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

in Cloud Storage

Unless you live under the rock, I’m sure you’ve already heard the terms “cloud storage” and “cloud backup.” But did you know that they mean two COMPLETELY different things?

“Cloud storage” and “cloud backup” may seem like they’re synonymous. However, that’s NOT the case. They are separate services that serve their own special purposes.

And, here’s how you can determine which one is what you need the most.

For all the tech-savvy netizens, I’ll be spilling the tea on EVERYTHING there is to know about the cloud and its best-kept secrets: cloud storage vs cloud backup. So, better stick around!

Understanding the Cloud

There’s hardly a day that goes by without the cloud being mentioned:

  • If you open up your Google Chrome tab and click on your account, you’d instantly see the familiar green-blue-yellow triangle of the Google Drive icon.
  • Or if you’re an iPhone user, you’re probably well-acquainted with iCloud cloud storage.
  • And, let’s not forget about DropBox―a throwback to the huge amount of readings and presentations saved during the good old university days.

The 3 online services all make good use of advanced cloud technology. So, what exactly is it?

When I say the cloud, it refers to the system of servers accessible through the world wide web, and along with the software and databases that run on those servers.

Too much? Let me make it simple for you: technical jargon aside, the cloud is basically software running on the internet.

The term “cloud” was coined from “cloud computing” in the mid-’90s by Netscape citizens to refer to a limitless future. (Any Netscape users still around? )

How Does It Work?

You can access and host files in the cloud from multiple devices by simply connecting to your WiFi and signing into your account―as easy as A to Z.

Much like how you can log in to your Instagram on a new smartphone when your old one breaks AND still being able to find all your saved data and past posts, you can do pretty much the same when using cloud technology.

It’s an online system made for convenient remote access where all your data is stored and saved in, well, the cloud. All you really need is a stable wireless connection for your file to sync up.

Types of Clouds

When people talk about cloud computing, it becomes all too confusing real quick. One of the reasons for this is there are multiple types of clouds available, providing a variety of services:

  • Public Clouds: Sold as services to the general public (i.e. Google, Microsoft, Quickbooks, etc).
  • Private Clouds: Owned and used by a single company for storage and backup uses. Usually, big corporations have their own data centers for security and privacy.
  • Hybrid Clouds: The combination of public and private clouds by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Both cloud storage and backup are the most commonly used cloud services in the day to day life. So let’s dive into what the key differences are.

What Is Cloud Storage?

Cloud storage is defined by IBM as a:

“[service] that allows you to save data and files in an off-site location that you access either through the public internet or a dedicated private network connection.”

In simpler terms, a cloud storage service is essentially a system for storing and sharing files online.

To understand it better, think of cloud storage services as parking lots or apartments that you rent out for extra space.

Because your laptop or desktop hard drives only have finite data storage, you’re gonna need more.

And, while there’s always the option of purchasing physical or local hard drives, cloud storage services are a much more convenient alternative.

Oh, also, it’s WAY cheaper.

Cloud storage is a supplementary solution to the hard drive.

How Does Cloud Storage Work?

Whether you’re using Google One, Dropbox, Amazon Drive (AWS), Microsoft OneDrive, and all other top most trusted cloud storage service providers, they all do the same thing: enabling you to upload, share, and store all sorts of file types through the internet.

Once the data is on the cloud, any person to who you give access to the files can go ahead to check and edit them from ANY compatible device.

Pretty handy, don’t you think?

This is also why many businesses nowadays prefer to use a cloud storage service to store documents and share them within the organization.

There’s no need for those outdated USBs with their wonky wirings. Slowly but surely, cloud storage is replacing physical storage systems!

Benefits of Using Cloud Storage Solution

1. Collaboration Tool

Cloud storage services do not only solve storage issues but also simplify things such as accessibility and sharing. One of the coolest things about cloud storage is it’s basically a collaboration tool.

Remember when I mentioned that companies like to use the service to store data and share them? Well, this just proves my point.

Cloud storage service integrates cloud sync and share functions. Any device that has the cloud storage software installed on it can access and work on the files in real-time. They sync up!

Take Google Docs as an example. There, you can create and edit your documents―much like Microsoft Word…only with a twist. It comes with neat bonus features such as:

  • Being able to share your work with others
  • Have multiple persons simultaneously make changes

2. 24/7 Remote Access

Whether you’re on vacation in the Bahamas or popping a squat at the gym, you can access all your files given that your devices have a wireless internet connection, which isn’t unusual these days.

3. Limitless Scalability

Unlike an external storage device, cloud storage provides elasticity. What do I mean? Well, it’s simple really.

Depending on how much data you store in the cloud, you can easily scale the capacity up, if you’re taking up more space, or dial it down when it’s necessary, which is great since we don’t always use everything at once.

Rather than relying on physical hard drives that have fixed storage space and are limited, you can always choose to upgrade or degrade your service plan. This saves a LOT of bucks too!

4. Time & Cost Efficiency

By storing data in the cloud, you not only save yourself time but also money. Less waiting time and more work done―all at LOWER costs.

Because you can easily switch between cloud storage capacities, you can cut storage costs by a TON just by doing so. Many storage solution companies offer low-cost options such as one-off lifetime cloud storage subscriptions as well as FREE GB storage.

Cloud Storage Solutions

SO, how much should you pay for cloud storage? And what is the support you should expect when you avail of a storage plan?

Like I said before, there are many cloud services that offer low rates.

Google, for one, is a great option, because it works on a centralized system, meaning your e-mails, Google Photos, Spreadsheets, and all of the company’s services, come in an all-in-one pack called the Google One.

You can get their storage plan for:

  • $1.99 per month for 100 GB
  • $2.99 per month for 200 GB
  • $9.99 per month for 1 TB (you can upgrade it up to two terabytes WITHOUT any extra cost)

That sounds like a sweet deal, right? Other cloud providers are more or less at the same par with some offering plans at lower prices.

One of the best deals you can get right now is pCloud’s lifetime cloud storage. Check out my review of pCloud to learn more.

Although when choosing a secure cloud storage provider, be careful and do your research first. Online storage services, because they’re designed for quick access and convenient file sharing, are not as secure as you may think.

Cyber attacks and data breaches happen often, so here’s a gentle reminder to keep your accounts secure.

What Is Cloud Backup?

On this side of the street is our next contender: the cloud backup, or also known as ‘online backup.’

Like cloud storage services, online backup services work in real-time to store data and other files on the internet. BUT, the similarities STOP there.

  • While cloud storage is made to share files easily, a cloud backup is designed to replicate it.
  • Putting it in another way, online backup is all about data recovery.

In the event of an unforeseen disaster to strike, say, milk spilling on your desktop or malicious spyware erasing all your files, you’ll be able to recover it easily – without any hitches or bumps in the road.

But, what if you still had your hard drive with you?

Sure, you can always take it to the computer shop and pay HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS just to attempt to salvage whatever’s left, which―by the way―is NOT a guarantee.

The better choice and the wisest decision you can make is to get yourself an online backup service and save yourself from heartache.

Online backup not only makes sure your data are intact and are in sync but also retains your ENTIRE file system. You can restore everything back to the way it was exactly before with a backup.

How Does Cloud Backup Work?

An online backup service is able to save your files before it crashes because data is continually run and replicated in the cloud almost as soon as you’ve created or made changes to it.

Thanks to cloud sync technology, the latest versions of ALL your files on ALL devices are saved and stored in the service provider’s data centers. Hooray for ultra-backed-up data!

Some cloud providers even go as far as letting you schedule backups so that your hard drive won’t bug down while you’re using the computer.

Another thing, cloud backups offer different methods of file versioning, meaning there are multiple ways of getting back old files, depending on which online backup system or provider you choose.

Basic Features

Despite the fact there’s a variety of approaches to cloud backup, essentially, online backup services SHOULD be able to do the following:

  • Perform automated backups
  • Replicate multiple versions of your data
  • Have the ability to retain multiple store points
  • Store backups of hard drive outside of the cloud being protected
  • Retrieve data from cloud server
  • Restore deleted files
  • Download data contained in the backup
  • Easy data restoration
  • Protect file and data with encryption

Benefits of Using Cloud Backup Solution

1. Scheduled Backups

When we’re talking about the key differences between cloud storage vs. backup, one of the things that immediately come into mind is the cloud scheduler.

If you’ve been reading this article closely, then you already know that an online backup runs on a schedule.

For example, if you avail of a backup plan from either of the two, Google Cloud or BackBlaze, all of the application, data encryption, and file transfer are completely taken care of every 24 hours or whatever time you set it to sync.

Just sit back, relax, and let the cloud do it for you!

2. Advanced Data Recovery Technologies

More tech-savvy users will LOVE this.

Because technology is becoming more advanced each day, there are now more disaster recovery options to choose from.

Online backup software like CloudBerry Backup includes neat bonus features such as hybrid backup, NAS backup, disk imagining, and other data managing tools.

3. Tight Security

Beyond data recovery, online backup offers tighter web security. Consistent security updates, built-in firewalls, third-party testing all make the cloud a safer place.

HOWEVER, it’s a backup‘s data encryption that acts as the final wall of defense to ward off hackers and to make them think twice.

Solution companies that offer online backup encrypt data during the transfer AND storage processes.

Cloud Backup Services

So, how much would a backup service cost you? Well, I’ve got GREAT news.

It barely costs ten bucks! No, really.

  • iDrive, one of the best online backup services, offers a sweet deal for $4.34 a month with at least 1 TB for data files and other basic backup tools.
  • For unlimited space, you only need to pay $5 per month in Carbonite and Backblaze.

Many public clouds offer limitless backup storage at low prices.

Providers with a much more advanced platform have a cloud-to-cloud (C2C) backup service available, Instead of backup from a computer file to the internet, C2C backup allows users to transfer between clouds.

Key Differences Between Cloud Storage vs. Cloud Backup

Still confused? To make understanding the difference between cloud storage and backup so much easier, here’s a little summary of ALL the things we’ve talked about so far:

  • Cloud storage is designed to supplement limited hard drive storage space; online backup is made to restore and recover files in case of data loss.
  • Cloud storage lets you share files with others and work remotely from different devices by using cloud sync; online backup works to automatically save and sync the files on your computer to the data server.
  • Cloud storage poses more security issues since it is made for quick file sharing and can only be encrypted on the server’s side; online backups are more secure than cloud storage since files are encrypted twice.
  • Because the main purpose of an online backup is to mirror your hard drive, the selective sync option is not applicable. Only cloud storage can let you pick and choose which file or folder to upload.
  • Automated and scheduled data transfer is only available to an online backup, and NOT on a storage solution.

When Should You Use Cloud Storage vs. Cloud Backup?

Now that the air is all cleared up, the next question we need to address is when should you use cloud storage and a backup?

The trick is easy. Just follow my guide!

  • If you need to access your files from anywhere or if you need to work on select documents remotely, use unlimited cloud storage.
  • If you want to keep your data secure and rebuild your entire hard drive, USE CLOUD BACKUP.

Frequently Asked Questions

Just the internet’s most curious questions about the cloud.

Can I Use Cloud Storage to Backup My Data Online?

You can…But I highly DON’T recommend it for the simple reason that the two serve different purposes.

The difference between cloud backup vs storage is that online storage does NOT have automated scheduling.

If you were to use cloud storage as your online backup, it’ll be a huge inconvenience and would be more expensive in the long run.

Plus, an online storage solution is not secure enough to backup your ENTIRE hard drive. All your information and classified files are just hanging around on the world wide web! NOT a good idea at all.

Is There a Cloud Storage and Backup System That’s Integrated?

Cloud storage and online backup are two separate services. And most, if not all, public cloud companies do NOT offer an integrated system.

The closest thing to it is iCloud, which sits on a grey area because it supposedly backs up all the contents of your Apple devices and also serves as extra storage.

What’s the Best Cloud Storage and Online Backup for Android?

It’s always about Apple here and Apple there, but what if you’re an Android user? What are your options?

Well, Google is always the number choice. All Google services are compatible with both Android and Apple, so it’s pretty much universal.

But if you want something that’s more underground and works just as well, then Amazon Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are great for Android users as a cloud storage system.

For cloud backups, give a shot (my review of here).


Whether it’s for business or for personal, making the ballsy move to the cloud is a huge step.

And like any other life decision, it’s always best to be informed. Knowing what they are and how the two cloud services can help you go a long way.

So, in this battle of online backup vs cloud storage…. there’s no clear winner.

Although they share a number of differences, the two, cloud storage, and backup, work well together. Both are incredibly useful and necessary tools.

As they say, ‘it’s all in the cloud.’


About Author

Matt Ahlgren

Mathias Ahlgren is the CEO and founder of Website Rating, steering a global team of editors and writers. He holds a master's in information science and management. His career pivoted to SEO after early web development experiences during university. With over 15 years in SEO, digital marketing, and web developmens. His focus also includes website security, evidenced by a certificate in Cyber Security. This diverse expertise underpins his leadership at Website Rating.

WSR Team

The "WSR Team" is the collective group of expert editors and writers specializing in technology, internet security, digital marketing, and web development. Passionate about the digital realm, they produce well-researched, insightful, and accessible content. Their commitment to accuracy and clarity makes Website Rating a trusted resource for staying informed in the dynamic digital world.

Stay informed! Join our newsletter
Subscribe now and get free access to subscriber-only guides, tools, and resources.
You can unsubscribe at any time. Your data is safe.
Stay informed! Join our newsletter
Subscribe now and get free access to subscriber-only guides, tools, and resources.
You can unsubscribe at any time. Your data is safe.
Share to...