How Long Will the Initial Backup Take?

Will my first backup take a long time since there's so much to upload?

A spiral clock, representing never ending time
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Won't the thousands or millions of files you've chosen to backup with an online backup service take a really, really long time to send over the internet?

How can you figure out how long that first upload will take?

"I'm assuming the first time I backup it'll take a long time, considering the amount of data I have. How long, exactly?"

Your assumption is correct, assuming that the amount of data you initially select to be backed up is large, which is probably very likely.

How long is a more complicated question to answer and depends on a number of factors.

In general, the less data you have to backup, the greater your upload bandwidth, and the greater bandwidth available to the cloud backup service's servers all contribute to a faster initial backup.

Aside from the inverse of what we've already talked about, another common thing that might slow down your online backup is general Internet congestion. Any contractual restrictions that limit your upload bandwidth to your chosen backup provider could also drastically slow your initial upload but that's not very common.

Faster computer hardware can help considerably with how long the preparation of your data for backup takes. However, unless your computer is very slow, faster hardware doesn't have a great impact on the actual upload time.

With so many variables, it's nearly impossible to figure out how long it will take for that initial online backup to complete.

It's hard to provide an account of an experience with this because yours could differ considerably, but, for what it's worth, it was possible to back up over a few hundred GB with Backblaze and it only took 3 days, while other applications were a little slower. That said, with so many variables involved, you could have the opposite experience. It's difficult to recommend one backup service over the other solely on our testing experience with a single initial backup.

At the time of those initial backups, the upload bandwidth used was regularly testing between 4 Mbps and 6 Mbps, depending on the time of day. Keep that in mind as you decide how important the initial upload times mentioned here, and in our reviews, are to you.

If you have a lot to backup or have a slower connection to the Internet, please know that some online backup services offer an offline backup option for initial backups. With this service, which most backup providers charge extra for, you ship a hard drive or flash drive with a copy of your important data directly to the backup provider, saving you the days or weeks it might take to transfer your data to their servers over the Internet.

Check for Offline Backup Option(s) in our Online Backup Comparison Chart to see which of our favorite online backup services offer this option.

Below are some common related questions about configuring and using online backup software on your computer:

We've answered well over a dozen more questions like this, all available via our Online Backup FAQ piece.