The Best Free Backup Software and Why it is Difficult to Find One

The Best Free Backup Software and Why it is Difficult to Find One

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The definition of free backup software solution

The process of figuring out what is the best backup software for your company can be extremely complicated for a number of reasons. The market itself is massive, and the number of available solutions are at an all-time high, offering a wealth of features for different client types.

Extensive research certainly helps when it comes to figuring out a suitable backup solution for yourself, and there may be many circumstances that limit your choice of backup solutions in some way. For example, a lot of the more comprehensive backup solutions offer many features that you would perhaps never use, which makes choosing one of these solutions a questionable decision on its own.

Luckily, there are many backup solutions that are aimed at the smaller companies with lower requirements for their backup systems – and some of these backup solutions are even free. However, picking a free backup solution is even more complicated than the premium one.

We will discuss why it is so hard to pick the correct free backup software for yourself later in the article. However, it would be beneficial for the overall article to discuss the differences between a free backup solution and an open-source backup solution.

An open-source backup software has a publicly accessible source code that can be inspected or modified by anyone with little to no limitations. Most of the open-source applications are managed by the community itself and are completely free of charge. Unfortunately, open-source solutions do not have a good track record when it comes to ease of use from an inexperienced user’s standpoint. This means that picking up an open-source backup solution where the user has no technical expertise, or ability in the topic of managing or modifying these solutions, may not be a good idea.

A free backup solution is supposed to be offered free of charge by the solution provider. The definition of a free solution is quite wide, covering both smaller backup software that is completely free, to larger software providers that offer a free, limited version of their software as a way to have users experience some of the software’s capabilities, and perhaps make them interested in purchasing the fully-featured version.

These two definitions tend to overlap quite a lot, but they also have quite a lot of differences. Not all of the open-source solutions are free, and not every free backup solution on the market is open-source. Free backup software often has a much lower entry level in terms of technical knowledge when compared with an open-source backup solution, but the capabilities of the majority of free software are also somewhat limited in comparison. It is also worth bearing in mind that a free software may need (paid) development work doing on it to have it fit into your technical environment.

10 best free backup solutions in 2022 for corporate use

Now that we covered the necessary part of the terminology, it is time to present our list of top 10 best free backup software of this year. The order of this list does not represent the superiority of one solution over another, it is simply here for the purpose of easier navigation.

BackupPC

backuppc landing page

BackupPC is a simple yet effective cross-platform backup tool that offers high performance and can work with all of the different types of operating systems. Aside from its main purpose of creating backups of multiple client instances to a server, it also offers a convenient web interface, data deduplication capabilities, as well as data compression, flexible configuration, and no need for any client-side software to be installed. It is an open-source solution that has its source code available at both SourceForge and Github.

Advanced Maryland Automatic Network Disk Archiver (Amanda)

amanda landing page

Amanda, or Advanced Maryland Automatic Network Disk Archiver, works in a similar fashion as the previous example, offering the ability for system administrators to arrange and schedule backups of multiple user systems to one backup server. It supports optical media, tape drives, disks and changers and has native clients for both Windows and Linux users to be able to backup Linux, Unix and Windows desktops or servers with no issues whatsoever. Its source code is available at Sourceforge, making Amanda a solution that is both free and open-source.

Clonezilla

clonezilla landing page

Clonezilla claims to be a similar software solution to what Acronis True Image and other programs offered – a disk imaging/cloning program with unimpressive capabilities but with an amazing operation speed. Clonezilla has different versions of itself for regular users and servers with large numbers of machines – Clonezilla live and Clonezilla SE, respectively. It can perform bare metal recovery, simplifies system deployment, uses an efficient way of cloning existing information (reading and copying only those memory blocks that were used in some way), and can work with about 40 machines at the same time, or more.

Bacula Community

bacula community landing page

Bacula Community is the free open-source counterpart of a popular premium enterprise-level backup solution – Bacula Enterprise. Bacula Community is capable of working with multiple different operating systems, can work through a web interface or via a command line console, and is completely free as a backup software. It is capable of creating backups on multiple different storage types, offers vast scheduling capabilities, and is relatively easy to set up and work with. It is worth noting that, while Bacula Community is considered more user-friendly than its alternatives in the field of free open-source backup solutions, it is still preferential that a user has at least minimal experience of how to use basic command line inputs (although GUI interfaces are available, too). With over five million downloads of Bacula, the result is an especially reliable, stable software that is used by thousands of organizations across the globe.

Rsync

rsync landing page

Rsync is the very definition of bare-bones backup software. It is a backup tool that is made for Unix systems with the ability to operate it both via the graphic interface and the command line. It allows for its users to perform local and remote backups on multiple devices, including incremental backups. Rsync also has the capability to sync systems across the internet with other hosts and has the ability to update the entire file system and the directory tree of the user.

UrBackup

urbackup landing page

UrBackup is another example of a client/server backup solution that is free, open-source and has a very narrow scope in terms of what it is capable of performing. In this case, UrBackup is capable of performing both image-level and file backups without interrupting the system. It can also perform incremental backups with an astonishing speed and has multiple different locations to restore your backups to – using the client, the web interface or even the basic Windows explorer. It can also create backups of drive volumes and is capable of restoring them with bootable appliances – be it a USB drive or a CD disk.

Duplicati

duplicati landing page

As the name suggests, the main purpose of Duplicati is to duplicate data – in other words, to create backups. Duplicati can work on all of the modern operating systems such as Linux, Windows and MacOS, and it also supports a variety of data sharing protocols – SSH, FTP and WebDAV. It allows its users to store encrypted backups in their compressed form either on one of the cloud storage servers or within a remote file server. Other features include transfer customization, filtering, deletion rules, and so on.

Areca Backup
areca backup landing page

Areca Backup is a versatile open-source backup solution released under the GPL v2 license. It offers quite a lot in terms of backup customization, such as what areas to backup, where and when to store them, and what actions to take after the backup process is complete. It can also offer splitting, data encryption, data compression and a user-friendly interface (with the ability to work with the software using command line console, as well). However, it may be more suitable for personal backup purposes and not company-level backups due to the way it promotes itself (as a “personal backup solution”).

AOMEI Backupper

aomei backupper landing page

AOMEI Backupper may not work with operating systems other than Windows, but it packs enough features to make up for it – including backup, system cloning, file syncing, and more. Some of the more detailed features of AOMEI Backupper include various scheduling options, file-level backup and restore capabilities, partition backup, partition cloning, as well as imaging and backup automatization packed into a user-friendly interface. It is worth noting that AOMEI Backupper Standard only allows its usage for free in non-commercial environments.

Paragon Backup & Recovery Community Edition

paragon backup and recovery landing page

Claiming that Paragon Backup & Recovery is just that – a backup and recovery tool – would be a massive understatement, since it is basically a data management solution with backup capabilities. The list of features that Paragon provides includes targeted backups, backup scheduling, disk space management features, versioning, the capability to backup an entire OS and even the capability to restore backups from the Windows PE environment. It is worth noting that the free version of Paragon Backup & Recovery (Community Edition) is only available for non-commercial usage.

The difficulty in picking the right free backup solution for your use case

You may have noticed that the last two solutions on the list have a dedicated part in their description that clearly prohibits the usage of these solutions in a commercial environment. This is one of the biggest reasons why finding a suitable free backup solution is so problematic – a lot of overlap with other software types.

AOMEI and Paragon are not the only examples on the market – there are many different backup solutions that offer free versions of their products and/or free trials in an attempt to attract more customers towards their premium products. As such, both of the aforementioned examples have business versions of the same software that is a paid software with a price tag.

Additionally, it is extremely easy to find entire articles dedicated to free backup solutions for personal use (and with restrictions in terms of commercial usage) while searching for the best free backup software for your company, which makes the process even harder.

This is why this part of our article focuses on the best free backup software that can be used specifically in commercial environments. However, these solutions are at their best when interacting with smaller or middle-sized companies and systems, meaning that it is highly recommended to look for a full-fledged premium enterprise-level backup solution if your company is big enough to be considered an enterprise. For example, Bacula offers a low cost, enterprise version for even the largest companies, that has modular components so that users only pay for what they need.

10 best free backup software in 2022 for personal use

Nevertheless, if you are looking for a personal free backup software – we can help you with that, as well. Here is another top 10 of free backup software solutions in 2022 to add to the last two points on our previous list. Most of these examples are exclusively for personal use and cannot be used for commercial purposes, such as to backup company devices.

Personal Backup

personal backup landing page

A relatively simple solution with a straightforward name – Personal Backup is a free backup software that has the basic package of a personal backup solution. It can backup directories and single files (even though adding multiple single files at once is not possible), as well as backup scheduling, data compression, data encryption, as well as several different backup target locations – FTP, network share, external drive, local storage or even another folder within the same system. At the same time, Personal Backup’s interface is not the most convenient or user-friendly in the world, which might be somewhat inconvenient for some users.

Cobian Backup

cobian backup landing page

Cobian Backup is a rather complicated backup solution, definitely not the most user-friendly one on this list. It offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to backup creation – with multiple backup operations performing simultaneously, several possible backup locations (network, local storage, FTP server, etc.), as well as scheduling, encryption and compression. However, its biggest downside is that Cobian Backup cannot restore its own backups – all of that needs to be done manually, making it fairly inconvenient for some of the more laid back use cases.

Macrium Reflect 8

macrium reflect 8 landing page

Macrium Reflect 8 and its free version are not the most conventional backup solutions out there, with the ability of imaging and cloning being the main capability of the software and the inability to backup anything smaller than a disk partition. However, it is still considered a personal backup solution that offer backup scheduling, different backup storage locations, and even supports multiple backup locations at once. There are file-level and folder-level backup capabilities, though, but they are locked behind a paywall and unavailable for the free version – the same goes for backup encryption and ransomware protection.

MiniTool ShadowMaker

minitool shadowmaker landing page

MiniTool ShadowMaker is a tool that has a rather impressive feature set for a free version – one of the few solutions on the list that can offer both file-level backup and the capability to backup entire hard drives. This software can run incremental backups on a schedule with a variable time frame between backups (a day, a week or a month), it can save backups to external or local storage drives or to network locations, and it can even set custom backup file size for specific storage drives (CDs, for example). Other features include password protection, email alerts, data compression and backup verification.

EaseUS Todo Backup Free

easeus todo backup free landing page

EaseUS Todo Backup has a surprisingly long list of features for a free backup solution, with different backup types and only some of the more sophisticated features being locked behind a paywall – such as backups triggered by events, Outlook backups and data transfer from one PC to another. Aside from those, EaseUS Todo Backup offers several different backup types, as well as scheduling capabilities, different backup targets in the form of partitions, drives or individual files.

Iperius Backup

iperius backup landing page

Iperius Backup combines a medium-sized set of features with a user-friendly interface in this free backup software. It can transfer backups to several different locations, the software itself is convenient and easy to use, and there are three different backup types available. Iperius Backup can also provide password protection, data compression into ZIP archives, and even some of the more uncommon features such as backing up system and hidden files or performing specific actions after the backup process is complete (such as turning off the machine).

Redo Rescue

redo rescue landing page

Another example of an extremely specific backup solution is Redo Rescue. Once again, it is fairly easy to surmise the nature of the service from its name – it would act as a “rescue” tool for your system. Redo Rescue can only backup your entire hard drive when loaded from a bootable device of sorts (it also means that you cannot launch it from within your OS at all), and it can be used to transfer your backup to multiple different locations, be it FTP, SSH, NFS, or just a shared network folder. The files created with this software also cannot be read by a regular file explorer and would have to be unpacked and restored with Redo Rescue for them to be useful to you.

FBackup

fbackup landing page

While FBackup’s interface might not be the most visually appealing on the list, it packs a relatively capable backup utility that can work in manual mode and also has a helpful wizard to assist someone who is less knowledgeable in the topic. FBackup can create backups of files and folders to one of several locations – from local storage to network drives or Google Drive cloud storage. You can also schedule these backups, but this is about where the limits of the free version of the software end. Unfortunately, the list of paid features of FBackup also includes encryption, incremental backups and FTP backups, which might be crucial for some people.

Google Drive

google drive landing page

While Google Drive cannot be called a backup solution in a traditional sense, it doesn’t change the fact that its synchronization capabilities are impressive for a free cloud storage solution. It has free space limitations that can be raised in several ways, even though it is at its best when backing up specific folders and directories with small-size files, not entire systems and storage locations. It is also extremely easy to set up – all you have to do is specify which folder to “synchronize” and it would do just that and keep doing it with every change in the aforementioned folder within your storage.

pCloud

pcloud landing page

Following the same logic as with the aforementioned Google Drive, pCloud is not a backup software per se, but it can act as one by providing limited cloud storage to its users for free. It offers file sharing for multiple devices and different users, as well as collaboration within those files, data encryption, the ability to set individual or group permissions, as well as a detailed activity report and digital asset management. The cloud storage limitations might be detrimental for some storage-heavy backup operations, but it is a great solution for smaller important files with the ability to collaborate without leaving the website in question.

Conclusions

As with any other backup variation, figuring out the best free backup software solution for your specific use case is going to be a unique process for each and every company on the market. This is why it is hard to say that one specific backup solution is the best for everyone, since there are many different companies that have different storage types, different backup goals and different business markets with a lot of variation in terms of RPO, RTO and other parameters – and the same could be said for individual users.

The process of picking the best free backup solution for your company can be boiled down to two important steps – figuring out what features you are looking for and picking up a backup solution based on those features. For example, if data encryption is one of your biggest priorities in backups then you may consider Duplicato as a good backup solution. At the same time, if you want a versatile, flexible solution that can work with many different systems and is relatively user-friendly, Bacula Community would be the top pick for you.

Figuring out what backup software features would be the most important for your use case is important - it would be difficult to find a suitable solution for yourself or your organization if you were not clear on what your needs are from a backup solution.

About the author

Rob Morrison

Rob Morrison started his IT career with Silicon Graphics in Switzerland, which developed into a wide variety of IT management roles for almost 10 years. He has subsequently held various management positions in professional open source companies such as JBoss, Red Hat and Pentaho, contributing to the growth of these well-known companies. He is a graduate of Plymouth University and holds an Digital Media and Communications BSc Honours degree, and completed an Overseas Studies Program.