Free or Paid Online Backup
You see that a lot these days. There are many services that offer free online backup and syncing functionality. The question is: is it really free and does it work? Free online backup has advantages as well as disadvantages. In this chapter we are going to cover the details so that you can decide if free online storage is something for you.
There is no such thing as a free lunchWe grew up with the notion that everything has its price. That is mainly true. However, in times of the Internet and abundant storage space the word free becomes a different meaning. Because storage space has become so cheap, online backup services really can offer you free plans. The phrase “there is no such thing as a free lunch” refers to a tradition once common in the US saloons, which began offering “free” food to any customer who purchased at least one drink. Ranging from a sandwich to a multicourse meal, these free lunches were typically worth far more than the price of a single drink. However, the saloon keepers were betting that most customers would buy more than one drink, and that the allure of free food would attract patrons during less busy time of day.
Online backup services do the same: they offer “free” online storage plans hoping that a few customers will eventually convert to paying users and bring in even more users through referral.
Advantages of the free plans
Well, it is free, obviously! This is the biggest advantage of all the free plans. You don’t pay a dime for a reasonable amount of storage space. Many online backup services offer a 2 GB free accounts for you to use. There are providers such as SugarSync which offer up to 5 GB of free.
Another advantage is that you don’t commit yourself to an online backup service. With a free account you can leave the online backup service any time you want. There is no reason to wait until your contract ends. Just cancel your accounts and that’s it! There are plenty of other online backup services that you can try out for free.
Disadvantages of free plans
Granted, these are not plain disadvantages but rather things to take into consideration.
With free plans you can expect customer support to be limited just to the basic: e-mail. If you are lucky they offer phone support but certainly not for free. If you were a paying customer you’d most likely get live chats, phone support and e-mail help for free. Remember: I can almost assure you that the day will come you need customer support. So keep that in mind when using free online storage for important data.
Obviously storage space is the most limiting factor when choosing free online backup and storage space. As mentioned above you get a maximum of 5 GB of free. For many people this won’t be enough to back up their most important data. Don’t underestimate storage needs: sooner or later you will be needing more than 2 or 5 GB.
Most of the time online backup services won’t limit the features you have with the free account because they want you to get a feel of how it is to be a paying customer. So you most likely will end up with a full-featured online backup solution for free. However, there might be limiting factors such as a bandwidth throttle limiting the upload speed of your data considerably.
Which plan shall I choose: paid or free?
The most decisive factor which online backup to choose is the storage space. So if you think 2 GB is enough you can choose the free version without getting into trouble. But keep in mind that your behavior could be changing in the future requiring more online storage space.
Also, you could be using the free online backup plan for specific projects you are working on. Say for example, you work at an agency and need to share only a few documents with your team. A free account could be enough. However, I personally think it is quite risky to use free accounts for professional use. You simply don’t have any rights concerning your data. Yes, your data is private and nobody can see it (supposedly) but I like to be a paying customer to have some leverage when I run into trouble with the customer support.
Another occasion when you might consider a free online backup accounts is for example when you want to share small videos and photos with your family. My great grandma is 91 years old. I taught her how to use the computer. Now I can share photos I take immediately with her because I can give her access to my shared folder. That’s why I have a paid account with Mozy and also a free account with SugarSync.
In a nutshell, consider combining free online backup with a paid subscription. This is certainly the best solution because you wouldn’t want to rely on a free solution for serious backup.