What are the best online and offsite backup services for your Mac? Here are the ones that could literally save your bits. All of them!

Updated in January 2017 to add Carbonite and iDrive to the guide, as well as rewrite with additional information on each product.

Time Machine or another local backup tool for macOS should be your first line of defense. You should always have a way to recover if you delete an important file or if your hard drive fails. But backup hard drives can go bad. What's more, if you have a major catastrophe, like a robbery, house fire, or flood, you could lose your backups along with your primaries. To make sure your backup strategy is complete, you need to take it offsite and a simple way of doing that is to take it online. That's right — to the cloud!

Backblaze

Backup

  • Set up a new account and download the software from Backblaze.
  • Follow the installation instructions.
  • Backblaze will immediately begin to back up your hard drive. The initial backup can take days or weeks depending on the upload speed of your Internet connection. To change the speed, select Backblaze preferences... from the Backblaze menu then click on the Performance tab. Uncheck Automatic Throttle and set Manual Throttle to the setting you'd like.
  • Preferences also allows you to adjust Backblaze's schedule, security level and exclusions list (you can exclude specific folders and files or entire file types, if you'd like). You can also view a report to see what's been backed up.

    Backblaze status

    Backblaze performance

How to restore

  • Click on the Backblaze menu and select Restore Files...
  • Log in to the Backblaze web site using your user ID and password.
  • Depending on the size of your restoration, you can either restore over the Internet by downloading a compressed .zip file, or if you want to pay extra you can order a USB flash drive or a USB hard drive. Whole drive restorations can be faster and more convenient if you're mailed a drive, depending on the size.
  • If you want to restore a portion of your drive, just drill down until you find what you're looking for, then click the Continue with Restore button.
  • Backblaze will email you as soon as the archive is ready for download. For smaller files it's usually immediate.

    Backblaze Restore

For my money, Backblaze offers the superior interface and is way easier to use (and prettier to look at) than CrashPlan. Also, Backblaze by default excludes things like apps, which will dramatically bulk up your first backup and slow you down. I consider that a plus, because I can reinstall most of those if I need to.

Backblaze pros and cons

Backblaze punts your restore to a web site, which I find a bit disruptive; I wish they'd integrate restoration like CrashPlan does. But my major beef with Backblaze is its pricing structure. It's $5 per month per computer. That sounds great if you only have one computer, but I have a whole house I'm trying to back up. My wife and three kids all have their own computers, and I have a second Mac that needs backing up too. That'd be $30 per month, which is a lot more than Code 42 charges for CrashPlan's family subscription.

CrashPlan

Backup

  • Set up a new account and download the software from CrashPlan.
  • Follow the installation instructions.
  • CrashPlan will begin to back up your hard drive. As with Backblaze, the initial process will take days or weeks depending on the upload speed of your Internet connection. You can change the speed of backup by clicking on the CrashPlan menu, clicking on Settings, clicking on the Network tab and changing the "Limit sending rate" settings.
  • CrashPlan's settings also offer you a wide array of options, including file exclusions, encryption options and more.

    Crashplan network settings

How to restore

  • Open the CrashPlan application.
  • Click on Restore.
  • Select the file or folders you want to restore by clicking the checkbox in front of their names.
  • Click on the Restore button.
  • By default the file will be restored to the Finder desktop.

    CrashPlan restore

CrashPlan pros and cons

CrashPlan offers very sophisticated settings, but it suffers from a really lousy user interface. It's needlessly complex and techy. What's more, it's dependent on Java to work, and some of us would prefer to run a Java-free system. The developers have promised a new app but have yet to deliver it. CrashPlan does have an integrated restore feature that Backblaze lacks.

CrashPlan also offers a family subscription. If you're like me, and you're looking for an offsite backup service the whole house can use, CrashPlan makes sense. You can back up up to 10 computers starting for $13.99 per month. If you buy annual, biennial, or quadrennial (that's right, four-year) subscriptions, you get a hefty price break.

Carbonite

Backup

  • Set up a new account and download the software from Carbonite. You can try it free for 15 days.
  • Follow the installation instructions.
  • Carbonite will automatically back up select folders on your hard drive — those it deems important. Like the other services, this could take a very long time, depending on how much data you have, you internet connection, and a smattering of other factors.
  • Carbonite lets you access your files from any internet-connected device, so your stuff is with you wherever you go.

    Carbonite

How to restore

  • Open Carbonite.
  • Click Restore Files.
  • Choose to either put your files back where they were or to restore them to a folder of your choosing. You can also choose to just restore specific files instead of everything.

    Carboninte

Carbonite pros and cons

First off, it's name after carbonite from Star Wars, so already a win. Carbonite offers options for home use (individual and family plans) and it offer plans for businesses, which can include cloud backup and on-site backup, so that you have a double whammy. The user interface is quite pleasant and easy to use — not cluttered or overly complex.

That being said, Carbonite can be slower than other backup services, so it'll be more of a set it and forget it kind of backup process. According to the speeds Carbonite records, it could take weeks to restore 1TB, whereas faster services can do it in days. You also don't get a personal encryption key for Mac like you would with the PC version of Carbonite, according to Top Ten Reviews.

iDrive

Backup

  • Download the iDrive software.
  • Create a new account.
  • Pay for a subscription, starting around $70 per year.
  • Backup your data following the on-screen instructions.

    iDrive

How to restore

  • Open iDrive
  • Click Restore.
  • Choose what you want restored and where you want it.

iDrive pros and cons

The biggest downside to iDrive is the fact that it's not even a little free — no free trial, nothing. However, that's because the smallest amount of storage you can buy is 1TB for personal use and 250GB for business (somehow more expensive than 1TB for personal use).

That being said, iDrive is a very secure way to store you precious data, with 256-bit AES encryption and two factor authentication, and their iDrive Express service is awesome. The way iDrive Express works is that, once yearly for personal users and three times a year for business users, iDrive will send out a 1TB external hard drive. You then back up your data, which takes maybe 4 hours at the most, and mail it back in a prepaid priority post envelope. The service is free and save you tons of time — like weeks (possibly). Backing up 1TB to the cloud is a colossal bandwidth suck and will take forever. Express is pretty sweet.

Bottom line

In the end, we strongly suggest that you give one of these services a try. It won't cost you anything for either Backblaze, CrashPlan, or Carbonite's free trials. See which you like best and go with that one. They're all reliable services that work exactly like they're supposed to, and they all offer an iOS app that lets you view your backups and even access your files when you need to.

Why use any of these services? Something can go wrong with your Time Machine backup. If it does and you need to restore something, you're screwed unless you have a secondary line of defence. Accidents happen, as do fires, burglaries, and the occasional "Acts of God."

What's more, if you're on the road for an extended period — on a business trip or vacation, for example — and away from your usual means of backup, it's good to know that you have another system that you can set and forget and use in a pinch if you need to recover a file or a drive.

What online backup service do you use?

If you already have an online backup service and you recommend it, let me know which one and why. If you try any of these out, let me know how you like them. If I missed your favorite, tell me all about it in the comments below!

Peter Cohen contributed to a previous version of this article.