Friday, June 26, 2020

SOS Online Backup review

SOS Online Backup is one of the more well-established cloud storage services in the business and has been going for over a decade now – if longevity is something that you or your business look for in a provider, then this is worth putting down on your shortlist.

However, its interface and features can feel a little dated. This is definitely one of the old guard of backup services, and it hasn't really moved with the times to keep pace with more modern alternatives. Read on to find out about the pros and cons of the service.

SOS Online Backup features

As the name suggests, SOS Online Backup is there to bring your data back in the case of an emergency, and it does this core job pretty well. While you don't get anything like real-time file syncing or a continuous, automatic background backup option, it will happily upload data from your chosen computers and keep it nice and safe in the cloud. If that's all you're after, SOS Online Backup might satisfy you.

File versioning is supported, so you can roll back to older versions of files if needed, and external drives can be included in your backups as well. Sign up for the more expensive business package, and the backups extend to NAS drives too, if needed. The business tier also includes a bare metal backup option, which copies everything on your computers (operating system, settings and all).

All that basic functionality is fine and runs as advertised, but the problem is that SOS Online Backup doesn't really offer much else. Backups aren't real-time and automatic, though they can be set to run every few minutes or manually, and there's no online file browser – just a basic management console. You don't really get any options in terms of bandwidth management or backup customization – it's just a question of picking the files and folders you'd like to cover and then leaving SOS Online Backup to get on with it. You can send out emailed reports each time a backup runs, if you want.

SOS Online Backup can do a decent job of deleting files from the cloud that haven't been updated in a while, or that have been deleted from your computer, or both, but the configuration settings for this aren't all that brilliant – the danger is you forget about the feature and inadvertently wipe something you didn't want to. On the plus side, the backup activity and reports features on the web are very well done.

SOS Online Backup

(Image credit: Future)

SOS Online Backup interface

You definitely couldn't argue that the SOS Online Backup interface – across mobile, desktop and the web – is anything approaching modern. As we've mentioned, the service has been around for years, and that comes over in the look and feel of its various apps. If you want to know what computing was like in the 2000s, this cloud storage provider will be able to take you back.

On the plus side, we were very impressed by how rapidly new customers can be up and running, as installation and configuration are lightning quick. Once the tool is installed and connected to an account, you can select what on the computer you’d like backing up and initiate the process – and for those who aren’t confident, SOS provides installation guides and a step-by-step video taking you through the process.

The web dashboard is almost entirely focused on monitoring activity rather than providing access to the files it has secured, and digging in to find a specific file or folder is a tedious and painful exercise. You can disconnect devices from the service fairly easily, and even identify where it currently is located, and from our tests uploading and downloading is respectably quick (though a bit more information on the current state of these transfers would be welcome).

It feels as though file sharing has been tacked on as something of an afterthought: you can share a file or a folder, but there are no password or time limit controls. The recipient gets an email that contains a hyperlink to download the files that they’re free to pass on to anyone else, and they can be used as many times as they like – you certainly don't get the levels of control that other cloud storage providers can offer.

SOS Online Backup

(Image credit: Future)

SOS Online Backup security

Here at least SOS Online Backup does tick a number of boxes: end-to-end encryption is available, if you want it, which means not even the SOS Online Backup team will be able to get at your files or recover them if you lose your password. All files are protected by 256-bit AES encryption, so they should be safe from prying eyes, and transfers are locked with secure 128-bit SSL as well.

However, there's no two-factor authentication here, so if your username and password become exposed, someone else can access your account without too much trouble. It's another one of those more modern features that SOS Online Backup has failed to introduce into its service, and it takes away from the otherwise excellent security features that the platform has.

SOS Online Backup pricing

SOS Online Backup isn't great in terms of pricing across its home user and business packages. You get a 15-day free trial in both cases to see what you make of it first, though – you don't have to enter any payment information to access the trial, but you will have to give up your phone number and zip code. If you're seriously interested in SOS Online Backup but want to know as much as possible before buying, the company will give you a demo of the software if you ask nicely.

After that you'll be billed $4.99 (about £4) and up a month for the home user plan, which covers five PCs or Macs and as many mobile devices as you like – but only gives you a paltry 50GB of space. For not much more, Microsoft will give you 1TB and Microsoft Office into the bargain, for example, while Carbonite starts at $6 a month but doesn't cap storage limits. The other option for business users starts at $29.99 (about £24) a month, for 250GB of room across an unlimited number of computers and mobile devices, plus some useful extra features – support for NAS drive backups, mirror imaging, and tools to ensure regulatory compliance.

SOS Online Backup

(Image credit: Future)

SOS Online Backup verdict

The fact that the rave reviews on the SOS Online Backup website come from 2010 and 2015 are warning signs that this might not be the most modern of backup services, as are the dated interfaces and low user ratings on the mobile apps (the Android app hasn't had an update of any description since 2018). SOS Online Backup is one of those cloud storage services just hanging around, treading water.

If you're going to stick to the desktop clients and just need something to get your files copied to the cloud from five computers (or an unlimited number of computers on the business plan), then SOS Online Backup does what you need, and it has some good features for businesses – however, there are far better cloud storage providers on the market than this, including ones that have a working web interface, slick mobile apps, and more affordable pricing.

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