personal cloud backup

We live our lives on our computers and our mobile devices. It’s not even just a matter of where and how we keep our “data,” because what we keep on these systems is, for most people, the tools necessary for daily life and the memories of all the days past. How would we cope with losing our phone book, our credit cards, our plane tickets, and all the important photos and videos of our lives? We don’t need to imagine some doomsday scenario for that eventuality to exist – all we need to do is drop our smartphone in a lake!

It’s simply not an option for us to lose the data that we’ve put on our phones and laptops. It’s not as if they need to be stolen or hacked for the loss of data to be a real problem – it is in the nature of hard drives to fail. As such, it is necessary to be prepared.

Where to begin, then?

Well, fortunately, there are a wide variety of personal cloud backup systems available. From local data storage devices to massive cloud-based backup systems, you can (and should) backup your data to multiple locations and in multiple forms. I will address the more local, hard-drive-based backups in a later post, but today we’re going to talk about personal cloud backup options.

A personal cloud backup system needs to:

  • Provide enough storage space for all your important data to be saved, with enough space to account for any versioning that is included;
  • Allow for backed-up data to be accessed by the user (at the very least to restore systems, but also to access individual files, if the user needs/wants);
  • Be compatible with all systems and devices you want/need to have backed up;
  • Provide account management, central billing, and malware protection;
  • Provide options for how the data is backed up, and provide adequate information concerning same, such as the drain on your system each method of backup will cause; and
  • Do it all quickly and efficiently.

Of course, you’ve got to include the price of the service in your analysis. But what other factors should you consider?


This is where you are looking to backup all your (critical/essential) information, so the very first thing you’ll need to know is whether the backup service you’re looking at will even provide you enough storage space to handle the data you want to store. Services provide different amounts of data between paid and free versions. Other factors need to be considered as well, such as versioning. You will need more space if you want the backup to keep more than a couple of versions of a single file. Also, make sure to check the amount of time that multiple versions are maintained. If older versions are deleted after 30 days, but you go looking for draft #2 45 days later, you’ll be both pissed off and out of luck.

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Supported Devices

Are you interested in backing up one computer? Two? Will you need to backup other devices? Do you rotate a lot? Do you maintain multiple systems? Each backup system supports a specified number of devices, usually divided up between paying tiers. Make sure you know what you’re paying for and that it aligns with what you need.

Supported Operating Systems

Most platforms have at least basic compatibility with all three major operating systems these days (Windows, MacOS, Linux), but not all of them. Some may not have full features for every major OS, some may not allow complete backups (a particular problem with MacOS, for example). Also, if you’re interested in backing up your mobile devices, you’d better check compatibility with those operating systems too. Speaking of…

External/Mobile Device Backups

We keep our lives on our mobile devices these days, so losing the data you have on your phone or tablet could be catastrophic. If you want your backup system to capture your mobile devices as well, you need to make sure that they’re supported. You’ll also want to determine whether they count as an entirely different device for purposes of the number of devices your service allows.

What about your removable hard drives? If you’re anything like me, you love SSDs too much and have had no choice but to enlist a squad of removable hard drives into your regular computer operations. Will your backup service capture the data on those drives? Are there any restrictions?

Privacy & Security Protection

If data privacy is one of your major concerns (because your data should be safe with any of these providers), then look for a service that allows the use of a personal encryption key. That key will remain in your possession, and your data will not be accessible by anyone else unless your key is easy to guess or they manage to break the encryption. (If your preferred system doesn’t offer a private key, but privacy is still a major concern, I strongly suggest reviewing the company’s privacy policy before signing up.)

While the private key can also help security, another item you should look for is support for multi-factor authentication. As strange as it seems, there are still numerous data storage companies without MFA support in 2023. Make sure you’re getting all the security you both want and expect from your cloud backup provider.

Backup vs. Syncing vs. Archiving

If you’re using a more traditional cloud backup service, then you need to know and understand how it will operate similarly to, and differently from, other types of online data storage. Services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud are online syncing services, which operate differently than a backup service. A syncing service mirrors a specific set of files and folders on your device and pushes identical copies of them to your other linked devices, providing immediate access across multiple systems.

A traditional backup service, on the other hand, slowly and either continuously or periodically copies all of the designated files on one computer to its servers. Your data remains there until it’s needed, constantly being replaced by newer versions as time goes by.

Finally, archiving is essentially a stripped-down version of a backup system. These services allow you to transfer files you don’t need to their servers, without maintaining a copy on your system. The drawback is that you often need to pay to access those files if you ever need them.

Special Features

Each service will offer its unique services to go along with the basics discussed above. (Also, while it’s quite essential, I include any particularly fast or unique ways of restoring your files in this category, because I expect any backup system to have a functional method of doing so.)

Other special features include tools for sharing or collaboration with others, the number of versions you’re able to keep of each document, additional security features (such as built-in antivirus screening and ransomware protection), and the speed of uploading, and may be important to you in your search.

With all that in mind, here is our list of the Best Personal Cloud Backup Services for Individuals looking to reduce their anxiety:

The Best Personal Cloud Backup Services in 2023

best personal cloud backup drive


Editor’s Choice
Operating Systems: Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android (limited Linux support)
Storage Limit: 10TB
Number of Devices: Unlimited
External Drives: Yes
Mobile Devices: Yes
MFA: Yes (via email)
Encryption: AES 256-bit (transmission & storage); private key


  • Offline upload and restore options
  • Very deep versioning system (30 versions)
  • Excellent mobile apps (allows easy review of backed-up files on your mobile device)


  • Limited options for storage space
  • No monthly payment options


  • $59.62 (first year) for 5TB
  • $74.62 (first year) for 10TB

best personal cloud backup sugarsync


Operating Systems: Windows, MacOS
Storage Limit: 500GB
Number of Devices: Unlimited
External Drives: Yes
Mobile Devices: Yes
Encryption: TSL (transmission), AES 256-bit (storage)


  • One of the best platforms for syncing online files between multiple devices
  • Multiple versions of files kept for 30 days; don’t count against your storage limit
  • Not a traditional backup service – backup from any device via web app, remote access and remote deletion to all devices synced


  • Only backs up certain file types (no part of your /ProgramFiles, for example)
  • No backups of files that are in use (problematic for files like Outlook PST files, which tend to be constantly running)


  • $7.49/month (100GB)
  • $18.95/month (500GB)

best personal cloud backup carboniteCarbonite Safe

Operating Systems: Windows, MacOS
Storage Limit: Unlimited
Number of Devices: 5 (priced per machine)
External Drives: Yes (higher plans only)
Mobile Devices: No
MFA: Yes (SMS only)
Encryption: 128-bit Blowfish (transmission & storage); Private Key (Windows only)


  • Excellent User Interface
  • Easy to see what files have been backed up (including partial backups)


  • No longer offers mobile apps
  • Slow upload speed
  • No automatic backup of large files, external drives, or video in the basic tier (higher tiers are relatively expensive compared to other services)


  • Basic – $49.99/year (1 computer; no external drive backups)
  • Plus – $71.99/year (1 computer)
  • Prime – $89.99/year (1 computer; includes courier delivery of restored drive)

best personal cloud backup backblazeBackblaze

Editor’s Choice

Operating Systems: Windows, MacOS
Storage Limit: Unlimited
Number of Devices: 1
External Drives: Yes
Mobile Devices: No
MFA: Yes (email, SMS, Authenticator App)
Encryption: AES 256-bit (transmission), 128-bit (storage); private encryption key upon request


  • Backup can be sent to Backblaze by mail to avoid long backup process
  • Excellent upload/download speeds
  • Easy transfer of license without losing backups
  • Full versioning of files for 30 days


  • Simple design makes finding individual files difficult
  • No search feature
  • Lack of backups for mobile devices


  • $70 for 1 year, $130 for 2 years

best personal cloud backup acorns cyber protect

Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office

Operating Systems: Windows, MacOS
Storage Limit: 5TB
Number of Devices: 5 Computers (Unlimited Mobile Devices)
External Drives: Yes
Mobile Devices: Yes
Encryption: AES 256-bit (transmission & storage)


  • Little-to-no system performance impact
  • Takes full hard drive image as backup, including application and OS files
  • Also offers social media backups
  • Various syncing and sharing options
  • Includes antivirus, ransomware protection, vulnerability scanning


  • Non-app interfaces (web and mobile) are clunky and difficult to use
  • Pricing escalates quickly, I mean it really gets out of hand fast
  • Not really the ideal setup for general personal use, but could be great for people looking for power-backups


  • Advanced: $89.99/year (1 computer; 500GB)
  • Premium: $124.99/year (1 computer; 1TB) to $369.99/year (5 computers; 5TB)

best personal cloud backup spideroak

SpiderOak One

Operating Systems: Windows, MacOS, Linux
Storage Limit: 5TB
Number of Devices: Unlimited
External Drives: Yes
Mobile Devices: No
MFA: Limited
Encryption: TLS/SSL (transmission); AES 256-bit (storage)


  • Strong security credentials (first storage service to give user private encryption key)
  • Good file-sharing and file-syncing features
  • Fast system restoration
  • By far the most transparent re: privacy and your data (if this is a big issue for you, SpiderOak must be among your finalists)


  • Relatively high-priced, given most other systems now offer similar security
  • Incredibly slow upload speeds


  • $69/user/year – 150GB
  • $115/user/year – 400GB
  • $149/user/year – 1TB
  • $320/user/year – 5TB

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