Online Back-up Versus Cloud Storage - What’s the Difference?

It’s easy to see how some might get a little tied up in the difference between online back-up and cloud storage, given that both work with personal or business data online and store files safely outside the computer hard drive or as an alternative to the in-house server.

The biggest difference lies in the fact that cloud storage allows multiple users to collaborate, share and edit information at the same time, while online back-up tends to be used by businesses who want to store information safely until they need it again.

What is an online back-up service?

As the name suggests, online back-up is made possible by a programme that makes a back-up copy of your files and saves them on a secure online server. It’s a failsafe that means if something were to happen to your computer, you could simply load the programme again, hit restore, and your data will reappear, just as before.

It’s one of the simplest ways to back-up your computer, and because the information is held off-site, it’s secured, encrypted and maintained by teams of professional administrators, so you can rest easy, knowing it’s in safe hands.

Its simplicity might also be called out as one of its biggest limitations however, because it’s designed to simply back-up and restore in the case of a disaster. But… the back-up will be computer specific, so it won’t sync files across other computers or devices, which can make the restoration process a lengthy one.

And, while online back-up offers unlimited storage, because you’re backing up information that sits on your computer, you’re essentially limited to your computer’s storage.

Who uses online back-up?

As a service, it’s all about insurance against data loss, making it useful to anyone who has valuable information that needs to be protected.

That could be anything from family photos or personal finance information to a business’s sales figures, accounting information and HR files.

It’s about having a safe place for information that you don’t need universal access to, or want to continuously amend or update.

What is cloud storage?

While online back-up stores a copy of your files, cloud computing provides online space to store whatever you want, and allows unlimited access from any internet connection and from any device. That means you can tap into cloud-stored information whenever and wherever you want, using computers, TVs, game consoles, or remote working devices such as laptops, mobiles and tablets.

It’s genuinely unlimited in terms of space too, because there’s no restriction to the amount of data that can be stored on the cloud.

Lots of cloud services are supported by apps, which means users can access information via secure links and use the information freely as part of their normal working day.

Services such as Dropbox and OneDrive will integrate with your computer, so you can access information on the cloud just like any other folder on your desktop or laptop. The services go one step further than access too, syncing all activity so documents are automatically updated if edits are made.

Unlike most online back-up services, many cloud storage service providers offer a free starter plan with a limited amount of space that might well be enough for the average person or even a small business.

The key is working out your requirement before you dive in and sign up, and understanding the licensing agreement, as the costs can mount up if storage is a big issue for you. So, do the sums first and act with figures in mind, so you don’t get any nasty surprises down the line.

Who uses cloud storage?

Cloud storage is a go-to for businesses who work with active data – information that flows in and out, and is subject to frequent change at any time from multiple users.

That could be a publisher and a writer working at separate ends of the country, or a business with offices dotted across Europe that need to share information and facilitate team collaboration across multiple cities.

It’s a much more interactive solution for users who are on the go, but need all the same reassurances around security, encryption and protected access.

Advice from the IT professionals

If you are unsure which option is best for your business, you should seek the help of an IT consulting service, who can assess your needs and advise accordingly.

By asking all the right questions up-front, a good IT consultant or service provider can get a detailed understanding of how your organisation operates now, how close you currently come to reaching your business and operational objectives, and what your IT roadmap for expansion should look like.

Using this, they can help identify where any gaps exist, where IT improvements can be made, and which services will support your technical needs and employees best.

By taking a full business view and applying the insights gained from working with other businesses in your industry, an IT consulting service can create tailored back-up and storage solutions that will not only save you time and money, but add to overall business effectiveness and give you a future-thinking plan that allows for growth.

Find out how the right IT solutions can help your business grow.