Cloud Storage vs Cloud Backup vs Cloud Sync: What’s the Difference?

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Let’s face it: while searching for data backup options we’re often confused with the abundance of tech terms with seemingly similar meanings. If you’ve surfed the net in your quest for the most optimal online backup system for your data, you must have come across these three phrases – cloud storage, cloud backup and cloud sync (synchronization). Indeed, if you ask a tech geek to explain the meanings of the buzzwords he/she will say their functions overlap more often than not but promptly add that, however, cloud storage, backup and sync are quite different in their use and capacities. Oh, that tricky tech world…

So, if you’re faced with the same problem and don’t have the opportunity of an expert opinion and explanation, scroll down and get informed.


Cloud Storage

Well, probably this is the most common term for the newcomers to the ‘cloud’-y world. In fact, cloud storage is more of an online version of an external hard drive that you can access worldwide. Otherwise called file sharing, it simply enables saving modest chunks of data online. In this case, users mostly store data in the cloud manually, i.e. they choose when and what files to ‘place’ on the cloud on a one-shot basis.

Cloud storage comes with 2 varieties: you can either save your data in the cloud and access straightly through the host site such as Google Drive, or upload a system to integrate with your computer to do any kind of manipulations with your files directly from your desktop (e.g., Dropbox).

If your main purpose is to find something convenient for interacting with colleagues, sharing files with friends or accessing specific data from a computer other than yours- then go for the cloud storage option. Anyways, be informed that cloud storage generally has limited capacity and cannot replace online backup systems. Besides, only the few files saved in a cloud storage will be recoverable in case of computer data loss.


Cloud backup

First off, cloud backups are usually automated and you can get either continuous backups or scheduled ones depending on the system.  The mechanism is as follows: when you create or modify a file it’s automatically uploaded and saved in the cloud.

Some users choose to back up some chunks of key data, but the general rule of thumb is to merely back up every single– documents,  images, videos, music, downloads – and even including whole systems- apps and settings.

Secondly, while cloud storage enables you to upload files that you don’t want to keep on your local computer, cloud backup, vice versa, keeps the exact copy of the original files on your hard drive. If you remove a file, it will be automatically deleted from the backup as well, though some online backup services offer recovery of deleted files.

And, another huge benefit of a cloud backup system is that they are capable of saving larger amounts of data. Besides, they allow you to have an access to your data from any device connected to the internet and quite a lot of cloud backup providers even offer free mobile apps.

So, the main purpose of a cloud backup is to ensure your data is fully protected against any tech force majeure. In fact, the only function of cloud storage that cloud backups lack by default is the option of sharing particular files with other people.


Cloud Sync

Cloud sync mostly keeps the latest version of a file on two or more devices. It’s a convenient solution for interaction of people who often use multiple devices. Cloud sync services all have such common functions as sharing public links or adding collaborators privately.

All the famous services, such as, for instance, Google Docs and Dropbox have cloud synchronization features. The former makes the most up-to-date edits of a document visible to all users-collaborators while the latter keeps all the synchronized data in a particular folder.
To sum up, it’s up to you to make the final decision on whether to opt for a cloud backup, storage or synchronization. It mostly depends on your or your business needs and goals. If you, for example, merely need space to save your files externally- go for cloud storage. Cloud backup is for storing larger amounts of data and safeguarding it against loss or tech ‘cataclysms’. And, finally, if you just want to collaborate or switch between multiple devices- choose a cloud sync which regularly keeps the latest versions of your data.
If you use one of the above-mentioned services, or all together, share your thoughts on the comment section below.

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