There are a few common practices for configuring when backups occur. The most common option is on a fixed schedule, such as once a day, week, or month. The second, which we prefer, is to upload file changes whenever they're changed and saved, otherwise known as a continuous backup setting. Services only transfer the modified part of the file in this scenario, so as not to overburden your internet connection or take up unnecessary storage. A third way is simply to upload files manually. Some may appreciate this degree of control, but this method is only effective if you remember to regularly run the backup.
In addition to the 5 GB free option, OpenDrive has one consumer-grade plan called Personal Unlimited. It costs $9.95 /month and offers an unlimited amount of storage space for your backed up files. Prepay for one year at $99 to bring that down to $8.25 /month. You can add an additional computer for $9.95 extra /computer, up to three extras for a total of four.
Carbonite's lowest tier plan, Safe Basic, runs $6.00 /month ($71.99 /year). There are two higher tiers available as well, called Safe Plus and Safe Prime, and run $9.34 /month ($111.99 /year) and $12.50 /month ($149.99 /year), respectively. Each tier is a bit cheaper if two or three years is paid upfront. Plus, they each have a few extras over the base service like external hard drive and mirror image support.
Online backup services scan your hard drive for files worthy of protecting, encrypt them for security, and send them up to the company's online servers. Once your files are uploaded, you can access and restore your data from anywhere. Though there's some overlap, online backup services shouldn't be confused with cloud storage and file syncing services like Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and SugarSync. Those services do store files in the cloud, but they aren't designed to automatically protect all important documents and media files, let alone system files. Their strategy is generally to sync just one folder with all its subfolders to the cloud, and in some cases, to offer online collaborative document editing. Many backup services offer folder-syncing capabilities, but few syncing services offer full-scale backup functionality.
Michael Muchmore is PC Magazine's lead analyst for software and web applications. A native New Yorker, he has at various times headed up PC Magazine's coverage of Web development, enterprise software, and display technologies. Michael cowrote one of the first overviews of web services for a general audience. Before that he worked on PC Magazine's Solutions section, which covered programming techniques as well as tips on using popular office software. He previously covered services and software for ExtremeTech.com.
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