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 our 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 back up data on a computer?

Yes, 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 your 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.

Another reason to use online backup over local backup is if you want to be able to access your backed up files from online. Not all online backup services let you browse through your files in a web browser or app, but some do. On the other hand, no local backup program is able to support that because none of your files are stored online.

Local backup is only a better option if one of the following is true: a) your connection to the internet is very slow, b) your internet connection is metered, or c) you have privacy concerns over your files being managed by someone other than you. Since backing up online requires a lot of internet usage, these first two situations make it difficult to back up successfully.

So, 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.

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 our updated list of Free Backup Software before you pay for anything.

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

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

Here are even more questions we answer as part of our Online Backup FAQ: