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While this article’s title is intended for content creators, anyone with large data backup requirements may benefit from reading this review post. By large data backup requirements, we mean at least 2TB or 2,000GB. As photographers, videographers or consumers, we generate a lot of data every day from our photos, videos and other content we create. At some point, you realize just how much of it you have and that you are in need of a backup plan in case something happens to your computer. Backing up becomes especially important if your livelihood and income depends on consistent and reliable access to data.
Portable Drive Backup
When one mentions data backup, the first thing that comes to mind is a portable drive, which is typically either a hard disc drive (HDD) or solid state drive (SSD). A HDD drive has a spinning magnetic disc that rotates and reads/writes data, while a SSD drive stores data on flash-memory chips. Because HDDs are legacy technology, they tend to be cheaper (at least for now) compared to SSD by a factor of 3x-5x. However, SSD drives tend to be more energy-efficient and demonstrate read/write speeds that are 5x-10x faster than those of HDDs. The typical max read/write speed for a HDD drive is 120 MB/s (megabytes per second), while a SSD offers speeds of 540 MB/s to 1,050 MB/s.
We personally own numerous HDDs, including Seagate 5TB and Western Digital Passport 5TB. Both are great storage devices from highly reputable companies. Luckily, we have not experienced any major issues or complete failures with them.
Cloud backup and storage came to the forefront over the past 15 years and is becoming increasingly sophisticated and affordable for an everyday user. While many companies such as Google, Apple and Microsoft offer the first 5GB or 15GB for free, from there it is a paid service.
There are many reasons to have cloud backup in addition to storing your data on portable drives and computers. First, portable drives often fail. We have a Western Digital portable drive that experienced issues with bad sectors about 4 years ago. Luckily, we were able to retrieve the data and format the drive. We still use it to this day, but with extra caution. This incident gave me a lot of food for thought.
Similarly, I experienced a malfunction of my laptop’s main SSD boot drive. One day, my laptop began giving me blue screens and refused to start up. Luckily again, I was able to copy data from it and install a new SSD drive. I attribute this issue to frequent data overwriting due to making large quantities of videos/photos. Almost all SSD and HDD drives have a certain useful life of read/write data cycles measured in terabytes. If you often overwrite data on your drives, the point of failure may come faster than anticipated. Drives can also fail due to other prosaic factors, such as a spilled cup of coffee. Finally, drives or laptops can be lost or stolen.
Cloud Backup Comparison
Knowing all of this, we searched for options and chose Amazon Drive to store our data on the cloud. Overall, we have been happy customers of Amazon drive over the past four years. But, unfortunately, Amazon decided to stop supporting Amazon Drive effective December 31, 2023. This prompted us to search for options again. When we were looking for an alternative, our basic requirements were:
- Minimum of 5TB of cloud backup
- Reliable desktop apps for Windows/Mac (Android/iPhone apps are a plus)
- Reasonable price
- Reasonable upload/download speeds
- Simple-to-understand interface
We paid $60 per 1TB of data for Amazon Drive. So anything under this threshold will qualify as a reasonable price for us.
Unfortunately, when your data requirement is at least 2TB of cloud backup, this alone will cut off numerous cloud backup providers, such as Google One, Microsoft’s OneDrive and Apple’s iCloud since they offer online storage plans up to 2TB at the time of this writing. After researching and making our comparisons, we chose iDrive cloud backup services.
The main reason for our choice was their pricing for the number of features and robust encryption practices that you get in exchange. iDrive had a special pricing for new clients switching from another competing cloud service provider, namely you pay $7.95/year for 5TB of backup for the first year. After this, the prices switch to normal at $79.50 for 5TB or $99.50 for 10TB per year for personal accounts. We will make comparisons between iDrive and other cloud backup providers later below.
iDrive is a US-based company operating since 1995. The company is frequently featured by PC Mag and PCWorld as the editor’s choice cloud backup provider. In case you want to try iDrive, you can create an account that can backup up to 10GB for free to get an idea on how iDrive works. In case you decide to choose a paid account, iDrive is currently offering a 90% discount for new customers and you will pay $7.95/year for 5TB backup plan for your first year, like we did.
In case you need 10TB of backup, you can get a 25% discount off the original price of $99.50/year and pay $74.62 for the first year.
When comparing various cloud backup providers, there were numerous factors that we considered. The table below shows four of the most popular cloud backup companies and how they stack up against each other.
|iDrive||Arq Premium||Carbonite Basic||Backblaze|
|Storage Options||5TB, 10TB |
(business plans up to 100TB)
|Price (before discounts)||$79.50/year for 5TB $99.50/year for 10TB||$59.99/year for 1TB $72/year for every additional 1TB||$83.99/year for unlimited storage||$70/year for unlimited storage|
|# of Devices Supported||Unlimited||5||1||1|
|File size upload limit (automatic backups)||Unlimited||Unlimited||4GB||Unlimited|
|File Version Retention||30 versions||Unlimited||12 versions||Unlimited for 30 days|
|Default Server Encryption||AES 256-bit||AES 256-bit||AES 128-bit||AES 128-bit|
|Private Key Encryption||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Operating Systems||Mac, Windows, Linux||Mac, Windows||Mac, Windows||Mac, Windows|
|Mobile Backup||Android, iPhone||No||Android, iPhone||No|
Most cloud backup providers listed above offer unlimited storage. iDrive stands out by offering only 5TB or 10TB plans for personal use. However, if you need more than 10TB, iDrive offers business plans with storage options going up as high as 100TB with 1TB of storage costing roughly $20/year. Even if you are using iDrive for personal use, you can still enroll in their business plans. If anything, that is the biggest drawback of iDrive in comparison to other backup providers. However, iDrive stands out among competitors by offering an unlimited number of devices that you can back up. Also, iDrive allows you to back up your phone’s data too. Carbonite offers this service as well.
Data Encryption and Restoration
These days, almost all providers offer strong encryption options using either an AES 128- or 256-bit process. Also, all four companies above offer private key encryption. A private key is a unique password that you use to encrypt your data. This is not the same as your password you use to login to a cloud backup provider’s website. Using private key encryption should prevent anyone from accessing your data, even cloud backup providers themselves. It is highly recommended to use private key encryption for cloud backup. However, there are major negative exceptions when it comes to how these four companies handle your private key during the data restoration process.
In case you lose your local data, you typically have two options to restore it from cloud: either download data over the internet or request a recovery courier service. When you want to restore your data by downloading it over internet, using Backblaze for this purpose comes with a catch: the company requires you to disclose to them your private key. Even though they promise that your private key is never saved on their disk and is discarded once it is used, the fact that you have to disclose it renders this important security feature less robust.
Also, during the data restoration process over the internet, Backblaze decrypts your data after you provide them your private key and encrypts it again before sending it to you. This is not a strong privacy and security practice for keeping your data encrypted and secure throughout all sending/receiving stages. The other cloud providers, including iDrive, keep your data encrypted all the time, regardless of whether it is on a server or being transmitted back and forth. The data is only decrypted by the local app when it reaches your computer.
The other option to restore your data mentioned above is to use a courier recovery service, wherein cloud backup providers will send you all your backed up data to your physical address on a portable storage device. This is an excellent option when downloading your data over the internet is not practical in case of large amounts of data or slow internet speeds.
iDrive charges $99.95 per courier restore request, while Carbonite Basic does not offer such services. You will have to upgrade to Carbonite Prime ($149.99/year) to enable courier restore for $99.99 per restore request. Arq does not offer courier restore services, while Backblaze does have a courier restore program. Backblaze’s courier restore request could be free, provided that you will send the provided portable hard drive back.
However, privacy and security exceptions arise again. Both Carbonite and Backblaze require you to tell them your private key in order for them to restore and send you your data by mail. Conversely, iDrive will transfer your encrypted data to the portable storage device without the need to surrender your private key and only you will be able to decrypt it using your private key once you start copying files to your local drive through their desktop app. All of this may sound unnecessary and perhaps burdensome, but if you plan on backing up sensitive personal data, security and privacy should be of the utmost importance. This was another major consideration in favor of iDrive.
Most cloud backup providers are available on Mac and Windows. iDrive took a step further and is available on the Linux operating system. This may or may not be important to you. Because we have several machines running on a Linux operating system, it was an important consideration.
Also, note that certain cloud backup providers may have limits on file size uploads. Carbonite Basic restricts automatic backup of file uploads to 4GB only. Even their upgraded plans, such as Plus and Prime, have 4GB limit. You will need to manually back up those large files. Also, Carbonite Basic will not back up your video files. You will have to either upgrade to Carbonite Plus ($119.99/year) or Prime ($149.99/year) plans or manually back up your videos on their Basic plan.
For us, the deal-breaker for our choice of iDrive was the ability to back up an unlimited number of devices, including our phones, with no file size limits for automatic backups. Because we have several devices, having this feature was very important.
We also tested the speed of iDrive’s uploads/downloads. Our iDrive download speed was very good (1GB in 5 minutes). However, iDrive’s upload speed was slower compared to that of Amazon Drive. It took from 10 to 25 minutes to upload 1GB of data to iDrive, depending on the time of the day. Our understanding is that upload/download speeds for cloud backup providers may vary depending on your proximity to the server, your internet plan speeds, cloud provider’s overall communication infrastructure or the time of the day. In our case, we have very high upload/download speeds (300+ Mbps) on our internet plan.
After doing research, our understanding is that iDrive’s speeds are average/median when compared to its competitors based on Cloudwards’ review. Over the past five years, iDrive made improvements to their backup/restore speeds. Also, Cloudwards review of Carbonite noted that it demonstrated worse performance than iDrive in terms of upload/download times. Cloudwards mentioned that Backblaze and Arq demonstrated similar or slightly worse performance when compared to iDrive.
I also tried the desktop apps for the above mentioned four providers and I would say that Arq Premium app had the most bare-bones, poor design of them all to understand and use. Carbonite and Backblaze had good minimalistic user interfaces, while iDrive had many more options and settings to change.
Among four companies, only iDrive is capable of creating image-based backup. Carbonite, Arq and Backblaze use a file-based backup and will ignore certain file types during automatic backups, such as system files. You will have to go through and do manual backup of anything that was missed. If you are going after the comprehensive automatic backup, the image-based backup is the way to go, where you will get a byte-by-byte copy of your entire drive on the go.
Additionally, iDrive offers real time sync for a specific folder, which will synchronize the content of that folder across all connected devices. I tried this feature and was overall satisfied with its performance. This feature is handy if you work on a document and you need the most current version of this file available on multiple devices fast.
I also had a good overall experience with contacting iDrive’s customer support via chat. The support staff was professional and knowledgeable when answering my questions, though I have not had any major issues to address so far.
While there are other cloud storage providers, such as Dropbox or Box, these companies target business clients and offer much more expensive plans that require paying for at least three users with cloud storage above 3TB. They especially excel at real-time data sync across multiple devices. If you are primarily interested in data backup and not necessarily sync, the above-mentioned four cloud backup providers may suit your needs. Or choose iDrive, since it also offers sync service.
Overall, in our opinion, iDrive provides the best value for the number of features and services it offers. We personally excluded Backblaze almost immediately as soon as we found out how they handle user data during the restoration process. Having complete data security and encryption without the need to surrender to anyone our private key was a major consideration, which made iDrive the number one choice for us. Arq was too expensive and not user-friendly.
Carbonite came as number two on our list. However, to get features comparable to iDrive, you have to purchase Carbonite’s more expensive plan, such Carbonite Prime for $149.99/year. Even so, you do not get unlimited device backup and there are file size upload limits for automatic backups, which is a major inconvenience for us.
If you need to backup only one device and you have data backup needs that exceed 10TB, iDrive may not be for you. In this case, we would personally choose Carbonite since it is relatively inexpensive and its security measures are relatively robust.