Mac users are different that regular PC users in several ways. First of all, Mac users tend to prefer quality over the cheapest solution, and it’s no secret that the average Mac system is higher quality than a comparable PC model. One reason they’re higher quality is because they have superior software that’s more stable and more secure, and Mac OSX even comes preloaded with tons of free software that you’d have to pay extra for in a Microsoft Windows environment.
However, Mac OSX is both a blessing and a curse. The majority of software developers craft code for Windows since it’s more widely used. Fortunately, with digital services like cloud storage and cloud backup, even if the developer hasn’t coded a Mac OSX version (though most of them do), you can still get by with a web interface. Unfortunately, the Apple cloud services are sub par. I know, I know, I can already hear many of you shouting that they’re better than the Microsoft alternatives.
And while this may be true, there are still better third party alternatives from companies that only focus on cloud services. You may be thinking that you don’t need a cloud storage or cloud backup service since Apple systems come with iCloud and Time Machine. But you should heed a word of caution before putting all of your data in the hands of either service. Time Machine is sub par, and iCloud is incredibly insecure, and I’ll tell you why.
iCloud Security Concerns
iCloud is Apple’s attempt to compete in the cloud services industry, though it is incredibly insecure. I would caution you to avoid it, since it’s been the victim of numerous attacks. iCloud was the victim of multiple attacks in prior years, and hackers escaped with loads of account credentials. Apple itself issues a security warning, though this is just one example of a string of breaches.
I would mention that there is, perhaps, one workaround that will help make iCloud more secure for your data. While a hacker may still be able to capture your account credentials (yikes!), you can safeguard your data by first encrypting it with a local encryption. Still, I think it’s too risky to use iCloud.
Furthermore, understand that iCloud isn’t truly a backup service. Making redundant copies of your data is technically making a ‘backup copy,’ but true backup software includes a lot more features that make iCloud obsolete in a backup scenario. Nevertheless, OSX does include a backup solution feature called Time Machine.
Why Not Just Use Time Machine?
Time Machine is a true backup feature included on OSX devices, as opposed to iCloud which only really serves as a storage service. But Time Machine suffers from many shortcomings that make it a less than optimal choice for safeguarding your data. The first drawback is that there isn’t any off-site storage. You see, Time Machine stores all of your data on a specific disk, which is almost always a local device (unless you’re the DIY tinkerer type and have created your own home-brew file server).
If that drive becomes lost, damaged, or stolen, you’re in for a world of hurt. On the other hand, cloud backup solutions make redundant copies of your data between different data center facilities for disaster recovery techniques. Furthermore, Time Machine does little to offer security, and it doesn’t have any tools to encrypt your backed up data. Many cloud backup solutions use client-side encryption to ensure your data is safe from prying eyes before it ever leaves your local system.
It also lacks a wealth of customizable backup features. Time Machine was designed to be a relatively easy to use tool that is automated. Cloud services, on the other hand, will offer both automation tools as well as a lot of extra features you can tweak to fine tune the backup process. Time Machine simply isn’t an extremely sophisticated backup solution, so let’s go ahead and take a look at the best cloud backup services for Mac.
iDrive is clearly an industry leader in only backups because they offer a nice blend of low cost, high storage, and apps that are loaded with backup features. They aren’t a cloud storage service per se, and instead focus on backups mainly. Still, they do include extra features such as syncing and sharing tools. Also, they offer immensely strong security because iDrive is a zero-knowledge provider that offers client side encryption.
You can get an entire terabyte of backup space for a mere $4.33 per month, and you can backup unlimited devices. Furthermore, their mobile apps are well-designed. They have a web interface as well, and both the web interface and software is clean, intuitive, and simple to use. You’d be hard pressed to find another provider that offers the same amount of storage space and backup features for a price as low as iDrive.
Crashplan offers a free 30-day trial of their service, though they are about as cheap as iDrive. Their prices start at only $5.00 per month for the personal plan, and allows backups for 1 computer. If you want to backup more than one device, you’ll need to opt for the family plan. It allows you to backup 2-10 different devices and only costs $12.50 per month, which is only $1.25 per device per month when you backup 10 different devices.
I don’t like how they restrict backups to 1 computer for the personal plan, but I think they are one of the most economical options for multiple device backups. Furthermore, they include robust backup features like silent and continuous backups and the ability to backup entire volumes, such as an external HDD. Last but not least, they include a file versioning feature to ensure your existing backups don’t get accidentally overwritten.
SpiderOak is another great alternative for Mac users. Though they do cost a little more and you don’t get as much storage space, SpiderOak users are really paying for their software. They start at $7.00 per month for 30GB of storage, and you can get as much a 5TB of storage for $25.00 per month. The amount of storage space is their main limiting factor, because you have the ability to make unlimited backups.
In addition, you can make local backups to an external HDD or NAS device for an additional layer of backup safety. One of their best features is local client-side encryption. Because you can manage your own encryption keys, neither a hacker or employee can view your data once it’s secured. And they are one of most feature-rich backup services available. Some nontechnical users may find their wealth of settings overwhelming, but you can create scheduled, continuous, manual, incremental, and individual file backups.
SOS Online Backup
SOS Online Backup is a little more economical than CrashPlan because they allow you to backup multiple devices. They start at only $4.99 per month, and they are limited to 5 computers (Mac and PC), though they do allow unlimited mobile backups. Furthermore, SOS Online Backup implements extremely strong encryption with triple layer AES-256 encryption and the option for client-side encryption.
And their archiving system has an unlimited file version history, so you can always revert to older copies of files. In addition, there’s no limit on the number of files you backup, the size of your files, or the type of file. Lastly, in addition to scheduled and automatic backups, they provide features to backup NAS and HDDs.
Carbonite has an interesting pricing model. They start at $59.99 per year ($4.99 per month), and allow unlimited storage space for 1 computer – though the basic plan isn’t incredibly feature-rich. It includes only the essentials, such as support, the ability to access and share files remotely, and secure automatic backups. If you want more features, you’ll have to spring for the Plus plan, which costs $99.99 per year ($8.33 per month).
Like other backup services, the Plus plan allows you to make backups of your external hard drives and NAS devices. Lastly, the plus plan allows you to backup an entire drive, which includes the operating system. Essentially, it’s a bit by bit copy of an entire drive.
I do love the stability, security, and design of OSX and Apple software. But for backups and cloud storage…well, that’s a different story. I tend to distrust operating system manufacturer’s online cloud services because they have been proven time and time again to suffer from security flaws. Don’t get me wrong though – I think time machine is decent (it’s not terrible, after all), but it just can’t compete with third party services.
Third party online backup services are many times more secure, especially if they provide client-side encryption. Many of these services offer free trials as well, so you’d be remiss not to at least give them a shot. Lastly, consider that the aforementioned services support multiple operating system platforms. Time Machine will only help backup your Mac system, but many of these services will help you backup most, if not all, of your devices.