What Is Local Backup?

Backed-up files stored on devices like external hard drives are considered local backups

Local backup is when you use local storage, such as a hard drive, disc, flash drive, tape, or external hard drive, to store backed up files.

This is the method used to back up data with commercial backup software and free backup tools, and is sometimes an optional, second backup method with online backup services.

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Local Backup vs Online Backup

Local backup is an alternative solution to using an online backup service, which sends your files over the internet to a secure data storage facility owned and operated by a company that you pay a fee to for data storage.

No Internet Required

Depending on your internet speed and how much data you need to back up, local backup might be preferred over online backup.

If your internet speed isn't fast enough to send your files to an online file backup service in a timely manner, and you need said files backed up somewhere, and quickly, you might consider avoiding the several hours, days, or even weeks that it could take to use the internet for backup, and instead store your files locally.

In short: backing up files locally is usually a better way to go, only if your internet connection is slow. With online backup, the files you back up must be uploaded online to be stored, and downloaded to be restored, whereas local backup doesn't require an internet connection at all.

Easy Access

Local backup gives you the security of knowing exactly where your data is and who has access to it, plus the freedom to store your physical backup device anywhere you like. Maybe you prefer to keep your backup hard drive in a safe, or in your neighbor's house. You don't get that kind of flexibility with online backup.

Less Secure

The flip side to easy access to your backed up data, is easy access to your data. If it's a simple flash drive on your desk that's holding all your important backups, stealing that becomes much easier than stealing your online backups. Plus, most cloud file backup services require more than just a password, like a 2FA code, making theft that much more difficult.

Hard drives, DVDs, etc., that are stored within your house, are also more easily susceptible to things like water and fire damage. Companies that store your data on their file servers most likely create backups of your backups, redundancy that's a bit harder to achieve at home.


Most people have a flash drive or two that have enough free space to hold a good amount of data. You can simply plug one in and run free backup software to dump your files on that drive, without paying a dime.

See our Online Backup FAQ for more on these differences.

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