There’s no such thing as unlimited or infinite. When you read the fine prints, you always manage to find out a limit. When you’re lucky, it’s close enough to really unlimited. When you’re not, you’ve wasted time (and sometimes money) on a deceiving offer. And some other time, the limit is so unrealistically high that the service is destined to doom.
Getting realistic: the real limits
1. The fine prints
For instance, I remember this now defunct offer that used to limit “fair use” to “maximum 2 billion files and 10TB per file”. Okay, that’s more than close enough to really unlimited, but it doesn’t take a genius to see those conditions will have to change if the company wants to survive. The question being, how much will customers get screwed in the process? (aka how far from unlimited will the new TOS be?) To sum this up: “unlimited” only means you’ll have to dig up into the fine prints to see the real limits and what they’re worth to you. No fine prints about the limits or insane limits in the fine prints means you’re gambling the future of your storage: when the company realizes the limits are unsustainable, how much will they cripple their offer? (hint: usually, they go back to severely limited offers – the “10 TB per file” company I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph has doubled its price and limited the total storage space to 2 TB, and then added an option at 60€/month per extra TB – or more precisely, 0.06€/month/GB: if you had one single 10TB file, it will now cost you an unlikely 519.99€ per month, excluding VAT).
2. The backup trick
Unlimited/unmetered storage also has a big particularity compared to, say, unmetered bandwidth: there is a way for the provider to impose a limit without enforcing it. And this is how most “unlimited backups” are very limited indeed. The method? Well, backup means they sync your local folders with their remote servers. So you can only backup files which also are on your computer. So, you are limited by the space on your computer, which usually means not much more than 2TiB. Some allow you to backup several computers, but that’s still limited. Some also allow you to backup external drives and NAS, but usually this comes with a extra fee and it’s not always very clear what those “backups” become if you don’t plug your hard drive for a long while, or if you switch between several external HDs, etc. Probably not recommended. And limited in space as well as in convenience!
What to look for
So, those are the 2 things to consider: the fine prints to check the real limits, and whether or not it’s a simple “backup” or a real “upload what you want” solution. I’ll ignore encryption because I’ll be using encryption on my side, possibly with Boxcryptor or with GnuPG. I want FTP (or, better, SFTP) access, but I won’t exclude services without FTP from the list, though. Without further ado, here is the list of what’s left of the services listed on onlinebackupreviews once I ran them through this filter. In order not to have only one survivor in the list, I also kept 2 unlimited solutions with no findable fine prints but that seemed a little bit established (one has been running for about a year and a half, the other had previous limited offers before launching the unlimited version in January 2013).
And the winner is…
After 3 unlucky tries with unlimited services (Foreversafe, Onlinestoragesolution, OVH’s hubiC), and a fourth (iKeepinCloud) in progress (we’ll soon see where this goes), I’m not willing to try yet another soon-to-change pseudo-unlimited service. So, for me the winner seems to be: LiveDrive (full disclosure: this is an affiliate link – but I don’t earn anything if you don’t buy, so just check out the free trial and then decide if that was indeed a good plan ).
Okay, they’re not unlimited. But, they’re close enough. They have the infamous limited “unlimited backup” (although the “Briefcase” offer doesn’t have it), they offer a limited (but fairly large) cloud storage of 2TB or 5TB depending on the offer, and you can add more TB at around 6€/month/TB. The 5 TB offer is at 17€/month if you pay monthly, or 168€ for a year, or 312€ for 2 years. All in all, this seems both very sustainable and not too expensive, if prices don’t skyrocket unexpectedly in the future. They provide FTP access (only with the 5TB offer, or with the business offer), and a free 14 days trial version (no credit card required, just full name and email and you’re good to go). Uploads and downloads are both very fast (I maxed out my 100Mbps uplink and my 100Mbps download too, although I didn’t test the latter on a very extended duration). The only little weaknesses of this service are the price of extra TBs, about double the price of the TBs included in the starting quota, and the lack of SFTP support. Maybe that’s something for future evolutions, though?
Another option could be Bitcasa. 10$/month, unlimited but with no fine prints about storage capacity. Yet they’ve been running for over a year and a half, I believe, and they don’t seem to be in trouble (yet). Some catches, though: no FTP access, and a reportedly not too efficient client (plus apparently some memory leaks at the moment).
Finally, there is Opendrive. 10$/month too, unlimited and again with no fine prints about storage. They’ve been running as unlimited for shorter than Bitcasa, but were running as limited before. They don’t provide FTP support either.