SOS Online Backup differentiates itself from its competitors by holding onto old and deleted versions of your files for all of eternity. Most companies retain deleted files for 30 days, or only retain a certain number of versions. Saving all of them forever is quite a jump, but that convenience comes at a hefty price.
Naturally, cloud backup options vary wildly in price and functionality, but they’re increasingly necessary for peace of mind and data security. I thoroughly evaluated SOS Online Backup along with several other leading packages based on three main criteria: pricing, features, and performance.
SOS Online Backup – Design, Features, and Pricing
Keeping every version, forever, is a pretty unique selling point – and don’t worry, only the largest version of any given file counts against your storage space. There’s no free lunch though, so of course SOS Online Backup is also very expensive (See prices and plans on the SOS Online website). Its cheapest plan is $5 per month…for only 50 GB of space. It includes up to five computers (and unlimited mobile devices), but that’s still very high, and the cost goes up from there: 1TB, which is more typical if you’re backing up an entire hard drive, is a whopping $40 per month. That’s astronomical compared to the competition – for reference, the next most expensive service I tested for multiple computers, Acronis True Image, is only $13.33 per month for 1TB on five machines. So unless you have a mission critical need to access every old version of your files in the cloud, SOS is ludicrously overpriced, especially since the rest of the features are nothing to write home about.
The program itself is simple and well-designed. The application’s small window doesn’t waste space on stuff that doesn’t matter: your backup stats are front and center, and that’s it. You can click the wrench icon to utilize a handy wizard that walks you through the steps of setting up your backup. It’ll even scan your system for files it thinks you want to back up, though you can always create a custom backup and select certain folders and files yourself.
SOS offers the option to back up the same set of files locally as well as to the cloud, which is good if you want to back up to an external drive – which you should, since it’s much faster to restore when the you-know-what hits the fan. But overall, its feature set isn’t nearly as vast as the competition. This keeps it from being overwhelming, I suppose, but considering its steep price, I expected more.
SOS Online – Backup Options
When you first start the SOS program, you’ll be asked what kind of security you want to use (more on that in a moment). You’ll then be taken through a wizard, though if you ever want to adjust your backup settings after the fact, you can just click the main window’s wrench icon to go through the wizard again. This is a little confusing if you just want to alter a few small things, but I got used to it.
The first page of the wizard scans your computer for different types of files, like documents, images, music, and videos, and allows you to add or remove them from your backup set. This is handy, since it includes files that may not be in your user folder – but it may also exclude certain files that are in your user folder but aren’t of this file type. So you’ll definitely want to comb the next page of the wizard, which gives you a more traditional file tree with all your data.
The file tree will highlight files chosen by the initial scan in red, so you can see which of your files weren’t picked up by that initial scan. It’s a bit baffling at first, but it tries to strike a balance between the “We choose your backup” approach of programs like Backblaze with the “You choose your backup” approach of more advanced programs like IDrive. It’s hard to decide whether it really succeeds at doing both well, but I like that they’re trying to cater to less tech-savvy folks, while offering advanced options for us nerds.
From this page you can also right-click any file to “Enable LiveProtect,” which means it’ll back up that file as soon as its changed. That’s right, SOS doesn’t offer continuous backup for all your files – you can only schedule a backup to occur at certain intervals, except for the individual files you mark for continuous backup with LiveProtect within the program. There’s no limit to the number of files you can individually select, but obviously it’s a bit of a chore to do this if you want to protect a lot of files. You can’t enable it on directories or drives, just individual files.
The last page of the wizard offers a few more options, including schedule customization (with hourly being the shortest interval), telling it to back up the same set of files to a local destination (like an external drive), send notifications, and tweak other settings. When you’re ready to go, SOS will open a separate window showing you the status of your backup as it runs.
SOS has two sets of advanced settings: the exclusions, which are hidden under an “Advanced” button on the first page of the wizard, and “Advanced Options,” which is accessible from the “Menu” button on SOS’ main page.
SOS’ exclusions are actually pretty powerful: not only can you skip files larger or smaller than a certain size, but you can set different size exclusions for different types of files. So, for example, you could exclude documents larger than 20MB, but only exclude video files larger than 10GB. That gives you a lot of flexibility. You can also exclude certain folders, files, or file types entirely.
In the other “Advanced Options” menu you can adjust bandwidth limits, caching options, and change your security preferences. Most users probably won’t need to adjust these things, but it’s confusing that they’re in a completely separate area from the other “Advanced” options you access through the wizard.
SOS offers three types of security: a regular account with a username and password, Standard UltraSafe with a private encryption key managed in the cloud, or UltraSafe MAX with a private encryption key that’s never stored in the cloud. Security-conscious users will love the MAX option, as it means all the encryption is done locally on your machine, protecting your data from prying eyes (even the SOS service itself can’t see your files or the encryption key). You’ll miss out on many of SOS’ web features if you choose UltraSafe MAX, but if you want end-to-end encryption, that’s exactly how it should work.
Unlike other services, whose security practices can be confusing, SOS lets you know exactly what tradeoffs you make for each option, which I like to see. Just make sure you don’t forget your password if you choose UltraSafe or UltraSafe MAX, since it will not be recoverable.
If you use a lower level of security, the web interface offers a few useful features, like analytics, remote backup triggering, cleanup of old files and versions, and the ability to view or share files from your backup. The mobile apps also allow access to your files, and can back up video, music, and photos from your phone.
SOS Online – Recovery Options
To restore files, just click the “View/Restore” button on the main page. You’ll be greeted with a dated-looking window that lets you search your backups for specific files or folders, filtering by size and date. You can then recover a file or folder by right-clicking it and choosing “Recover.” If this interface is too confusing, you can alternatively click “Run Recovery Wizard” to get walked through the process. Once you choose to recover a file or folder, you’ll be asked where you want to save the restored files.
You can restore files and folders from the web as well, although you’re limited to downloads of 2GB of files or less. So for individual files, the web is there if you need it, but if you need to restore more than a couple gigs of files (or your entire drive), you’ll have to use the desktop program. SOS makes no mention of a courier service on their website.
SOS Online – Testing
After going through SOS’ wizard and selecting my 5GB user folder (including a 2GB test folder I use for backup reviews), I let SOS back up my files and made note of its upload speeds and resource usage. When it was finished, I restored that 2GB test folder to see how fast it would download, and to make sure the restore feature worked properly.
Once set up, SOS worked well, backing up quietly in the background while I worked. The program took up about 8-10% of my 2.7GHz i7-7500U CPU and only 160MB of RAM during the initial backup process (with UltraSafe MAX turned on). That’s decent for a program doing local encryption.
Transfer speeds were decent, uploading my initial backup at 23Mbps, which is middle of the road for the programs I tested. Restoration speeds easily maxed out my 200Mbps download bandwidth, which was on par with most other services. Large restores will still take a long time to download, so I recommend doing a local backup to an external drive or NAS in addition to your cloud backup. That way, your local backup can be your first line of defense, and you only have to fall back on the cloud in the case of fire, theft, or some other disaster at your home.
Support is available via online chat only, and they weren’t able to answer my questions right away – they said they’d get back to me over email, but at the time of this writing, I haven’t heard back.
Pricing for SOS Online Backup varies according to how much storage you need, with the most basic plan costing $4.99 a month for 50GB and five computers. There are a lot of storage options though, going all the way up to 10TB for $299.99 a month, or $2,999.99 annually. If you just need a terabyte, it’ll run you $39.99 a month, or $399.99 annually. Alternatively, it’s just $7.99 for 100GB or $79.99 per year. If you want to try it out before you spend any money, you can try a 15-day free trial as well.
This article was originally published by IGN.COM