Best online backup service is still BackBlaze?

Folks: Seven months ago I posted a question about Carbonite. It seems that the secret to their “unlimited” backup is that they throttle upload speed to about 1 GB per day so that it will take 5.5 years for a standard 2 TB hard drive to get backed up. A person who creates a modest amount of digital content every week, e.g., by photographing and videotaping a child, will find that his or her data are never backed up completely. In the comments to that posting, a lot of people recommended Backblaze. Is that still everyone’s favorite? They say that they offer “Unthrottled backups”, which means potentially as fast as 20-80 GB per day on a standard home Internet connection (cable modem or FiOS).

I can’t find any fine print on the Backblaze site that makes the service useless. In addition to their secret upload throttling, Carbonite has some fine print that excludes video files, such as MPEGs (e.g., the ones a parent might make of a child!), by default but Backblaze does not seem to.

[Separately, Carbonite never did manage to fix their software to stop growing 25+GB log files on my C: drive, a small SSD.]

[Update 11/15/2012: Based on the comments below, I installed CrashPlan. It is uploading 2.2 Mbps currently, maxing out the admittedly feeble Comcast cable modem upload capacity. So this makes it 22 times faster than Carbonite, throttled to 100 kbps.]

25 Comments

  1. railmeat

    November 1, 2012 @ 11:25 am

    1

    I tried Backblaze a while ago and their installer did not work. I thought if they could not test enough to get that to work I could not trust them. I have not tried them again and they have probably fixed it by now though.

  2. marc

    November 1, 2012 @ 11:28 am

    2

    Check out Crash Plan: http://www.crashplan.com/consumer/compare.html
    Full featured, inexpensive, and not too slow. I currently have about 500 GB online that took around 2 weeks to upload.

  3. Matt Henderson

    November 1, 2012 @ 11:32 am

    3

    Phil,

    If you’re willing to pay for your own S3 space, you might want to look at Arq:

    http://www.haystacksoftware.com/arq/

    Version 3 will be out next week, with support for the very economical “Glacial” class of Amazon storage. Arq seems to be the backup utility of choice for the geekier segment of the Mac community.

  4. Doug McKee

    November 1, 2012 @ 11:35 am

    4

    I signed up for BackBlaze about two months ago and have been pretty happy. Their pricing is very good. They back up any files you want. They will back up external drives. They don’t throttle uploads. That said, it took about a month to back up 500 GB of data because of my slow upload (1.5Mbps) ATT U-Verse internet service. I’ve tested the recovery a few times and it’s worked well. Recommended.

  5. Bob

    November 1, 2012 @ 11:36 am

    5

    I’m not a user, but I’ve heard good things about Crashplan — http://www.crashplan.com/

    I think they offer a free evaluation of their Crashplan+ option, which is the one I’ve heard most folks comment on.

    I don’t know how costs compare to something like Backblaze, but it might be worth a look.

  6. philg

    November 1, 2012 @ 11:38 am

    6

    Doug: Dumb question about Backblaze and others… Backblaze deletes file 30 days after the file is deleted from your hard drive. So if you’ve had an inadvertent data loss you have to notice it within 30 days, right? That wouldn’t seem to cover some accidental deletion scenarios.

  7. Paul Robichaux

    November 1, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

    7

    +1 for Crashplan. It’s saved my bacon a few times. I don’t know how it compares to Backblaze.

  8. Steve

    November 1, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

    8

    I’m a Crashplan user. Data uploaded as fast as my internet connection would allow. I’ve had no problem retrieving files from anywhere. And you can excrypt files such that only you can access them. Couldn’t be happier.

  9. David Pope

    November 1, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

    9

    Phil: Yes, with Backblaze, you would have to notice an accidental deletion within 30 days. But that’s why I think you have to combine “offsite / cloud-based backup” (which is great for protecting against fire/flood/theft, but data is relatively slow-to-retrieve in those disaster scenarios — i.e., waiting for BB to send you a new drive) with an in-house / local backup solution (e.g., I use Time Machine).

    That way, in an accidental deletion scenario, it is unlikely the data is gone from both your belt and your suspenders. In addition, my most critical data is triply backed up with Dropbox, which has the nice feature of preserving multiple versions of a files in case you overwrite a version of a file you’re actively working on.

    BTW, I’ve been using BB for 2+ years on two machines and am very happy with their upload speed, reliability of the client, and recovery promptness. Most cost-effective solution out there, in my opinion.

  10. Jeffrey Friedl

    November 1, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

    10

    I’m a Crashplan user. It’s got a certain geekiness about it… I wouldn’t recommend it to my mother unless I set it up for her.

    It lets you back up to a local drive, a remote computer, a friend’s remote computer (with permission of the friend, of course), or, for a fee, to their cloud.

    At home I set up a 15TB Symbian NAS with two-disk failsafe, and installed Crashplan on it, so I can continue to back up my laptop to it worldwide. I also back up to their cloud, but when I’m at home, the backup to the NAS goes much quicker, obviously.

    I also use Mac’s TimeCapsule to backup to the Symbian. The benefit there is that I can get past versions. It’s all automatic in the background, and I’ve got plenty of space, so I just leave all three active.

    I also back up my Linux server in California with Crashplan, both to the Symbian in my house in Kyoto, and to Crashplan’s cloud.

    It’s all for the one same account, at $6/month. I probably have about 3TB backed up, overall.

  11. philg

    November 1, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

    11

    Thanks, folks. That leaves another open question… how does Carbonite perpetuate their scam? If you look at magazine and newspaper articles comparing online backup services, none seem to point out the fact that Carbonite’s characterization of its service as “unlimited” is farcical. Why haven’t more people gotten wise to Carbonite?

  12. John Tucker

    November 1, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

    12

    Backblaze is excellent and like you mention do not throttle. They do have a couple settings that can cause problems though. People need to go into the settings and make sure the files size is also set to unlimited. They used to limit the file size to only 4gb which is no good for large video files etc. People also should check the file types that are excluded with Backblaze. ISO and some other types are excluded from the backup but a simple edit of the file exclusion list can help fix that.

    The only real downside to Backblaze is the lack of a family or multiple computer plan. Of course at only $50/year it is not to expensive to pay for more than one machine.

  13. Andy

    November 1, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

    13

    I’ve used backblaze for the last year or more. The first backup was pretty painful, it took more than a month but it did eventually all get uploaded. The gating factor was my internet connection, not the backblaze service.

    The downside that I’ve seen with backblaze (at least on Mac) is that it will run its file-listing process whenever it feels like it despite any settings to to contrary. I had it set up to back up once per day at 1AM, but my machine would frequently become totally unresponsive as the bzfilelist process kept it at 100% disk I/O.

    I ended up solving the problem by disabling their scheduler entirely (i.e. “back up only when I click”), and have a nightly cronjob that actually starts the backup process. (bztransmit -completesync)

  14. jay c

    November 1, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

    14

    I looked into using a cloud service (Amazon S3 competitor) for personal backups with scripts I wrote myself. It costs between 7 and 10 cents per GB per month for online rotating disk, high-availability storage which makes this impractical. But, if Backblaze gets bought out and they jack up the monthly price because the VC wizards, what is your recourse?

  15. Jani Patokallio

    November 1, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

    15

    One more +1 for Crashplan. Set up is quick and once installed it just works silently in the background, with an (optional) weekly status update to confirm that it is still doing its thing.

  16. Mauricio

    November 2, 2012 @ 2:56 am

    16

    Backblaze is certainly one of the most reliable online backup services out there. I think what it really shines in is easy-of-use. With just one click of a button you’re backed up and the best part is that you don’t get throttled as you rightly assumed in your post.

    I’ve been able to upload anywhere between 5GB -15GB per day which makes the painful initial backup a breeze.

    Others in the comments mention Crashplan which is also a superior online backup solution but it is a little more complicated to use and thus, I’d only recommend it for expert users. Crashplan has one great advantage, though, it NEVER deletes your files even if you delete them from your hard drive. Backblaze will delete your files if they don’t find a matching copy on your hard drive for 30 days. That gives you still plenty of time, I think.

  17. Mike

    November 2, 2012 @ 4:24 am

    17

    Just get Crashplan. Don’t bother with the rest.

  18. Mctavish

    November 2, 2012 @ 7:41 am

    18

    I used Backblaze for a long time but recently switched to CrashPlan, which seems to be the number one choice of the Mac pundits. With CrashPlan it is easier to control exactly what is backed up. Up to now I’ve used the CrashPlan freebie, backing up to onsite and offsite computers at home and office. The only major disadvantage of the free plan is that the automatic backups run only every 24 hours. Also, the encryption may not be as strong. After I upgrade my Windows computers at the office, I may switch to the paid plan, if I can figure out how to backup through the corporate firewall. (My setup is a little complex, using both Window computers and Macs and with Window running on Mac VMs. Also, some of my computers are on a corporate network and some are on regular cable.)

    Though I like CrashPlan a lot, it did go down yesterday with no acknowledgement of the problem by CrashPlan at the time. It now is working again with yesterday’s problem attributed to “unscheduled maintenance.” In other words CrashPlan crashed.

  19. Truecrypt

    November 2, 2012 @ 9:03 am

  20. Alex

    November 2, 2012 @ 5:52 pm

    20

    “throttle upload speed” is not the only problem with Carbonite and some other online backup services. In the case you described, it only only take 5.5 years, but also you have to keep a copy on your local computer, otherwise the files will be gone from online after 30 days the local files are deleted. you cannot really store your files on their online storage ONLY.

  21. Jackie

    November 2, 2012 @ 7:33 pm

    21

    Take a look at SurDoc.com – they have really generous amounts of storage for free. They’ve even run unlimited free promotions lately.

  22. Michael

    November 3, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

    22

    This is a great discussion.

    Before I add, I want to disclaim that I work with a competitor to Backblaze, Carbonite, and Crash Plan called ElephantDrive, so please take my comments with that in mind.

    It is fascinating that Carbonite continues to market themselves (in the US) as “unlimited,” given the obvious and clearly stated limitations. In the United Kingdom, they have been sanctioned (http://cloudstorage.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/concerning-news-in-cloud-storage-and-backup-12/) and are no longer allowed to do so (though, apparently they never responded to the action, so unclear if they are even aware).

    Lastly, most end users need to ask themselves two questions:

    1. What do I need? Just backup? Online overflow storage? Real-time access?

    2. Is the offer too good to be true?

  23. Peter m calloway

    November 12, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

    23

    ARQ with Amazon Glacier, and/or S3 for specific folder, is incredibly fast to sync.
    5 GB a day for me.

    And VERY cheap.

  24. Peter m calloway

    November 12, 2012 @ 5:51 pm

    24

    5 GB per hour !! (+100GB a day)

  25. philg

    November 12, 2012 @ 6:52 pm

    25

    Peter. Thanks for the link to http://www.haystacksoftware.com/arq/

    Too bad that it is Mac-only. It was interesting that CrashPlan did so well and DropBox (which has always seemed like a good service to me so poorly). It was also interesting to see Amazon’s pricing for Glacier storage at 1 cent per GB per month. That ends up not being so cheap for backing up a 2 TB drive, though: $20/month.

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