NovaBACKUP Security Blog

What Do You Mean OneDrive Isn’t Backup?

OneDrive is not backup

For years now, more and more people have been using "the cloud" to store their files, whether it's Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, Amazon's AWS, Microsoft's Azure cloud services, or any of the other file syncing services out there. Note that I say “file syncing services”, not cloud backup services. File sync services have a lot of value and are very convenient. I use a number of them in my professional and personal life to share files, collaborate with people, or sync files across the many devices in my life. That being said, these file sync services are not backups.

OneDrive and Other File Sharing Solutions Are Not Backup

It's important to understand that although OneDrive and other continuity software store your data in the cloud, using these services or simply copying files to other locations is not a true backup and archiving practice and does not protect against all types of data loss. For example, if you accidentally delete a file or it gets corrupted on your local device, it's also gone from OneDrive. Or if the data is lost in “the cloud" and you don't have an alternative backup somewhere else, you won't be able to recover your business-critical information.

File sync services like Dropbox or Google Drive are not designed to back up your entire computer system. They can sync files, but they don't provide the reliability of a backup. These services have limitations on the number of files, directories, file types, and sizes that can be synced. A true backup tool offers more flexibility to back up and restore not just individual files, but your entire system.

While file synchronization services and business continuity solutions have a place in our daily lives, they are not a substitute for a reliable backup to keep your data safe, especially in a business environment.

Essential Components of a Backup Strategy

So, what is backup? To answer that question, we have to look at what you're trying to accomplish, which is the ability to recover from any type of disaster as quickly as possible with the least amount of data loss. This includes:

  • Accidentally or maliciously deleted file
  • A laptop that was destroyed or otherwise lost
  • Cyberattacks and ransomware
  • Fire, flood, or other natural disasters
  • And more

This means that a backup is much more powerful than a simple copy of a file. It acts as a safety net for your business-critical data. Not only does it make multiple copies of your files, it also keeps multiple versions of those files over time.

In addition, backup solutions can be customized to meet the specific needs and requirements of your business. This allows you to comply with industry standards and security regulations by, for example, adjusting the frequency of your backups, selecting which data should be backed up more often than others, how long it should be kept, and so on.

A simple yet complete backup strategy can be put in place fairly easily. Just keep this simple guideline in mind: 3-2-1 Backup Strategy

3-2-1 Backup Strategy

To implement a 3-2-1 backup strategy, you need a backup that is:


File sync services typically sync all changes the moment they are saved, which is great if you are talking about a few files at a time, not your entire machine. And typically, these sync services do not give you an easy to read, understandable log of what was synced and what is available in your backup storage.

Backup solutions are capable of backing up individual files as well as your entire machine, giving you an easy-to-read report of what can be restored, verifying that each file was successfully backed up, and alerting you if it was not.

Reliability also means having access to your data when you need it. With a file sync service, you have no say in when your chosen service goes down for maintenance, has login problems, locks your account due to an accounting error, your Internet goes down, or any number of other things. If you have a local backup in addition to your offsite backup, you are in control of the entire process.


File sync services were designed to make data available across devices and for collaboration. While they support a certain number of file types, filename lengths, etc., there are limitations. Backup software, on the other hand, doesn't necessarily care what type of file, database, or system you're backing up.

In addition, these services are not designed to restore your files or systems. They are not capable of restoring your entire machine at once if your server blows up or your laptop gets stolen. That means you'd have to rebuild your system from scratch and then slowly download all your files from “the cloud”. With a backup solution, you are able to back up to multiple types of devices, USB, NAS, cloud services, and more, so you can restore from the most convenient backup location to reduce the time it takes to get your system up and running again (which means less downtime and less potential lost revenue).


A recent incident in which all of a client's data and backups stored on Google Cloud were deleted by Google resulted in 10 days of downtime for that company, during which no customers could be helped, no new sales came in, and the company was completely shut down. Something like this would be a huge problem for businesses of any size.

Another problem is that these cloud services are typically always connected to your systems. So, if the network is hacked or encrypted, there's a pretty good chance that ransomware will also hack or encrypt what's stored in the file sync services. Even though most file sync services now have some sort of version control, there are still a lot of holes. For example, your files could fall out of the versioning window and be accidentally modified by ransomware, and all of the sudden, you're left with garbage data and the option to pay a ransom.

With a backup solution, you can back up your data in a compressed, encrypted format where only you know the encryption key. This can greatly reduce the risk of third parties accessing your data. Performing multiple backups and keeping backups offsite as well as onsite can also help you recover quickly from a ransomware attack – and that without paying the ransom.


To be clear, OneDrive and all these services are fantastic solutions for reducing friction and enabling collaboration. But they are not a backup solution that will help you get your business back up and running after all your data is corrupted.

If you already use a file sync service, there are two ways to approach your backup:

  • Or back up what is on your computer in addition to synchronizing it to "the cloud" with a reliable data protection solution that is tailored to your network and business requirements.

Either way, with a backup strategy like the 3-2-1 rule, you can make all the difference between business continuity and catastrophic data loss.

Want to learn more about backup strategies for small and medium-sized businesses? Then download our free whitepaper to get your ultimate small business guide to protecting business-critical data.