Cloud backup and cloud storage: What's the difference?

All the hype around the Cloud has blurred the lines between Cloud storage and Cloud backup. Many providers like this because it gives them broader appeal to potential customers. But the blurring of cloud definitions confuses the market. In reality, they are very different solutions for different business challenges.

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What is Cloud Storage?

Cloud storage such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud and Microsoft’s SkyDrive are a great way to share files easily. The main goal of cloud storage is to store files online so they can be accessed and edited from any device. You can compare this to a cloud-based USB flash drive.

However, there is no warranty, no monitoring and reporting, no support, and if a server in one of their data centers goes down, you may never see those files again. Most services have a web interface through which you can upload files. Therefore, files can only be encrypted on the server side, which makes the transfer less secure. They do not provide an automated method for uploading or synchronizing files between your computer and the service. Files must be manually uploaded or placed in a shared folder to be synchronized. Last but not least, only files and folders can be stored, so no application data.

Cloud storage is a great way to share documents. However, it’s not the right place to back up your business-critical applications and documents.

Are other backup technologies required when using the cloud?

Cloud backup – also known as online backup – is specifically designed to create copies of your files, ensuring continuous backup and an easy way to restore your files.

Protecting your files, documents, and data with technology designed specifically for backup is the only way to ensure the safety of your data. With cloud storage, some of your files are only temporarily safe. With cloud backup, you have around-the-clock protection that ensures the continuity of your business.


Advantages and disadvantages of cloud storage



  • Storing files in one central location
  • Sharing files with friends, relatives, and work colleagues
  • Synchronizing files between different devices


  • Automatic, comprehensive backup of all computer files
  • Continuous monitoring for changes
  • Private encryption key for security and privacy
  • Consistent policy controls for backup and retention
  • Support for regulatory compliance, including HIPAA, FERPA, and GLBA

What is Cloud Backup?

Cloud backup is a cloud-based application that gives you the ability to automatically back up your files, applications, virtual machines or servers and store them safely for disaster recovery. Cloud backup is an insurance policy for your data and business continuity.

Cloud backup is usually based on a local client application that ideally runs automatically in the background several times a day. The application collects, compresses and encrypts the data and transfers it to the service provider’s servers. To reduce bandwidth consumption and file transfer time, the service provider offers incremental backups after the initial full backup.

The primary data remains in the original location, while the secondary data is stored securely in the cloud for data recovery. The cloud backup solution stores all data with a custom retention policy so that you can repair corrupted files by restoring previous versions of a file. Professional cloud backup solutions include special plugins for backing up data from third-party applications (e.g. MS Outlook, Exchange, SQL). Clear reports about the success of the backups make it easy to verify that all files are safe.


Pros and cons of cloud backup


  • Automation – True cloud backup doesn’t rely on users to manually drag and drop files or upload them to the cloud. It should automatically work in the background, backing up all user files and data, and scanning for changes along the way.
  • Versioning – With cloud backup, earlier versions of files are stored, so even if you overwrite a file, you can still recover it from an earlier backup.
  • Encryption – In most cases, a cloud backup service will encrypt your files before uploading to the cloud and send it through a secure tunnel using advanced encryption technology. Not all cloud storage providers give you this feature, especially ones designed for consumers.
  • Privacy – Different cloud service providers have different policies regarding data privacy, but a trusted backup provider would never compromise customer data privacy, or allow anyone else to do so, for marketing purposes, service enhancement or any other reason. Beware the fine print with free cloud storage providers.
  • Recovery – Cloud backup also enables you to log in to your account and restore data to replacement hardware. So, if you have a local failure, you can recover with minimal interruption.
  • Control – You have much more control over your data when you determine your backup policy, and have it automatically implemented by your backup solution. This greatly reduces the chances of human error compared with an ad hoc, manual process.

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