Pros & Cons of Cloud-Based Backups vs. On-Site Backups

Any small business in Lancaster, York, or Harrisburg depends on its business data for survival, so having a backup plan is critical. Your data—from accounting files to customer information, work documents, and more—is at risk every day. Hackers, equipment failure, data disasters, and even human error can erase your precious data forever unless you have a reliable backup recovery solution in place.

There are many different data backup services out there, but they generally fall into two categories: on-site backups and cloud-based backups. Which type of backup solution is right for your business? Let’s look at the pros and cons between on-site backups and cloud-based backups.

On-Site Backups – Pros & Cons

on-site tape backup

On-site data backups are when your company’s files are stored and backed up in-house, in your company’s offices. It’s the traditional way of storing and protecting files, typically using your server and some sort of physical media storage like backup tapes or external hard drives.  



One of the main advantages of an on-site backup is that it gives you complete control over how your files are stored and backed up. You can choose when, where, and how often your files are backed up, and you don’t have to worry about any 3rd party having access to your data.

Fast Backup Recovery

Because your servers and data are on the premises, transferring data during both backup and recovery is usually quicker than with cloud backups. It’s simple and easy for your IT person to grab a tape or a disk when you need to restore files.

One-Time Cost

While the upfront investment in backup servers and hardware is significant, some companies prefer one-time capital expenses. Cloud-based backup services charge an ongoing monthly fee, which is much smaller initially but can add up over the long term.


Hardware Failure

Unfortunately, most traditional backup systems are notoriously unreliable—100% of tape, and disk drives will fail eventually. It’s not a question of IF but WHEN. If you’re not consistently checking and replacing old hardware, you may not discover flaws in your backup system until it’s too late.

Higher Risk of Data Loss

Many businesses make the mistake of keeping a single backup copy of their data, which is only stored on-site. The problem is that if something happens to your physical office—like a fire, flood, or even a simple power outage—you may lose both copies of your data. On-site backups are also much more susceptible to human errors like forgetting to back up files or misplacing a tape.


While on-site backups do give you complete control over your data, that control is a double-edged sword. It also means that you are fully responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of your backup recovery. Unlike cloud-based backups that often have uptime recovery guarantees, your in-house backup is dependent on how well you maintain your server, disks, and hardware. If a failure occurs, it’s on you.

Hidden Costs

Because you’re responsible for maintenance, on-site backups can incur many unexpected costs beyond the initial investment. Upgrading hardware, replacing faulty drives and tapes, and maintaining your network all cost money. If you work with an IT services company, you should expect ongoing costs to apply patches and security updates that keep your network running smoothly.

Cloud-Based Backups – Pros & Cons

cloud backup

Cloud backup solutions, or online backups, transfer your files over the internet and store them on secure, remote data centers. Rather than your IT team maintaining your own physical servers, you’re essentially renting space on 3rd-party servers, where you can securely back up and retrieve data at any time.



The best backup solutions are regular, remote, and redundant. Cloud-based backups check all three boxes. Most automatically back up your files as often as every five minutes, and they store multiple copies of your files, often across multiple servers, for maximum redundancy. This allows cloud-based backups to offer recovery guarantees so you can have confidence that your data is safe.


One big reason to love cloud storage and backups is that you can access your files anytime, anywhere. Unlike a physical backup, which you can only access when you’re in your office or connected via a VPN, cloud-based backups let you access your files online as long as you have an internet connection. Especially if you have a remote workforce, cloud backups and cloud-based solutions like Microsoft 365 are an excellent option for your business.


Transferring your business data over the internet may sound risky, but in reality, cloud-based backups are highly secure. They will encrypt your data before transferring it, and they have stringent security procedures in their data centers for storing your data. Plus, with cloud backups, you eliminate the security risks of a physical server, such as theft or losing a disk backup.


Requires an Internet Connection

Any cloud-based backup solution requires an internet connection to work. This means that, unlike an on-site tape backup, you wouldn’t be able to recover your data if a power outage took out your internet connection. 

Backup Speed Can Be Slower

Again, because cloud-based backups transfer data over the internet, the speed of your internet connection will affect how quickly you can backup or restore your data. If you have a slow or unreliable internet connection, it may take longer to retrieve your data from a cloud backup vs. an on-site backup. If recovery speed is a priority, however, talk to your IT provider. We offer enterprise backup solutions through Datto that can get you back up and running in minutes!

Less Control

While cloud backup services are highly reliable and secure, you’re still using 3rd party servers, which means playing by their rules. When evaluating any backup service, make sure you know how much data storage they offer, how quickly they can restore your data in an emergency, and whether they support compliance requirements like HIPPA.

On-Site vs. Cloud Backups: Which is Best?

While each has its distinct advantages, cloud-based backup services offer significant benefits in terms of reliability, accessibility, and security that far outweigh the negatives. Often, the reason businesses still rely on traditional on-site backups is simply that it’s familiar. It’s the way you’ve always done it, and you’re comfortable with it because you’ve never had a problem. But when a data disaster strikes, we’ve found that cloud-based solutions are the best way to back up your work computers.

Choose the Right Backup Service

Need help deciding on the right backup solution for your Lancaster, York, or Harrisburg business? Our IT experts can help you choose the best backup and recovery service that meets your needs and budget. Contact us today for a free data backup consultation.