What is the difference between cloud storage and backups?

Periodically we post answers to questions we are asked at the shop. This month, the question is – what is the difference between cloud storage and backups? The answer is important to the safety of your information.

If something happens to a computer, are the documents and files on it going to be safe? It depends on your storage choices.


Computers store many types of files. Most often, operating system files, programs, photos, and documents such as spreadsheets, text documents, and PDFs. We might also have stored passwords and log in details, as well as shortcuts to commonly used websites.

Some users are concerned about losing their banking details and emails in the event of a computer failure. It is possible to store copies of emails or bank statements on a computer, but it is not common. This information is generally stored on the bank or email providers’ servers. The user is only viewing it on the computer.

If you use a browser (Chrome, Safari, Edge, Firefox etc) to view information, it is stored on the providers’ servers.

User name and password credentials may be saved in a browser. In the event of a computer failure, access will depend on the browser being used and whether the user is logged into an account. We can provide more details.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage is space allocated for a user’s files on another company’s servers. These files are accessible using the Internet. Without reliable Internet access, cloud storage doesn’t work.

Some cloud storage is almost invisible to the user, such as iCloud on Apple Devices, or OneDrive for Microsoft users. Google’s apps all rely on cloud storage. Other services, like Dropbox, require a little more user input.

For files stored in the cloud, the only real copy is on the cloud server. Every device views the file from the cloud server. Some systems save a local copy of a file. The local copy is accessible without a connection to the Internet. Files sync automatically when the Internet is restored.

A file in the cloud can be changed or deleted from any device. The effect is seen on every device.

Here is an earlier SDM blog post about Cloud Storage.


Backups are copies of files. Usually there will be more than one copy of each file, perhaps hourly, daily or less often. The key is that this is a copy of the file, not the file itself. If an original file is lost or corrupted, it can be restored using the backup copy. If a backup is lost, there is no affect on the original.

Common backup systems are Time Machine for Macintosh computers, or programs such as Carbonite. Most backup systems run automatically in the background.

Some backups copy to an external hard drive, and others backup to the cloud. There are many combinations, and we can describe them to you depending on your needs.

Both cloud storage and backups are important to understand and utilize to protect important information. Each person’s needs are different. We can help you decide which to use.

If you would like help with this process, just call or email and we’ll be happy to assist you! If you have specific questions, or if our terminology isn’t clear, please use our contact form to send us a message. Thank you!

Scroll to Top