Anyone in the tech industry, and every IT person, and your friend that knows a thing or two about computers will tell you how important it is to back up your data. No matter how new your Mac is, it is not infallible, and therefore is subject to the laws of reality, which are that sometimes things go wrong.
You can look the other way and pretend that it will never happen to you, but the moment you see that distorted screen, or hear that weird clicking noise coming from your computer, you're going to wish you had backed up your data. So, I'm here to give you some suggestions to help you secure and store your most precious files with a list of the best online backup services and external hard drive backup programs.
Online backup services
Online backup services allow you to save your most important data in a remote location without having to switch out hard drives and relocate the spare every week. It ensures that, even if something catastrophic happened to your computer and external hard drives, your personal data would still be safe.
Backblaze automatically selects what data to back up, though you can manually exclude folders you don't want to be backed up. When you sign up with Backblaze, you can download a special tool that will track your Mac's location in case it ends up lost or stolen. Plus if something goes wrong with your computer and you have to download everything that was stored with Backblaze but don't want to bog down your internet, you can order a USB Flash drive or hard drive and they'll FedEx it to your door.
Backblaze has personal plans with unlimited back ups starting at $50 per year.
IDrive sends you a physical hard drive to load your data onto, and then upload it to the cloud themselves after you ship it back! It's available for Mac, PC, and mobile devices. You can even back up your Facebook and Instagram data.
PC Mag named it one of the best online backup services of 2016.
IDrive does just about everything you need an online backup service to do—and more. With continual backup, folder syncing, file sharing, archiving, File Explorer integration, strong mobile apps, and an unlimited number of devices per account, it's hard to believe the service costs less than most of the competition.
IDrive runs about $70 per year for the 2 TB personal level, though you can get started with a 5 GB basic plan for free.
Carbonite also has a backup scheduler, so you can designate when backups happen. This is useful for people with poor internet connections because you can schedule a backup to take place every night, while you sleep, and not during the evening when you're trying to watch Game of Thrones (ugh!).
Carbonite offers unlimited online backups for one computer at the personal level and keeps a dozen of the most recent changes made to a file so you can go back to an earlier version if need by.
Carbonite's unlimited cloud plans start at $60 per year, but you can save up to 30 percent off if you subscribe for multiple years at once.
CloudBerry Backup software supports over a dozen online storage providers, including the usual suspects such as Amazon S3 and Glacier, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Storage, OpenStack, Rackspace, HP Cloud, and Backblaze B2. Once you've settled on a compatible cloud storage provider, you tell CloudBerry Backup what files you want to be backed up where and when, and the software takes it from there. In addition, there's an option to back up data to a hard drive connected to the Mac.
If you want more fine-grained control of which files get backed up—and especially if you're using more than one online storage provider—CloudBerry Backup is a good choice.
External hard drive backup programs
External hard drive backups are the simplest, and least expensive way to secure your data. All you have to do is download some software, connect a hard drive, and schedule back ups. To be doubly safe, it is a good idea to always have two hard drives if you don't have a remote backup plan. That way, you can switch the drives each week and move the spare to a different location. This ensures that if something catastrophic happens to your home or office, there is a backup that is no more than a week old at a different location.
Time Machine also lets you retrieve specific images from folders, so you don't have to restore from a full back up or deal with the internet slowdown of uploading all of your files online. It has a smart local snapshot feature that will delete older backups as you run out of space, and then save them for longer periods of time when you get back more space.
It's also free, which is a very nice incentive to start using it. You can virtually set it and forget it until you need to access it.
Time Machine is built-in software on your Mac. You have no excuse not to back up your data, now.
You can view your history and filter types of backups. It creates a bootable clone that is stored on an external hard drive, which you can start up your computer from if something does wrong. In addition to the full backup, you can also access recently deleted and changed files, which are cached as you work.
Carbon Copy Cloner costs $40 for all computers in your household.
It is super easy to set up and use. You hit "Copy Now" to create a bootable backup on your external hard drive. Then, schedule the smart updates, which will only update changes that have been made, so it doesn't take a lot of time or use up a lot of energy.
You can register one Mac with SuperDuper! for $27.95.
You can use it to make a bootable backup, which can be stored on an external drive. It also includes incremental snapshots that use software to create essential thumbnails of your backups so you can access multiple backups without taking up a lot of space.
Mac Backup Guru costs $29 per computer for a one-time licensing fee.
Hybrid local and cloud backup services
Ideally, you should have both a local backup program in place and an off-site cloud-based backup service. The combination of Time Machine and iCloud Drive is a great example of using both. You can also go with a company that provides both local and cloud-based backup options in one plan.
Acronis provides a hybrid backup program that runs a local backup on your external hard drive and a secondary cloud backup stored on the company's servers. You can also get Acronis for your iPhone and iPad, with unlimited device connections. You can store photos, videos, contacts, and more on your local hard drive, and even wirelessly to your Mac.
Locally, backups run automatically and continuously with end-to-end encryption. When you enable the cloud backup, your files are synced off-site using a storage service that is WAN-optimized for faster recovery. Cloud syncing can be scheduled as often as you like, even as often as every five minutes.
It's one of the easiest backup solutions, next to Time Machine. All you have to do to get started is click the Backup button. Everything happens automatically after that.
Accrois True Image has tiered plans starting at $50 for the standard local backup for one computer. You can also get the advanced tier, which includes 250GB of cloud backups for $50 per year for one computer and unlimited mobile devices. The premium tier, includes a couple of advanced security features for businesses and starts at $100 per year for 1TB of cloud storage. Prices go up about $30 to $50 for additional computers, but lowers the per-computer price in the end.
Do you use a particular online and/or external hard drive backup with your Mac? What is your favorite and why does it work for you?
Updated September 2018: Added Cloudberry.
- Backing up: The ultimate guide
- Best backup services and programs for your Mac
- Best cloud service apps for your iPhone and iPad
- How to back up your Mac
- How to back up your iPhone and iPad
- How to back up your Apple TV
- How to back up your Apple Watch
- How to restore your Mac from a backup
- How to restore your iPhone or iPad from a backup
- How to restore your Apple Watch from a backup
- How to recover your files when you don't have a backup
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