I went with CrashPlan and it’s Finally Done!

 

A while back I did a guest post on Scott Kelby's blog about my photography workflow. In that post I also talked about backup and offsite backup. At the time my offsite backup method was simply rotating two external hard drives to/from my safe deposit box at the bank. While this method certainly works, it does require me to actually make the trip to the bank. As much as I would have liked to do this on a weekly basis it was turning more into a monthly or bi-monthly trip. Although an old backup is better than no backup I wanted something a little more automated. It was suggested in the comment section of that post that I look at cloud backup, so I did. The first company I looked into at the time was Carbonite. However, Carbonite was a non-starter for me because of their stupid policy (at the time) of not allowing you to backup an external drive from a Mac. Really? Seriously? What difference does it make if the data is on the internal drive or an external drive? Charge for the amount of data being backed up and be done with it! I confirmed this stupid policy with their customer service and ended up going with CrashPlan instead.

 

CrashPlan gets it right

My initial experience with CrashPlan was excellent. I had no problem getting setup with their CrashPlan+ Family Unlimited Plan. This allows me to backup every computer I own and there are no silly limits on which drives the data has to be on. I knew going in that backing up TERABYTES of data over the internet would take a long long long time and well it did! It took MONTHS to backup my two servers. These two Macs (with Drobos attached) contain all my photos, music, movies, documents, etc. In other words, my digital life. 

 

How long did it really take?

I signed up for CrashPlan on January 13, 2011. I set it to backup both computers, but I did limit the bandwidth that it uses AND I set it to only run at night while I was sleeping. This way it would have no impact on my day to day internet use. By having it run only half the day and at a limited bandwidth, it took about 6.5 months to complete the backup of 1.7TB. Now I have it backing up another computer now that the main backup is done.

 

There are other options for the initial backup and restores

I was in no hurry for this backup to complete because I already had an offsite backup solution in place. However, if you want your initial backup to not take weeks or months then you could pay for them to send you an external hard drive. This way you could backup your data in a matter of hours instead of days,weeks or months. Once you return the drive to them they will add your data to their servers and give you instructions on how to connect your account to that data for continued backup. 

 

What's the advantage of cloud backup?

Now that my initial backup is done, my new/changed files are backed up every night automatically and OFFSITE. If a disaster strikes my home (flood, fire, theft, etc.) I would be able to get my important data back once I'm up and running again on a new computer/hard drive Yes they offer the ability to send you a drive with your data on it so that you can be backup and running sooner). Another advantage is having web access to ALL of my files no matter where I am in the world. If I need an import file off my server at home I could of course access my server via the internet because I have remote access setup. However, even if I didn't have remote access available I could always log into my CrashPlan account via the web and download any file that I want. 

 

The Bottom Line

There is no such thing as being too backed up when it comes to irreplaceable files such as digital photos. I backup my computers internally with things like Time Machine and SuperDuper!, but I also like having a backup that is offsite too. CrashPlan offered the most bang for the buck with unlimited data plans and no restrictions on where my data had to be stored in order to back it up. You can find out more about CrashPlan here.

  • http://www.mscgallery.com/blog Marty Cohen

    Hi Terry…
    Weren’t you concerned about exceeding Comcast’s 250 GB/month data usage cap? That’s what’s kept me from proceeding with Crash Plan or one of the other cloud back-up companies.
    Marty

    • http://terrywhite.com Terry White

      Thought about it yes. Worried about it no.
      Worse case you could set the bandwidth limit low enough on CrashPlan so that you don’t hit your cap.

  • http://Mikelao.wordpress.com Mike

    Looks like this will be my cloud backup provider. Thanks for sharing!

  • William Chinn

    There are many choices for backup services. I chose Backblaze based on their approach and service. The true test of any service is when you have to run the restore which I luckily haven’t had to do. Shop for your needs.

  • Neal Lippman

    Terry:

    Three other quick points about Crashplan that make it a highly useful backup strategy:

    1) Crashplan can not only backup to “the cloud,” but can also back up any computer in your account to any other computer that you own and have installed Crashplan on and registered to your account. Not only does this mean that you can create an in-home backup on a second computer (which you could also do with TimeMachine and various other approaches), but you can also create a backup of your home computers to another computer you may own at, say, a work site. This is very handy – for instance, I created a Crashplan backup of about 1TB of data at home onto an external drive, carried the drive to work and connected it to a work machine. Having thus easily seeded a huge backup set, my at-home backups now transparently keep a copy at work as well. Since the Crashplan backup sets are encrypted, I have less worries about storing copies of my personal data offsite in this manner.

    2) You can do exactly the same thing, but make the target a “friend’s” computer, if (s)he gives you access. So, if you don’t happen to have a friendly work environment to which you can direct your backup, you and a friend can easily set up a cross-backup strategy, giving each of you an offset backup.

    3) Finally, Crashplan allows you to set up multiple targets for the backup of a single computer. Both of my laptops keep crashplan backups on my home server and the office backup machine, as well as in the cloud. Being paranoid about data loss, this keeps me a certain sense of security.

    I should also mention that when I did have a problem with one of my backup sets, which was quite difficult to troubleshoot, I found Code42 (the company behind Crashplan) to have superb customer support. That’s nice to know if you are entrusting your data backup to someone’s software!

  • http://www.steinhauserphotography.com Brandt Steinhauser

    Terry,

    Besides Carbonite and Crashplan, did you research other off-site backup companies? If so, can you share pros and cons that you found?

    • http://terrywhite.com Terry White

      Brandt,
      I didn’t because CrashPlan offered what I needed and was looking for.

  • janey

    I agree, CrashPlan has been great. I had nothing but problems with Mozy when I tried it. It’s as if they have their Mac version on some sort of perpetual alpha release state and it never quite works right. Their support was awful. It was as if the tech were not even reading the trouble tickets and kept giving me answers on fixing a Windows install. Or the answer was usually “reinstall the client” or “send us log files.” I gave up on that and went to CrashPlan. Never looked back.

  • Jonathan

    CrashPlan looks like a good cloud backup service. I wonder how they can provide unlimited capacity for 3-6$/month and still be profitable…

    • http://www.crashplan.com Matthew Dornquast

      Hi Jonathan,

      We get this question a lot – and it’s quite reasonable – especially given Mozy was sold twice (once to EMC, again to VMWare) and Carbonite plans to go public – their S1 showing they have never been profitable and have no plan to do so.

      So how can we, be less expensive, better (at least we think so) and turn a profit?

      1)Software technology – we have better compression/more efficient algorithms
      2)Hardware technology – we invented our own storage/cloud platform optimized for data storage
      3)Focus – We’ve never taken outside funding, so we were uniquely inspired to solve the cost problem before going to market.

      All 3 substantially lower our costs and drive us to a new level of efficiency and have made us profitable every year since 2001.

      Finally, we’re hoping fans (a few have have already commented!) who appreciate the service spread the word. This in turn reduces our marketing costs. When you have a better product, you don’t have to spend Millions on marketing (Although that doesn’t hurt either!)

      Hope that lends confidence – as I’ve said, we’ve been profitable/cash flow positive as a company since 2001.

      • http://blog.wingtangwong.com Wing Wong

        Interesting. I swung by the CrashPlan site and looked at the pricing and wondered the same thing…

        On the Business component of the site, there is a price estimation slider for the number of computers and the amount of data on is expecting to use. Regardless of the data, if one goes month to month, it is fixed at $7.49/month/computer($1.87/TB/mo). Whereas if there are unlimited computers, the price is much higher, $199.80/month at the 4TB level($40/TB/mo)

        That is quite the deal for the business level of service.

        I’m curious as to redundancy of storage on the backend.

        • http://blog.wingtangwong.com Wing Wong

          So, downloaded the CrashPlanPro client and ran the client with bandwidth limits up’d to 20mbit(effectively no limit), and bumped up the send and recv buffers to 32MB/16MB respectively. CPU utlization allowed to go up to 80%. Test conducted from a site with a gigabit pipe.

          A short 5 minute session resulted in the client reporting a transfer rate of 3.7mbps of real data transferred. With the compression/etc, it reports an effective transfer rate of 5.3mbps. (473KB/second and 678KB/second respectively in bytes)

          So it looks like the bandwidth ceiling is probably going to be about 5mbps for a single connection. Or maybe I hit the serves during a busy time slot.

          Still interesting nonetheless. Will give it another go from a lower bandwidth site (1-3mbps) and see what I get in terms of actual and effective transfer rates for upload.

          For the Business Pro accounts, it is listed as not having a bandwidth cap. What is the highest that the pipe is supposed to be able to reach? (Btw, if this is better answered in a private support forum, let me know, and I’ll take it there.)

      • Jonathan

        Thanks for the reply Matthew. This is reassuring, looks like it will be time to try out CrashPlan soon.

  • http://www.edithlevyphotography.com Edith Levy

    Terry this is great thank you so much for sharing. I’ve been backing up to an external drive but have been looking for another secure alternative for my photography.

  • Brett

    6.5 months at what speed? I think we’re 18MB down and 1 or 1.5 MB up. I watched with MenuMeters and get 130-160k real world up. I’m wondering if you are more or less on the up speed… I appreciate others doing the homework for us… =)
    Thanks again for the info.
    Blessings on you and the fam!

    • http://terrywhite.com Terry White

      Brett,
      The CrashPlan upload default limit is 300kbps. I changed it to 1mbps.
      My speed averages around 30MB down and 6MB up. Hope that helps.

  • Renee Jackson

    Terry do you know much about SOS online backup? I wonder how it compares to Crashplan. I believes it offers file sharing in addition to the cloud backup.

    • http://terrywhite.com Terry White

      Nothing about SOS online backup.

  • http://www.ImageBuildingWebDesign.com Beth McNabb

    We use Crash Plan and Backblaze. Great plans, peace of mind and it is so nice not running to the safe deposit box!

  • http://randyhannaphotography.com Randy Hanna

    Can you tell me when the date was for “A while back I did a guest post on Scott Kelby’s blog about my photography workflow”. I have done a fast look on Scott’s site and could not location anything. Very interested in your WF.

    BTW, your data on Crash Plan could not have been more timely for me.

    Thanks

    • http://terrywhite.com Terry White

      Randy, just click the text that says that and it links to the actual post.

  • Sebastien Poitras

    Nice option to consider. The only caveat I see is with isp regulating bandwith usage. It’s nice to have unlimited space to download to, but if you pay a monthly fee for your bandwith usage it’s kinda getting expensive to backup online.

  • moe

    Been reading up on cloud backups for the last 3 hours. Down to Backblaze & Crashplan. Backblaze claims on their site (http://www.backblaze.com/remote-backup-everything.html), I quote:

    “If for any reason the Backblaze datacenter has not heard from your computer in six months, the backup copy of your data will be removed from the Backblaze datacenter and your account is subject to cancellation.”

    WTF? Suppose I want to take a 6 mo. hiatus. I have to get permission from Backblaze!

    Question 1: does Crashplan have any such asinine clauses?

    Question 2: any guarantee prices won’t double once they reach critical mass?

  • Georg

    @moe:
    ad Q.1: none that I could find in their EULA and that’s what I did read for approx. 2 hours today (I’m a non-native speaker – and I figured this might actually be an EULA worth knowing of what to agree to)…
    As long as you paid your bill or have a longer-term prepaid you should be all set. Even the deletion of deleted files from the backup is set by default to: never :-)
    ad Q.2: if you take a multi-year option you’ll have at least some certainty. I think their main income source are business and enterprise clients.

    full disclosure: I’m just a new (trial-)customer, not afiliated in any way. And IANAL.

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  • http://jonathanricephotography.com Jonathan

    Terry,
    I ordered Crash Plan with the Seed Service today after my daughter’s apartment was broken into and she lost all of her data which was on her laptop. I’ve had backups at home forever, but never offsite. Now I’m a believer. And thanks to your review, a Crash Plan customer. Thanks again for the great advise.

    • http://terrywhite.com Terry White

      Sorry to hear about your daughter, but that is exactly one of the reasons I believe in offsite backups!