Are cloud backups safe?

How to secure your data in the cloud

Peter-Stelzel Morawietz

Backing up data at home is better than none. Copying data in a data center is even more secure. Read all about the pros and cons, costs, and data protection of backing up to the cloud.

EnlargeBack up your data in the cloud.
© Photo: © -

Seven deaths and billions in property damage was the result of the flood disaster last summer in Simbach in Lower Bavaria. The water level of the stream of the same name was more than five meters at that time, normal is just 50 centimeters. Nobody on site could have imagined such a scale before, so the authorities spoke of "a more than 1000-year flood".

Many flood victims also lost all of their computer data, because if a PC or network hard drive including all backups disappears under meter-high mud, professional data recovery will not help. In addition to important data, it is above all personal items such as photos of friends, trips and family that can no longer be replaced.

Tip:The best free cloud storage from Germany

Online backup is safer than backing up data at home

It doesn't have to be a catastrophe of this magnitude to show the limits of data backup at home. Think about ordinary water damage, a burglary, fire, or lightning strike. The General Association of the German Insurance Industry counts an average of around 450,000 lightning and surge damage per year. With a good 40 million households, the probability of being hit yourself is a good one percent - every year!

EnlargeMore expensive than any backup, but at least after a water damage, the data can be restored from the damaged hard drive in the data recovery laboratory.

Data backup in the cloud protects against this. This does not mean the cloud storage devices Dropbox, Google Drive, Onedrive and Co., because these are primarily used to provide and synchronize files. In contrast to this, the online backup works like the local version and saves all new and changed data. Unlike when synchronizing with the cloud storage, no data is lost during the backup even if the local version is deleted.

The main difference between conventional and online backup is therefore whether the data is stored on hardware at home or uploaded to a data center and stored there. The second variant not only protects your data from loss in the cases described, it is also more secure overall because data storage is in professional hands with a double backup.

Our overview at the end of the article includes both German and international providers, especially from the USA. Thanks to the internet connection, it doesn't matter in which country the servers are stored for your data, at least from a technical point of view. As a result, you get a secure and reliably functioning backup of your data from around 50 euros or US dollars per year, depending on the provider even with unlimited storage space in the cloud.

Data storage in the cloud has advantages and disadvantages

In addition to the plus in security, an online backup is also convenient: once set up, the data is backed up continuously using client software on the computer, without having to worry about anything or even having to connect or switch on a USB hard drive. If you postpone your backup by saying “I'll do it tomorrow!”, You can always use the online version to save the current database. Even notebooks that are often used on the go are always backed up in this way. In addition, you don't have to buy storage hardware, keep an eye on its lifespan or worry about capacity. Finally, the data from the backup can be restored on all devices with an Internet connection.

EnlargeSome previous providers of data backup in the cloud have now discontinued their storage service, including the security company F-Secure.

In addition to the running costs for the backup and storage service, the other disadvantages of data backup in the cloud must not be concealed. Depending on the amount of data and the bandwidth of your own Internet line, both the backup and the restore are slow. The download of 500 GB with a DSL 16000 connection takes around three days. The initial upload is even more tedious: The first full backup requires more than three weeks with the same amount of data and a 2 Mbit / s upload. If you have a VDSL, cable or fiber optic connection with a higher upload rate, you have a clear advantage. Once the first backup is in the data center, the further incremental backups of new or changed files are in practice unproblematic with regard to the upload. At the beginning, however, it would make sense if you could send the service provider your hard drive with the complete data set. But that is not possible with the low prices for private data backup.

EnlargePrivate data in the cloud should definitely be encrypted. It becomes problematic when US cloud backup providers do this for you.

Furthermore, one should have confidence in one's service provider, also with regard to the existence of the company and service. What sounds self-evident becomes more explosive in retrospect. Five years ago, various well-known companies such as F-Secure or Trendmicro advertised with data backup in the cloud, but they have now discontinued this business. Not that the customers lost their backed up data, but the reloading process associated with the move is tedious.

Local system and data backup

The full version Ashampoo Backup 2016 creates images of entire hard drives or partitions, primarily a backup of the system partition. In this way, you secure the entire installation environment of Windows and installed software, including all settings. If something is fundamentally changed or your computer is even infected by malicious code, you can restore the original system in a few minutes with no ifs and buts.

A classic, folder-based data backup can be carried out with AOMEI Backupper by backing up your data via "Backup -> File backup" on the left in the task bar after setup. You can find detailed step-by-step instructions with all the details from the manufacturer.

See also:Clever tips for Dropbox, Google Drive and Co.

Encryption and data protection: trustworthiness of the provider

Your personal data also deserves a lot of attention when it comes to data protection. First of all, data protection and thus encryption, which is a must for sensitive cloud content. It is important that the data is encrypted on your own computer before the upload and that you as the owner of the data to be saved can also set the key.

Otherwise, the backup service provider can decrypt your data, which is particularly tricky with US companies because of the Patriot Act. Although this is legally controversial, it has been known since the revelations by Edward Snowden in 2013 that the US authorities systematically access personal data.

The importance of data protection is also shown in the fact that both Dropbox and Microsoft have been guaranteeing German business customers that data will be stored in Germany since last year - but only in the business sector. As a private user, you are therefore safer when you are on the move if you save your data with a European company with server locations within the EU. You will find the information on this in our overview as well as on the end-to-end encryption and private passwords. Where you see “no information”, the providers have refused to provide information despite multiple inquiries.