Free Online Backup – Always Read The Small Print

Here at TechLogon we sometimes receive invitations to test software or review products (still waiting for Apple to send us an iPad though!) so when we were asked to review a new free online backup solution from ZenOK we decided to take a look.

There are several major and long-established players in the online backup market – most offer free products with limited storage (2 – 5 GB) as a loss leader (to upsell later) or for brand awareness so it will be very tough for a new entrant to break into this market.

Updated Feb 2015 – Perhaps unsurprisingly given the conclusions of this review, ZenOK appear to have ceased treading…

What Are They Offering? Frankly we’d not heard of ZenOK but the initial info on their website ( was promising – 21GB ‘free online backup’ which is a lot more than the major players offer for free. Also included is automatic backup in real time and unlimited versions so you can keep earlier versions of a saved file or document.

The marketing strategy was intriguing too – to get this ‘free online backup’ account you have to share the love on Facebook or tweet about it. We don’t mind this type of viral advertizing as it can help smaller companies push innovation to a mass audience – but before we feel happy tweeting about a product we need to find out a lot more about it. And that’s when things started going downhill…

What’s In The Small Print? We reviewed ZenOK’s pricing plans carefully – as well as listing a number of paid offerings (which is fine, we would expect them to try and upsell), at the bottom of the page is detail of this free ‘Gratis’ 21GB plan indicating that, whilst it is indeed free to store your data online, it is not free to restore your data. Seriously?!

According to the pricing plan it would cost $39.95 to restore up to 100MB of data (i.e. copy it back to your computer) or $99.95 to restore up to 10GB – no mention of what happens if you need to restore more than 10GB (you have 21GB to play with).

Let’s recap on what online backup is for – it’s for safe offsite storage of your data so that, in the event of computer failure/virus/disaster, you can recover all your data onto another (or the same) computer. Just having it backed up online is not much use if you can’t afford to get it back later when you most need it…

Marketing to store your data online for free but then charge you to restore it back (whilst factually correct) is not what we typically understand by the phrase ‘free online backup’.

What Do Others Say? We checked out the blogosphere for more info and, unsurprisingly, this has rampaged like wildfire through Twitter – although if people didn’t check out the details they’ll be in for an unpleasant shock when they want to restore their data…

A host of tech blogs have ‘reviewed’ this backup solution but most seem to have just reprinted ZenOK’s press release almost word for word rather than actually try using the software – so much for testing and scrutiny when reviewing, sigh.

The pricing plans page appears to include an effusive quote from the Head of the highly regarded Web Of Trust company. At least, there is a whopping ‘quote’ box above a picture of her which certainly suggests it is a direct quote but we find it a little odd – wouldn’t the Head of a successful web company handle her own online backup in-house or use a paid solution rather than a new free online backup service?


The sad thing is that the prices of ZenOK’s paid offerings compare well to mainstream rivals – and even the ‘free’ offering might be good value if you think you will not have to restore any data for years to come. However, when it comes to online backup we want to have total trust in the company and the way it markets itself – we really don’t like the free/cost split and the way it is being marketed as free online backup.

We would prefer it to be pointed out in adverts what the full costs are (and specify what happens if you want more than 10GB restored). It is also not clear if you have to pay to delete data from your online storage (with unlimited versions of files building up you may well have to). For these reasons we will not be reviewing this solution any further.

Updated Feb 2015 – Perhaps unsurprisingly given the conclusions of this review, ZenOK appear to have ceased treading…

2 thoughts on “Free Online Backup – Always Read The Small Print”

  1. Talk about sneaky! I’d recommend Microsoft’s Skydrive which gives 25GB for free – storage AND retrieval of course! It’s not a synchronising service though, just plain backup of files.

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