlimited storage space for $60 a year is very nice, but the low file-size limit is a puzzling deal-breaker.

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MozyHome

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS

Price: $6 per month for 50GB for one user, or $10 per month for 125GB and up to three users

Pros: Optional client-side encryption; local backup; 24/7 live support; scalable storage space and number of users; free 2GB account that gets 256MB more per referral.

Cons: High cost per gigabyte.

Bottom Line: MozyHome's 24/7 support and low storage capacity are good if your backup needs are basic, but users who need more will need another service.

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Backblaze

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS

Price: $50 per year or $5 per month, per user, for unlimited storage

Pros: Inexpensive; local backup available; optional client-side encryption; continuous backups; 15-day trial; strong password support.

Cons: Deleted files are retained for just 30 days.

Bottom Line: Backblaze is a strong runner-up, held back only by its file-deletion policy.

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Crashplan

Platforms:Windows, Mac, iOS, Android

Price: $60 per year or $6 per month, per user, for unlimited storage

Pros: Unlimited storage; optional client-side encryption; local backup, which is also available as a separate free service; courier service; and seed service, where Crashplan mails you a drive that you mail back with your data on it.

Cons: File sync requires signing up for another service that doubles the cost; no third-party payment options.

Bottom Line: Breaking sync into a separate product is an odd choice. The lack of PayPal or another third-party payment option reduces privacy.

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Bitcasa

Platforms:Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, iOS

Price: $10 per month for 1TB for 5 users

Pros: You can stream media directly from the cloud and share individual files; free 5GB account available for up to three users; extensive support documentation; Linux client.

Cons: Price is on the high side; no local storage option; client-side encryption is mandatory rather than optional.

Bottom Line: Streaming and sharing are nice features, but you can get more storage for less, and password recovery can be a hassle when you're using client-side encryption.

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SpiderOak

Platforms:Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android

Price: $80 per year or $7 per month for 50GB; $130 per year for 1TB

Pros: Hybrid option; 60-day trial available (but limited to 2GB).

Cons: Client-side encryption is mandatory; password recovery uses hints.

Bottom Line: Emailing a password-reset link is more reliable than a hint and less prone to people using their password as their hint. Also, SpiderOak's prices are on the high side.

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pCloud

Platforms:Windows, Mac, iOS, Android

Price: $10 per month for 1TB, per user

Pros: Free 10GB account available, expanding to 20GB with referrals; 10-day money-back guarantee.

Cons: Client-side encryption costs $4 more per month and is only available on the Windows desktop client; no annual subscription options.

Bottom Line: We like that client-side encryption is optional, but the service gets relatively pricey with it.

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Jungle Disk

Platforms:Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS

Price: $4 per month for 10GB, then 15 cents per additional GB

Pros: Scalable storage costs; you can stream media from the cloud.

Cons: No free trial; base cost is high.

Bottom Line: While we like the idea of paying only for the storage that you use, you can get this amount of storage for free from pCloud, and the price of scaling up isn't very competitive.

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About Tom McNamara

Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at Download.com.

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