Understanding Cloud Backup vs Cloud Storage vs Cloud Sync

The three terms, cloud backup, cloud storage and cloud sync, are often used and heard so often that they are occasionally used as synonyms. With the cloud being all the hype in the technological market, people have confused the three terms and often neglect which one to use, which then leads to selecting the wrong kind of cloud-related plan for their needs.

This article discussed the differences in the kinds of cloud-related terms so that you can distinguish among them when making a selection of the type of plan which suits your needs best.

Cloud backup

Cloud backup is where a user keeps a copy of their data on a server that is available over the Internet. The primary function of the backup is to keep your data secure in case something were to happen to the original one. These backups are usually periodic, which means they can be either block-level backups or complete backups.

Block-level backups are those that only backup the changed part of the files while leaving the rest as-is. This requires less traffic over the Internet while maintaining a copy of your data.

Cloud backups can store more than one version of your files and folders. Meaning, older versions of the data can be restored to your local device if you wish to undo any changes made recently. Of course, this depends upon the vendor as well as the type of subscription.

This backup is mostly useful if you have important data that you cannot afford to lose. If your host device gets lost or destroyed, the backed-up data could still be retrievable from the remote cloud server. This service is usually a subscription-based service.

Cloud backup services include Backblaze, CrashPlan and SpiderOak.

You should use cloud backup services when you want to backup complete systems with set frequency. Extended version history is available for disaster recovery in case of any local data loss.

Data stored on cloud services can be downloaded at any time across multiple devices.

Cloud backup is especially useful for taking business backups.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage is very much similar to having an additional hard drive, the only difference being that it is accessible over the internet from an Internet enabled system. It involves the user moving their data over the internet manually, which might consume large amounts of Internet bandwidth.

The significant advantage cloud storage provides is that it ensures maximum reliability. Meaning, vendors usually put in place certain mechanisms to make your data redundant in case their hard drive fails, so that it is never lost.

Another advantage of cloud storage is that the subscribers can increase or decrease their storage volume as they wish, simply by adjusting their subscription plans. You would not need to purchase a whole new hard drive if you want to expand your local one.

Unlike cloud backup, cloud storage services usually do not offer automatic uploads and downloads, and the files and folders need to be manually moved from the local device onto the remote cloud server, and vice versa.

Cloud storage can be used to store, synchronize and share data on cloud servers.

Cloud storage providers include MEGA, Google Cloud Storage, Amazon S3, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox and MediaFire.

You should use cloud storage when you want to host big files with your friends or for the office.

Cloud sync

The primary purpose of cloud sync is to instantly upload the changes made to the files and folders that are available on the cloud. They do not offer much in storage space, but rather multiple users accessing the same files simultaneously.

Consider the following example: You and your friends need to create a document and divide the different portions of the document among yourselves which are interlinked. Now rather than waiting to get together and then work on the document, you create a file on the cloud, and access and modify it. You are all accessing the same document, and each time you refresh it, you can see the changes made to the document by others as well.

This is what cloud sync is about. It allows multiple users to connect from multiple devices, make changes to their data, and see that effect across all devices in real-time.

However, cloud sync is not the optimal option if you want to store large amounts of data or create multiple versions of the same file. Usually, any changes made to a file retain itself, and cannot be undone by restoring a previous version.

Normally, Cloud backup and cloud storage services also offer cloud sync as a feature.

Cloud sync services include Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox.

Cloud sync should be used for smaller files and everyday work synchronization so that the files are accessible on multiple devices without manual transfers.

Closing words

When choosing the right plan for yourself, you need to consider the type of category which suits your needs. If you want a lot of space simply to store your data, and do not want the hassle of carrying around an external hard drive, a cloud storage service might be the best solution for you.

If you think you have critical data on your device and wish to make it redundant by throwing it on the cloud, a cloud backup solution would be the right choice. It will not only backup your data, but make periodic backups to ensure that all the information stored on the cloud is from the latest versions of the respective files.

However, if you want a file or folder available to use for multiple people at the same time, a cloud synchronization solution might be the way to go. Any changes made to the data will be reflected almost immediately, that too on multiple devices simultaneously.

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