Is Online Backup Better Than Local Backup?

Online Backup vs Local Backup: Which Way Wins?

Conceptual image of a neon cloud backup
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Is online backup better than backing up to an external hard drive at home? With all of the security concerns and service fees adding up over time, surely backing up locally is better, right?

The following question is one of many you'll find in my Online Backup FAQ.

"Are online backup services really a better option than traditional backup, like to an external hard drive (or disc, tape, etc.)?"

In other words, is it worthwhile to use online backup when there are plenty of other, time-tested ways to backup data on a computer?

Yes, I think so, and most others in the technology industry would probably agree.

The one clear advantage that online backup has over local backup is that your data is stored away from home or office, meaning that your important data is free from local disasters like fires and floods that could impact your external hard drive, optical discs, or other local backup destinations or media.

Having your data stored in a physically secure, enterprise-grade data center also means that it's protected from theft as well as most common hardware failures.

Local backup is only a better option, in my opinion, if one of the following is true: a) your connection to the Internet is very slow, or b) your Internet connection is metered. Since backing up online requires a lot of Internet usage, these two situations make it difficult to backup successfully.

So, in my opinion, while local backup may have an advantage or two over online backup, overall the benefits of backing up using a reputable online backup service outweigh the negatives, at least for most people in most situations.

Important: While there are plenty of great commercial backup programs out there, the free ones these days tend to support as many, if not more, features. If you're interested in local backup, check out my updated list of Free Backup Software before you pay for anything.

Tip: Why settle? The software provided by some online backup services allows simultaneous local and online backup. You can see which of my favorite cloud backup services support this by seeing which ones offer Multiple Backup Destination Options(s) in my Online Backup Comparison Chart.

Here are a few more "basic" questions I tend to get asked about online backup:

Here are even more questions I answer as part of my Online Backup FAQ: