CrashPlan Alternatives - I'm Changing My Online Backup

CrashPlan Alternatives – I’m Changing My Online Backup

In late August 2017, I received a nasty birthday present. I learned that CrashPlan, my beloved online backup service, was shutting down its Home plan. I have been a CrashPlan user since 2011, so needless to say I was not happy about this. I knew I needed to look at CrashPlan alternatives, but frankly it took me a few months to decide what I wanted to do.

If it was just me involved it would be one thing, but over the years I have recommended CrashPlan in blog posts, cheat sheets, products, webinars, public speaking, and to friends and family.

Countless people have signed up for CrashPlan because I use it, and for this reason I was/am quadruply annoyed at this situation.

Why was I Using CrashPlan?

Online backup plays an important role in my data security setup. My backup system consists of 3 key components:

  1. Local backup: I have an external hard drive connected to my computer, and do an automatic backup to that every hour. It’s just fastest and easiest to have this data locally if I need it.
  2. Clone backup: I also have a backup drive connected to my computer that takes an exact copy of my drive. That way if my drive bites it, I don’t have to lose any time. I can boot from my clone and be up and running in minutes, and then I can worry about getting my drive repaired/replaced and copy my clone back to it.
  3. Offsite backup: I want to have my data backed up to somewhere far away from my physical location. If I have a fire or a flood at home, chances are whatever happens to my computer will also happen to my local backups. This is especially important living where I do (Vancouver) which is due for a “big one” earthquake someday. I have found online backup the easiest and most convenient way to accomplish this, and this is what CrashPlan did for me.

What CrashPlan Alternatives Did I Consider?

There are many, many offsite backup strategies to use, but I still wanted to use online backup (glutton for punishment, I suppose).

For me, there were three services that I thought about.

CrashPlan Small Business

CrashPlan

This would be the easiest option since I already have and know CrashPlan and my data is already there. I also like their data retention policies. The price would (eventually) be double than what I was paying for CrashPlan’s Home plan, but I could live with that.

I was tempted to take them up on the 75% off for the first year option to give myself some more time.

At the end of the day though, I don’t want to keep giving money to a company that has annoyed me so much. I know this is a purely emotional response, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Also, one thing I do not like about CrashPlan is their Java client. The silver lining of the CrashPlanpocalypse is I can finally get away from that.

Carbonite

Carbonite

This is alternative #2 that CrashPlan offers. They have worked out a deal with Carbonite where CrashPlan users get 50% off an online backup plan. Not bad. One thing I do not like about Carbonite is that on Mac there is no file versioning, which (somewhat) defeats the purpose of backup for me. I want to be able to roll back a file if I need to.

I have also heard that their upload speeds are very slow and their default storage allowance is too low for my needs. So Carbonite was a no-go for me.

Backblaze

Backblaze

This is a funny one because I wrote a blog post back in 2014 about my possibly-impending switch to Backblaze. I never did pull the trigger, mainly because I didn’t relish the thought of re-uploading all my data. So much for that concern.

Everyone I know who uses Backblaze loves it, and price-wise it is the same as what I was paying for CrashPlan for unlimited storage. It also doesn’t use a Java client, which is great.

The one thing that I don’t like about Backblaze is their file retention policy. Backblaze only keeps deleted files for 30 days. CrashPlan kept them forever. I can’t think of a time I needed to restore an older deleted file from CrashPlan, but I liked knowing that I could.

Then again, perhaps storing deleted files forever is one of the things that made CrashPlan for Home unsustainable. Who knows.

I decided that since I have my local backup as well, I can live with a 30 day deleted file limitation. If I accidentally delete something and don’t notice it until 31 days later, I should be able to fish it out of my Time Machine backup.

Backblaze is what I ended up going with, and my upload is about 50% done as I type this.

Other Considerations

There were other options I considered like Arq, a NAS at another location, or even having an external drive in a safe deposit box, but I wanted something easy and automated. I don’t trust myself enough to have a backup system reliant on me doing something.

CrashPlan users out there, what did you end up doing? If you have any thoughts or ideas, share them in the comments or on Twitter.

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply 10 comments

Mike - January 17, 2018 Reply

One of the things that kept me away from Backblaze was the inability to do a true “zero knowledge” backup AND restore. When I evaluated them, you could provide your own encryption key that never left your computer, but if you ever needed to restore anything, you had to provide that key to Backblaze so that they could decrypt your archive and then send you your files.

I’m absolutely not interested in giving some third party the keys to my personal information.

Are they still limited in this fashion?

Thierry - January 17, 2018 Reply

Hi Brooks,
It’s funny you talked about the external drive in the safe deposit box.
Mine is there and I missed the swap home bank for the last 6 months. Which completely defeat the off-site purpose….

Just a month before Crashplan closed, I was looking at online backup. Hesitating with Backblaze.
In the end, I did not have to choose, with the closing.
But when trying the service for a month, my upload was so slow that I gave up. I did not see any point of spending 10 months to upload my “small” 1TB.

I ended up with just more external drives.
One TimeMachine 3.5″ always on the back of my Mac. And several smaller 2.5″ that I can swap and leave off-site.

Promise !! I’ll take it to the bank tomorrow.

(I also have all my important data on Dropbox. It’s not a backup, I know, but at least it keeps my main data in an additional place, with a transparent automatic process. Unlike putting a drive to the bank 😉 )

Richard - January 17, 2018 Reply

Hi Brooks,
Thanks for this post. I am also a CrashPlan Refugee. I wrote to them back when they announced their intentions and their representative’s response was remarkably, frankly, unabashedly, irritatingly unapologetic. Not even the slightest sympathetic. My subscription had just renewed days before which only escalated my irritation with CrashPlan. Refunds, even for recent renewals were not an option. This made me to resolve to MAKE them backup my data to the bitter end, thus my huge backup continues to run as we speak. I am choosing not to use either of their options, just out of pure spite. Childish maybe but I feel they should have given more warning and/or options for those subscribers with renewals leading up to their announcement.

OK, I feel better now.

I too have been toying with options in my head. As risk prone as it may sound, I think I’m going with the offsite NAS option. Maybe when cloud based solutions come back to pricing reality, I’ll reconsider. Until then, I’ll just create my own.

Thanks for allowing me to ventilate about CrashPlan. Ugh.

Jessica - January 17, 2018 Reply

I just stuck with the crash plan business version. Sucks cuz they had to start from scratch! Which will take like almost a year.

Garnet - January 17, 2018 Reply

Yes, gave up on Crashplan – running it on my Synology NAS was fraught with problems everytime software version updates came. Switched to iDrive with has an app for the Synology NAS and is reasonably affordable. Has been running for over a year now with no problems.

Tom Harrelson - January 12, 2018 Reply

Thanks for the info, Brook. I have never used Backblaze. On my Mac I use Icloud storage for $1 per month plus backing up to a local external hard drive. On my PC laptop I use OneDrive which is included with my annual MS-OFFICE subscription plus I backup to a local external hard drive.

Re your note about imaging the entire hard drive, does that include all the programs in addition to the data? While working on a recent project, my PC laptop crashed. We were able to recover all the data but not the programs which I had to re-download and install. Unfortunately a couple of programs were no longer supported by the original companies and so I had to find alternate programs and restart that data from scratch.

Your recommendation of a couple of years ago to buy the Scansnap XI-500 was a lifesaver. I use it almost every day for both personal and business documents.

    Brooks Duncan
    Brooks Duncan - January 21, 2018 Reply

    Yep that’s right – a drive image includes EVERYTHING (applications etc.). In fact, with a Mac anyways, you could plug in your clone backup, hold down a key when the Mac is starting up, and boot from the external drive and start working away from it until your new hard drive is installed. Then you can clone everything from the image to the new drive.

Michael A - January 9, 2018 Reply

Brooks, thanks for posting your thoughts on alternatives to Crashplan. While I’ve never been one of their customers, your process of thinking through alternatives remain valuable. I will likely go Backblaze this year, in part thanks to you.

Tim Stringer - January 9, 2018 Reply

Thanks for your post, Brooks.

I think Backblaze is a good choice for many people. Though, I discovered there are a few caveats to be aware of:

1 – File/Finder tags don’t get backed up.

2 – Backblaze doesn’t backup disk images by default. I keep highly confidential documents (e.g. tax receipts) in a secure disk image and it wasn’t immediately obvious they weren’t getting backed up. Fortunately it’s easy to remove disk images the excluded list.

3 – I ran into an issue where Backblaze was using significant amounts of CPU and RAM (bringing my 2015 iMac to a crawl in some cases). There’s an internal Backblaze file that can eventually get too large. My only option was to start over from scratch. Fortunately, I have unlimited bandwidth and a relatively fast uplink (about 15 Mbps).

On a more positive note, Backblaze is easy to install and configure, the price is very reasonable and their support is generally good.

Wolfgang - January 9, 2018 Reply

Hi Brook,

I guess a lot of us are affected by the Crashplan decision (and annoyed by it…).
I noticed that pretty much every competitor is welcoming (former) Crashplan users happily, not only Carbonite. After looking around on the web I decided to go with iDrive. My reasons are:
* different model: you rent space (2 or 5TB) but are not bound to a single computer. I have 2 NAS and 2 laptops, and lots of my data on OneDrive anyways. With the other products I would have to pay for every additional PC
* iDrive has a sale going on, so you pay the same as for (unlimited space) Backblaze at the moment
* other features, not too important to me personally (like number of versions etc.)
So far I installed it on one of my NAS (newer QNAP model), I haven’t got it to work on my old Synology DS509, need to play with the services a bit more). Both Mac and Win10 PC are working fine. The UI is very nice, but I guess compared to Crashplan everything looks pretty 🙂
I do miss the local copy option, that was a great feature. I will probably set up a sync with my NAS to achieve this.

Leave a Reply: