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This is a question we’re often asked by our clients – and with good reason, as it can be a hazy area. In fact, the terms are often used interchangeably. And to add to the confusion, many people do actually use an online file sharing service to take care of their backup requirements.

In this article, we’ll explain how online file sharing (sometimes called ‘cloud-based storage’ or just ‘cloud storage’) and cloud-based backup services work, and explore their similarities and differences. We’ll also explain why, if you’re relying on a cloud storage system for your backup, you should really consider using a purpose-built online backup service.

Let’s take online file sharing first. Probably the best-known providers are Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive. These services work by storing your documents and other files in the cloud, so you can access them from any location. The files can easily be shared, enabling multiple people to view and edit them in real time. This is great for companies with remote workers, or who frequently need to share or collaborate on files with clients or suppliers.

An additional feature of some online file sharing services is the ability to sync your documents in the cloud with those on your computer or mobile device, and vice versa. The files can then be accessed directly from the synced folders on your machine, or online at the host site if compatible. (Note that some file types, such as offline Sage accounting records can’t be accessed online, but can be downloaded).

You can choose to sync just some of your files and folders, or all of them. Syncing then takes place automatically. And herein lies the confusion with online backup, as the automatic syncing process is often confused with an actual backup service.

To be fair, if your backup needs are fairly basic, syncing your files in this way may do the trick. But be warned – if files are corrupted or deleted, they can’t be retrieved as they could with a backup service. And if you’ve produced or edited important documents since your last sync, or forgotten to manually add them to your sync folder, these could be lost in the event of equipment failure or cyber attack. What’s more, syncing can fail without you being notified. So you might think you’re protected when you’re not.

Moving on to cloud-based backup, this also offers the ability to store documents, files and photos in the cloud and access them from any location and device. The differences between these and online file sharing solutions include:

  • Real-time backup. With online file sharing, you can still get to your documents in the cloud if your computer or device is lost or stops working. However, as noted above, you’ll only be able to access the documents and versions that were saved in the last sync, which could lead to the loss of important data. With cloud-based backup, every single edit and change you make is instantly and automatically saved in real time – so when you restore your data, it will be 100% up to date and identical to what’s on your computer.
  • Complete backup of all your files. Whilst some cloud-based backup services do let you choose which files to backup (a bit like online file sharing), others will automatically take care of absolutely everything on your computer. This makes online backup a much safer and more robust option for any business that can’t afford to lose any of its files, no matter where they’re stored on the machine in question.
  • In most cases, security features on cloud-based backup services will be far superior to those found in online file sharing solutions. For example, your files will be encrypted on both upload and storage, using the latest technology. File sharing services tend to simply encrypt files on their servers, rather than locally on your computer. This is great news in terms of data security, especially with the introduction of GDPR just around the corner. On the other hand, it can limit make file sharing and collaboration capabilities, and slow down document previews, as the files have to be decrypted first.
  • This rather technical term simply means that online backup services enable you to retrieve deleted files and restore previous versions of documents. This is because several versions of each file will be stored, often at different server locations in case one fails. This feature isn’t always available with online file sharing services (and if it is, will come as an ‘added extra’ with associated costs). So if you delete a document by mistake or it becomes corrupted, the file will be lost.
  • Additional features. These vary by provider, but might include mirror image backup and bare metal recovery (a complete restoration of everything on your computer, complete with pre-installed software and settings); real-time data protection; and remote data wiping if your computer is lost or stolen.
  • Email alerting of backup status. Business class backup systems are configurable to alert System Managers as to the state of the backup system and backup jobs. This allows System Managers to keep a handle on the status of corporate data backups.

Explore your options – contact Jalapeno today

We want your files and documents to be stored as securely as possible, so you can retrieve your data and keep trading if the worst happens. Here at Jalapeno, we implement a range of cloud storage and cloud backup services to meet different business needs. Our trained and experienced engineers will work with you to find the best solution for your individual requirements.

To find out more, or book a FREE, no obligation systems audit, please get in touch today.