Do Cloud Backup Services Hold Water?

If you choose a cloud-based backup solution, be aware that the first backup you perform on your system will likely take an excruciatingly long amount of time. How much time depends on two things: how much data you have on your computer and the speed of your Internet connection. This is because your data is being copied and uploaded to the service provider via the Internet, which is much slower than a direct connection with an external hard drive.

Speeds vary, but it usually takes several minutes to handle 1GB of data and many hours (perhaps days) to download 100s of gigabytes of data via a cable Internet connection. On even the fastest internet connection, it will take roughly 34 hours to upload a TB of data. Some internet services are asymmetric, so upload is much slower than download speed, which will also impact these backup times.

Keep in mind that this punishing sluggishness will likely only be an issue the very first time you use your cloud service. After your initial data upload to your cloud backup storage, subsequent backups will take far less time and may even be unnoticeable. This is because the service is able to recognize what files have been touched since your last backup and will only upload those files. Any file that hasn’t been opened since the date of the last backup will be ignored.

It’s also important to note that your internet service provider (ISP) may impose monthly data caps if you aren’t paying for unlimited data. Overages can be quite expensive, so it’s a good idea to check with your ISP before committing to a cloud backup solution.

Be sure to set an automated backup schedule so you can relax and just let it happen. Also, from time to time, check that the backup is happening properly.

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