Online Backup vs. Cloud Storage – a Dumb Debate

I am seeing a considerable number of articles lately with titles like “Cloud Storage vs. Online Backup,” and “Which is Best: Cloud Storage or Online Backup?” Many of the articles seem to be written by people with a bias toward one or the other, with most written by authors defending the claim that Cloud Storage is “best.”

As someone who has been in the industry for nearly thirty years, I think my opinion matters (don’t we all) so I’ll tell you this: Neither is “better” and its best to understand both so you don’t make a very big mistake and lose data.

Cloud Storage companies like DropBox and Google Drive synchronize files on your devices with your account on their servers, the “cloud.” You can then share your files with other devices and other people, and you can access them from anywhere to work on them.

Pros: Cloud Storage is very easy to set up, cheap, ubiquitous, and convenient for sharing small stand-alone files that require no security compliance.

Cons: Most Cloud Storage companies don’t encrypt your files for security, and they don’t keep multiple versions for redundancy and backup. It’s easy to over-write your only copy of a good file with a corrupted or virus laden file. They don’t compress your files to save storage space. None of them can store enterprise databases like Exchange, SQL Server, Active Directory, and Sharepoint. Most of them will croak if you try to sync a file that is open and in use. None of them have special agents that can properly sync Outlook, QuickBooks, and other database applications. None of them can sync the Windows Registry or System State. Most are not fully compliant with privacy and security regulations like HIPAA and PCI. Nobody recommends public Cloud Storage for mission critical, secure business data. It simply will not back up some data.

Online Backup companies like my own white-labeled RBackup can compress and encrypt any kind of data, including enterprise databases, and can store them granularly in secure storage, with redundant copies. This is true “backup” and not just Cloud Storage.

Pros: Data are encrypted for security. Multiple copies are kept, so “point in time” restores can be done. File versions can be rolled back to previous versions to a point in time before a file corruption happened. Files are never over-written. Online Backup has built-in agents to properly backup and restore databases and enterprise data like Exchange, SQL Server, Active Directory, and others. It backs up files that are open and in use. It is compliant with security and privacy regulations. It can be used with mission critical data.

Cons: Because files and data are encrypted for regulatory compliance they cannot be easily shared or synced across devices.

So far no company has released a commercially successful hybrid of file sharing and online backup. I’m working on it, and I assume others are, too. We may see that in the next few months.

The bottom line is this: To cover all your needs you may have to use both – Cloud Storage and Online Backup.


About The Author

Rob Cosgrove /

Rob Cosgrove is President of Remote Backup Systems, developers of the fully brandable RBackup Online Backup software platform, powering more than 9,500 Service Providers, MSPs and VARs wordwide since 1987. He is the founder of the Online Backup industry and author of several books, the most recent, "The Online Backup Guide for Service Providers", available at and bookstores.