Do you backup? A review of CrashPlan’s affordable online backups

For those that are interested I am still happily using Crashplan as at 11 June 2012 and it has saved my butt another couple of times since this post. ­čśÇ┬áIf (and only if) you decide to go with Crashplan as a result of my review, I would greatly appreciated if you could purchase them via my affiliate link as it will assist in paying for my hosting costs and doing more reviews –> Crashplan Backups for Home Users.

CrashPlan LogoDo you backup your data? Most of you will say no, and so I wanted to tell you how simple and cheap it is to do so, therefore I am doing this mini review/rundown of CrashPlan+ which is the product I personally use to manage my online (and offline) backups.

CrashPlan offers what is known as a “cloud backup” solution where your data is stored offsite in secure locations around the world. After using CrashPlan’s Business product for some years (for my personal backups) I recently started using their CrashPlan+ Product which provides the home user a simple, cheap set-and-forget backup solution to cover your bum if you ever have a hard drive failure.

Being a geek I use my technology to the limit, I can safely say that I have had at least two hard drive failures in my life and I have many friends who have suffered more. I am lucky, I have always had backups, however my friends have come running to me in tears. Therefore I am putting together this article as a review of CrashPlan’s product (as I am a geek and it is happily my product of choice) and as one possible solution for those that do not back up.

Crashplan+ My Likes

  • Backs up any files to “the cloud”, no restrictions on file size, number of files, or file types. – Unlike some other providers, on the unlimited plans there is no throttling, no restrictions on file types and ANY file type can be backed up.
  • Two security options – for those that are security┬áconscious like myself you can set your own encryption key, this means that not even the CrashPlan staff are able to decrypt your backups if you lose your key. For those that do not require business grade data security CrashPlan can manage the encryption scheme for you (which will be fine for 98% of the people reading this).
  • Backup Sets – you can have multiple backup sets, that can allow you to have a small set of files that have the highest priority to be backed up (in my case my uni folder is in this high priority set) so I know that regardless of other changes that need to be backed up, the most critical data is backed up first.
  • Backup Sets – hey they get a second mention, backup sets also allow you to have a set which you can back up locally to an external drive and then you can have a┬áseparate set backed up over the web. This is handy for people who want to have a local copy that they can restore quickly in case of a straight hard drive failure but for a┬ácatastrophe have the restore via the web available.
  • Backup external drives/network drives – many online backup providers consider backing up a network drive or external USB drive as a “business” feature, however these are now becoming common devices in the home and CrashPlan supports the backing up of these devices at no extra cost (networked drives on Windows Machines require a little tweaking in Windows but they do have a how-to for it).
  • File retention – the final key feature I wanted to mention was the file retention, you can set the backups to save a new copy up to every 1 minute (which in my eyes is overkill) and on the unlimited plans you can keep every single copy of every single file, so if you ever need to go back to a previous version you can. For my uni files for example I back up every 15 minutes which therefore means since I first started work on a file I can go back and get a version every 15 minutes from CrashPlan’s servers.
  • File retention – once again a second mention, CrashPlan also allows you to opt to keep all deleted files, indefinitely (as long as your subscription is active) this means that if you suddenly discover six months down the track that you have deleted a file and need it back you can go and get it from the CrashPlan backups without any hassle.

CrashPlan+ My Dislikes

  • The Mac Version has only just had a “Beta” version of the taskbar icon that comes in Windows by default, this seems like a huge omission but thankfully the beta is working well and should be out in the Mac OSX version in the not too distant future.
  • … Yea I am struggling with this one. So far in the few months I have been using it I have no other real gripes. The service is great, customer support is great, what more could you want.

The Cost:

Prices start at $5USD a month for the unlimited plan (paid month to month) however the more you pay for up front the cheaper the deal. If you pay for 4 years up front this price comes down to $2.92USD a month.

However if you have more than one computer in your house the Family Plan is by far the best value (and is the product that I use). For $12USD a month (month to month) you can backup 10 computers in your household/family with unlimited backup for each. If you pay for 4 years up front this comes down to $6USD a month. I currently have 6 computers all backing up under this plan and could not be happier.

One area that CrashPlan also stands out from the crowd is that if you ever decide you no longer need the service, you can cancel and get a pro-rated refund which refunds any remaining months that you have paid for… IN FULL! So that is a very welcome safety barrier for those of you that might be unsure (especially paying for 4 years up front).

Summary

So that pretty much outlines what CrashPlan is, for such a minimal cost you can ensure that all your critical data is kept safe and secure in case you ever need it. A couple of things to mention are that you should make sure you have enough monthly bandwidth to cover your backups and also that the time taken to initially back up all your data may be a month or more (I have hundreds of GBs which is taking a while, this will be a lot less for the average user).

So visit http://www.CrashPlan.com and you can get a free 30 day trial to see if the product might be right for you and your family. If you have any questions fire away.

Stuart