Why Aren't Dropbox, Google Drive, Etc. In Your List?

Isn't Online Storage the Same as Online Backup?

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Why use an online backup service with so many popular sites out there giving away tons of free online storage space? Aren't they basically the same thing?

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

"Why don't you have the very popular Dropbox (or Google Drive, OneDrive, etc.) listed in your online backup lists? These are popular services!"

Services like Dropbox are better categorized as online storage services for two main reasons.

The first thing that keeps an online storage service from being synonymous with an online backup service is their lack of a desktop program that automatically keeps your existing data backed up or synced to their servers.

Google Drive, OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), and Dropbox only sync what's in their preset folders. To keep data backed up with them, you'd have to move your existing data to those folders and then work with them from that location in the future. There are unofficial programs you can install that gets around this limitation to some degree, but it's still not a all-in-one online backup package.

The second thing that keeps cloud storage from being used as a real backup solution is the lack of file versioning. File versioning keeps one or more previous versions of your files stored which you can choose to restore from.

For example, with an online backup service, you can restore a version of your backed up file as it was, say, a week ago. Most important to understand here is that the same goes for deleted files. If you deleted a file yesterday and want to restore it, you can go back in time, so to speak, to an earlier backup where the file existed and choose to restore it.

With an online storage service like Dropbox, however, once the file is deleted, it's deleted on every device that you have setup to keep synced and it's gone forever. This is the opposite of how backup works!

If it's just the free storage that has you interested in trying to make an online storage service function more like an online backup service, check out my Free Online Backup Plans list. There are several online backup services that offer plenty of free space.

Now, all this said, I know things are changing in this area and online storage services are becoming much more feature rich. When any of them are able to sync existing data from existing locations, provide file versioning, and support advanced encryption options, then I'd be glad to add them.

Until then, yes, you certainly could manually upload or sync your important folders and files with these services. However, the lack of an automatic process makes them, in my opinion, unfit as true backup solutions.

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