Backup Apps versus Sharing Apps

Key Points First… Details Later

There is a fine line (but lots of dollars) between computer backup plans and file-sharing plans.  Here is a general comparison between the two types of plans:

Backup, such as BackBlaze

  • Costs for quality backup range from $60 to $70 per year for up to 5T of storage (that would be five 1T drives or 1,000 Gigabytes of data.  (A small USB Drive is 16 Gigabytes.)
  • Keeps a “cloud” version of your entire computer’s memory.
  • You install the app on your computer, and everything happens in the background.
  • A copy of all your files is kept online, as well as, several older versions of each file if you change a file by mistake.
  • You can see your files via the internet and replace one or all your files as needed.

Shared Storage, such as Google Drive

  • A limited amount of sharing is free, from 2GB to 15GB.  (A small USB Drive is 16 Gigabytes.)  Sharing 1T can cost about $100 per year.
  • Keeps a “cloud” version of a specific “shared” folder in your computer’s memory.  Only files in that “shared” folder will be saved online.
  • You must select which files go in the shared folder.  The plan will let you know when you are getting near the size limit.  Some plans start charging automatically as soon as you go over the limit.
  • The “shared” folder is the same on each of your computers and your phone, if you set it up that way. 
  • If you update one of the documents in the “shared” folder on your laptop, it will be updated in the “shared” folder on your phone and desktop computer. 
  • You can see the contents of the shared folder on any of your devices or the internet. 
  • You can easily SHARE the file with someone else with a provided link… you decide if that person may edit the file or only view the file.

Now we will look at each separately…

Backup your Data,, and are popular backup programs.  These services are usually can run less than $100 per year for a reliable service with online storage.  Here is pricing information as of March 2022.  You may click the link to go to the pricing page.  (I included Apple’s iCloud sharing service so you can see the price difference.)

Free sharing “cloud” services such as Google Drive, iCloud, DropBox, or Microsoft OneDrive usually do not have enough space to back up a computer with 1T (terabyte) of data, which is the new “normal” for computer hard drives.  You should consider these apps are sharing services or ways to make a duplicate of a few of your documents, not your entire hard drive.  These started as sharing sites, but they now charge a lot of money when you use them for backup.  They are capitalizing on the fact that you already use them, so they just offer other services and charge more!  Apple’s iCloud charges $10 per month for only 2 TB of storage, then the price goes up.  Sharing sites are discussed below.  DO NOT confuse expensive sharing sites as backup sites for your computer’s hard drive.

Be sure the backup Includes everything on your main computer.  Usually backup software does not back up other computers or devices in your home or office unless you pay for it.  In backup software, you may access your documents online away from your computer, sometimes several versions of the same document, most recent first then the versions that you changed. My Backblaze backup saves six of the most recent versions of every document on my computer. This is very helpful when you accidentally save over the information you needed!  I have used this feature many, many times.  

Over the years, several of my students have lost their USB drives or the USB drives have crashed.  A USB drive should never be used as your main form of storage OR backup.  They are inexpensive and portable TEMPORARY storage only.  Also, you should NEVER keep any of your clients’ private data on a USB drive unless it is password protected so only you can access it if it gets lost.  That could lead to a very serious breach of privacy.

We will talk about “cloud” storage or “sharing sites” below which is for sharing files between computers and should not be confused with a backup service that backs up your entire computer.

Only backup what you want to save!  Always backup what you want to save!

DropBox, Google Drive, One Drive, iCloud Sharing Sites

In our internet-driven world, we often have multiple devices:  SmartPhone, computer desktop, computer laptop, tablet.  What if you are working on a customer list at home, then you suddenly need the information at work?  What if you have a bookkeeper who needs to look at your expense list right now?

There are several free products out there that will sync your documents across all devices.  You can edit them on your tablet, then the document will be immediately updated on your laptop.  You can share the document with your bookkeeper, he can make some changes to it, and the changes are immediately saved to all your devices.


One of the most popular and early programs with this ability is DropBox.  It is free software with 2 GB (2 gig) memory.  Click on the DropBox logo above to start using it on your computer.  If you refer others, they give you more memory.  You can share documents or entire folders with others.  (By using the link I provide, it increases the memory of my DropBox

If you just want to back up a few documents, you may also pay extra for more storage on, but that takes room on your hard drive and your DropBox folder.  Use sharing sites for sharing.  Use backup sites for backup!

Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud are all similar to DropBox but run by Google, Microsoft, and Apple respectively.   These sharing services create a folder on your computer’s hard drive.  Documents in this folder sync in the background, while you move on to something else.  If I save a letter to my DropBox folder on my PC, I can use the DropBox folder on my phone to access the document and vice versa.  If I save a photo to the DropBox folder on my laptop, it shows up in the DropBox folder on my desktop PC.  One folder with all the most up-to-date version of documents saved to each device.

Please watch this video that explains the idea of DropBox in simple terms.

DropBox has not really changed in twelve years,  Here is DropBox’s features website which describes what it can do:  

In these sharing programs, I can save a document and send you an online link so you can download the document, much like we do in Canvas.  If I know you have a DropBox, Google Drive, or OneDrive account, I can send you a link to the actual document, and we can both make changes to the document and the newest version is always saved to our devices.

I used to have a DropBox account on my college’s work computer so I always had access to my class files no matter which classroom I was using, but the college took ALL the shared online storage off their computers because of security issues.  On my clients’ computers, I usually set up one or two folders for us to share.  They can look at a document, make changes and save the document.  When I open my DropBox, their changes are there immediately.  This is something you might consider on a work computer that your employees can access – just sharing a few folders, not everything.  I can share one DropBox subfolder with the reception desk – very public documents, and that folder plus another DropBox subfolder with the manager – public and private company information.

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