Cloud storage and online backup are often misunderstood and mistaken for each other. But these are two very different types of cloud services. Yes, they both store your files in the cloud, but that’s really where the similarities end. In this article, we’ll explain the difference between cloud storage and online backup services to help you decide which one you need.
What Is Cloud Storage?
Cloud storage, in very broad terms, is a type of software that uploads your files online (to the “cloud”). However, this definition hides the many different features that set cloud storage apart from online backup.
Besides merely storing files, cloud storage services allow you to access your files from anywhere you are, as long as you have an internet connection. If you install a cloud storage application on your device, it can sync your cloud files to your computer. This makes it so that if you make a change to a file from another device, that change will immediately reflect on every device you have the cloud app installed on.
This feature (called file syncing) means that there’s no need for lugging around laptops or USB sticks, just to access your files. You can start working on a document at home, then pop into the office and continue working on the same file on your work computer.
Plus, if you upload media files—like images and videos—to the cloud, you can view them straight from the cloud. This goes for documents as well, though different cloud storage services have different support for file formats.
Sharing is another advantage of cloud storage. If your files are in the cloud, sharing them is as easy as sending a link. This also opens up new avenues for collaboration, allowing multiple people to work on the same files at the same time, from different locations.
Of course, the best cloud storage providers offer much more than that, but all in all, data portability and easy remote file access is the name of the game for cloud storage. Online backup plays by different rules, as you’ll see below.
What Is Online Backup?
Online backup (or cloud backup) at its core is software that uploads your files to the cloud, but it does so differently than cloud storage. Backup software doesn’t sync your files, and it doesn’t let you access your files remotely. But it does something cloud backup can’t do, and that’s back your entire computer up to the cloud.
Using online backup, you can upload a carbon copy of your entire device to the internet. Some services let you deselect certain file types, like system files, or you can select entire drives to be uploaded at once. You can even create an image of your whole device, operating system included, which you can then download back to your computer for a full system restore.
Most online backup services upload files on a scheduled interval—daily, once a week, or every few hours—though some upload files continuously as new files are created or altered.
There is one caveat, though: because you can’t access your files like you can with cloud storage, you need to restore them to your device to access them. This is by design, though.
This method helps to protect your files from cyberattacks, including ransomware. If your computer becomes infected with ransomware, all you have to do is restore a version of your data from before the infection. In fact, according to cybersecurity firm Sophos, 57% of businesses affected by ransomware recovered their data using a backup.
Compared to cloud storage, cloud backup might seem rudimentary, but the best online backup services offer features like reinstalling your operating system straight from a backup, and even malware and ransomware protection. Some even fold cloud storage into their services to offer the best of both worlds.
Cloud Storage vs Online Backup: In a Nutshell
To summarize, cloud storage and online backup both work in a similar way, by uploading your files to the cloud. However, they serve vastly different purposes.
If you need a service to keep your files where you can easily access them from anywhere, or to upload your mobile photos, you probably need cloud storage. If you just need protection against malware or any other kind of disaster, then online backup is your best bet.
We hope this guide helped you understand the difference between cloud storage and online backup and that you’re now ready to find the service that suits your needs best.
Mauricio Prinzlau is the CEO and Co-founder of Cloudwards. He is at the helm of the company and steers a team of editors, writers and designers from all around the world.