Fair Use Limits

Why Do Online Backup Services Have Fair Use Limits?

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What are Fair Use Limits?

A fair use limit in an online backup plan, especially one that allows unlimited storage, is basically a "real world" limit to how much you can back up.

A backup service's fair use policy, if it has one, is usually located in the EULA (End User License Agreement) or TOS (Terms of Service) document which you should be able to easily find on the company's website.

The part you're looking for is usually referred to as Fair Use or Acceptable Use but it may be mentioned without a heading in any section that discusses the backup size or details on a particular cloud backup plan they offer.

Why Do Some Backup Services Have Fair Use Limits?

If you've ever been to an all-you-can-eat restaurant, you probably carried the expectation that you could eat as much as you want without restriction.

In reality, however, you'd probably be shown the door as you entered the 8th hour of your visit. That's because the restaurant assumes that you understand that all-you-can-eat means all-you-can-eat-at-a-single-meal.

Since the huge majority of people sit down to eat a single meal at a time and tend to get full and end that meal after a reasonable time, there's usually little need for a restaurant to worry about someone eating more than what's assumed to be fair.

A service that offers an unlimited cloud backup plan is in somewhat of a similar situation. Most people simply don't have the appetite for 864 TB of data.

So, just to be safe, in an effort to protect themselves from the very high cost of the occasional data hoarder out there, they include a fair use limit in the plan's small print.

Do All Cloud Backup Plans Have a Fair Use Limit?

No, absolutely not. In fact, some cloud backup services explicitly advertise that they don't limit the size of your backup in any way whatsoever.

Others are a bit more gray, including language in their TOS or EULA that says things like "We reserve the right in the future, in our sole discretion, to set commercially reasonable data storage limits (i.e. 20 TB) on all unlimited accounts."

In that case, the service is allowing themselves an "out" in the future if greater and greater storage use on their servers starts to make their service less profitable to whatever degree they see as problematic.

Should I Worry if an Otherwise Great Online Backup Plan Has a Fair Use Limit?

Not necessarily, especially if that limit is orders of magnitude larger than you have, or planning in the future, to back up.

For example, let's say you find an unlimited cloud backup plan that has all the features you want and fits perfectly into your budget but has a fair use limit of 25 TB. This is a problem if you have 500 uncompressed Blu-ray movies you plan on backing up. This is not a problem for the 99.9% of everyone else whose total hard drive capacity is 2 TB or less.

You can find all the details on a backup company's fair use limits in my cloud backup reviews for each service. If you're looking for this information for a service that I haven't yet reviewed, check their small print or start a chat or support ticket with the company to make sure you understand what you're getting.