Well, okay … This post really has nothing to do with the Zombie Apocalypse, although when one does happen, having your data backed up in off-site storage might just help pull your cookies out of the fire. (Unless, of course, you are bitten by a Zombie, and then it’s rule #2 for you.)
I got religion about regular drive backups about 2 years ago, when the internal drive on my MacBook gave up the ghost in between infrequent backups. It only has to happen once, and you learn.
More recently, as my collection of video, audio, and digital negatives, started nearing the terabyte mark, the idea of off-site storage in addition to local backups started sounding like a very good idea … You see, while the Zombie Apocalypse may be years off, my house sits right on top of the Hayward Fault, which, according to the geologists, is due for a 7+ earthquake at any time now (Note to self: MOVE!)
The field of choices for online backup providers has been quickly growing, and while the list was initially limited for us Mac users, there are more choices out there now than there were even as late as last year. I’m not going to run through all of the pros and cons of each provider, there is a lot of good information out there like this comparison at backupreview, or another article from PC Magazine. Instead we’ll focus on the online backup services I considered, and my final choice.
Keep in mind, every vendor is different, and our individual computing habits/needs can vary drastically, so what may be a perfect choice for one user may not be suitable for another …
In general all of the backup providers provide storage retention, a variety of restore options (download a zip file, have a dvd or hard drive shipped), as well as some data encryption.
While some providers claim to give you unlimited storage, some, like Carbonite, will throttle the amount of upload bandwidth you can use based on how much data you back up per day … If you back up a lot of data, your bandwidth will get throttled back after a certain point, penalizing the user who needs the service the most. Seems kind of Catch-22-ish to me.
All of these solutions give you options for setting how much bandwidth you use … Some more flexible than others … to insure you can still function for the month or so it may take for your initial backup (do the math … Half a terabyte at DSL-like upload rates, and it doesn’t seem all that unreasonable.)
The first one I tried out was Backblaze. It’s cheap ($5.99/mo. per PC), offers unlimited storage, and is super simple to setup. In fact, if my Grandma was still around, I would probably have her using this to back up her iGeriatricPro, or whatever. This would have been my go-to as well, were it not for two factors:
1) Speed, or the lack of it
I’ve got a reasonably decent bandwidth as non-cable broadband goes … 1.5mbps up, and 12 down. Even at that, Backblaze plodded along at about .7Mbs while my available bandwidth was a lot higher. Backblaze has a really neat online tool for measuring your bandwidth called Backblaze Speedtest, which helped point out how fast their service wasn’t.
2) Limited ability to select files for backup
Backblaze automatically excludes your OS, System, and Application files from backup … and they sell this as a “feature”, telling you that it’s a waste of time to back this up. I don’t know about you folks out there, but configuring the environment and all my software on a new Mac is a multi-day affair.
Worse, Backblaze doesn’t allow you to select the files to backup, only to exclude files you don’t want backed-up.
Again, this would be great for Grandma or Aunt Perl (see what I did there … Aunt PERL? Geek humor), but it just doesn’t meet my computing needs.
Another issue with Backblaze is that it won’t back up open files. This wasn’t a problem for the other contenders.
Next up for consideration was MozyHome. This one didn’t even make it to the testing stage.
Mozy was, up until a couple of days ago, owned by a huge conglom called EMC. Mozy sold this as a key marketing point … “Hey, we’re owned by a big multi-national conglomerate, so you know we won’t disappear over night and take your data with us.”
That was a nice pitch, up until the announcement this week that EMC had sold Mozy to VMWare, and was going to be part of VMWare’s overall cloud strategy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that … It’s too early too tell what impact this will have for Mozy customers, but takeovers/sales between large companies have been known to impact customer service. We’ll have to wait and see.
The larger problem with MozyHome is the reported problems with bugs, and other useability issues, that are floating all around the ‘net. Too easy to walk away with so many other qualified competitors in the field.
I finally decided on Crashplan. Crashplan will let you download and use their software for local backups to your own storage for free. For about $12/month, you get unlimited storage for up to 10 PCs, and the price goes down with discounts if you pre-pay for longer chunks of time.
Crashplan is highly configurable, and lets the user decide exactly what files they want to back up. It’s a little more complicated than Backblaze but, for a user with even moderate computer knowledge, it is nothing close to brain surgery (Mmm … Brains … )
The combination of local and online storage is perfect, giving you the availability of instant backup in the event of a drive crash, with your off-site data safe and secure in the event there is a serious calamity with your home system.
So, whether you are preparing for a blown hard drive, an Earthquake, or a Zombie Apocalypse, having your files backed-up online will go a long way towards your computing peace of mind.