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Comparing Cloud Backup & Cloud Storage

Applies to:
  • CrashPlan for Home
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This article is intended for CrashPlan for Home users. For Code42 CrashPlan and CrashPlan for Small Business documentation, read this page on our enterprise support site.


We frequently receive questions about how cloud backup differs from cloud storage. While there are some similarities between the two, they are designed for different purposes, and therefore, there are some key differences to consider.

Note: If you are a business weighing the benefits of cloud backup versus cloud storage, see our executive brief Top 3 Iron-Clad Reasons Why File Sync/Share is Not Endpoint Backup.

Basic differences

At the most basic level, cloud backup is designed to securely back up all your personal files and keep them safe so you can easily restore your files. Cloud storage is intended to make a subset of your files available for syncing and sharing with other devices or people. Ultimately, whether cloud backup or cloud storage is best for you depends on the features that interest you most.

For more information, read our detailed description of cloud backup, cloud storage, as well as frequently asked questions below.

What is cloud backup?

Cloud backup services, like CrashPlan, create a copy of the files stored on your computer so that they can be recovered, known as restoring, in the event that the original becomes lost or corrupted. If your hard drive fails, or files become infected by a virus, CrashPlan can restore all of your backed up files. Additionally, with CrashPlan:

  • Files are encrypted before they leave your computer, transmitted securely to their destinations, and remain encrypted at the destinations to ensure the security of your information
  • Files are automatically backed up on a schedule and a real-time file watcher monitors your files for changes
  • The application runs as a background service that doesn’t interrupt or slow you down while you do other things
  • Data is analyzed and de-duplicated so that only changes are backed up, saving on bandwidth and storage
  • Versions are retained so that you can restore prior versions of backed up files
  • Files deleted from your computer are never removed from your backup (using the default version settings)

Additionally, with a subscription to CrashPlan for Home, you can:

  • Back up an unlimited amount of data to CrashPlan Central
  • Use web restore to download files anywhere with an Internet connection

For even more information about CrashPlan features, or to learn about our free 30-day trial, see our Getting Started guide.

What is cloud storage?

Although services vary, many consumer-grade cloud storage services are used to sync and share files across multiple devices. Whether or not those files are stored directly on your devices or in the cloud depends on the service and the settings you choose. These services typically:

  • Let you select certain files that you want to sync across devices
  • Let you selectively share these files with other people
  • Sync any changes made to a file on one device to every other synced device

Frequently asked questions

How does backup differ from online storage?

There are differences when comparing any two services or products, but here are three major differences to consider:

Features CrashPlan Cloud Backup Cloud Storage
File protection Files are encrypted and not shared Files are synced across devices and available for sharing; files intended for sharing typically aren't encrypted (varies by service)
File management Backs up all of your personal files automatically Requires you to manually upload a selection of your files
Redundancy Files are backed up for the purpose of creating redundancy in case one version is lost or corrupted Files are synced across devices; if a version is deleted or corrupted on one device, all devices syncing with it are impacted
Can I use cloud storage services as a cloud backup solution?

Since cloud storage and cloud backup services are designed for different purposes, there are inherent dangers in using a cloud storage solution as a way to back up your files. Because most cloud storage services sync changes across devices, a file that is deleted, corrupted, or infected by a virus on one device may sync to all of your devices and could lead to data loss.

Additionally, since these services or their pricing models typically only allow you to store a portion of your files in the cloud, anything not stored in the cloud is vulnerable in the event of a computer crash, theft, loss, or virus.

With CrashPlan, are files that are deleted from my computer kept in my backup? Can I restore them?

Yes. Using CrashPlan's default settings, files deleted from your computer are never removed from your backup archive. In fact, restoring lost or accidentally deleted files is one of the things CrashPlan does best! However, because CrashPlan is designed as a backup service, not an online storage service, we do not recommend using it as a way to "archive" old files you no longer want stored on your computer.

To ensure the safety and integrity of your data, we always recommend maintaining files on the source computer.

Tip: Archive Files On External Drives
If you have access to an external drive, you can move files you no longer want on your computer to the drive then back up the drive with CrashPlan. Even if you disconnect the external drive, CrashPlan will never remove the drive's files from your backup archive as long as you use the default setting to never remove deleted files.
Can CrashPlan back up other cloud services?

Yes. We actually recommend it. Because syncing can lead to inadvertent data loss, we advise using CrashPlan to back up any files you choose to sync with a cloud storage provider. If the files are located locally on your computer, CrashPlan can back up the files.

See our guide to Backing Up Cloud Services for tips about including files from different cloud services in your CrashPlan backup file selection.