CrashPlan vs. Backblaze

Josh Norem

CrashPlan vs. Backblaze: Two cloud storage backup applications go head-to-head

We all know how useful cloud storage is for easy access to all your files from any Internet-enabled location, but there’s also an equally killer service known as cloud backup. It lets you back up files to a remote server for retrieval after a disaster strikes, such as a failed hard drive, Hurricane Sandy, an apartment fire, or any other calamity that leaves your PC’s local storage permanently damaged. It’s in these scenarios that the mirrored RAID inside your home PC or sitting on your desktop will be about as valuable as Jack Squat. When your home PC, or town, goes bye-bye, you need offsite backup, so this month we’ve taken a look at two of the most popular services that offer unlimited backups for a modest sum. May the best cloud win.

Round 1: Features

Both Backblaze and CrashPlan let you install their software, then point to a source directory/drive and have the data sent to an offsite data center for backup, so both contenders cover the basics quite well. However, CrashPlan then goes a few levels beyond the basics, by not only letting you select individual folders on a volume instead of just the entire volume as Backblaze does, but by also letting you send backups to a friend’s PC for free, and letting your friend back up to you, as well. The whole process is as easy as typing the friend’s email address into a box and having them accept your invitation. All backups are encrypted, so you don’t have to worry about peeping Toms. Neither service lets you back up NAS drives.

CrashPlan lets you handle all backup and restore options in an easy-to-use desktop application.

Winner: CrashPlan

Round 2: Pricing

Both services are very close in pricing, but for a single PC the win narrowly goes to Backblaze, as its one-year unlimited data plan is $4.17 per month and CrashPlan’s is $5 per month. Even at two years purchased in advance the nod goes to Backblaze, which charges $3.96 a month, compared to CrashPlan’s $4.79. However, if you opt to buy four years of CrashPlan—Backblaze limits you to two years of backup at a time—you can secure an exactly comparable $3.96 per month rate, making it a tie.

Both companies also offer a family plan, with CrashPlan coming out on top, as Backblaze charges $5 per month per computer, whereas CrashPlan lets you back up 10 computers for just $12.50 per month. Since each solution has a win here, this one’s a very close tie.

Winner: Tie

Round 3:  Support

This category is a very clear win for CrashPlan, which offers numerous support options, while Backblaze primarily uses an antiquated ticketing system we all know and hate. CrashPlan offers all the standard FAQs and documentation plus a YouTube channel , but more importantly, it offers live chat, email support, and phone support. There’s also a user discussion forum , but it’s mostly bereft of content. Furthermore, CrashPlan is on Twitter , Facebook , G+, and has a blog. Backblaze, on the other hand, only offers a support ticketing system, and lacks live chat or phone support, both of which could be very helpful in situations involving data loss. Backblaze is also on Facebook , Twitter , G+ , YouTube , and has a blog , but loses this round due to its limited direct-contact options.

Winner: CrashPlan

Round 4: Restore Options

This is a tough category to call because both services offer a unique proposition. Backblaze keeps up to four weeks of file versions, while CrashPlan keeps your files forever, or until you cancel your account, so the advantage goes to CrashPlan for older file-version retrieval. If and when a drive failure or similar cataclysm causes you to need all your files, CrashPlan simply lets you download whatever it has, one file at a time, for no charge. We love “free” and all, but that could take months for a few terabytes of storage. Backblaze will copy the files to a 32GB or 64GB flash drive for $99, or burn them to a USB drive as large as 3TB for $189, which is pricey but time-saving, and we love it. Backblaze lets you download any files for free as well. Since it offers terabyte restores via physical storage, Backblaze gets the nod.

Backblaze’s desktop application is as bare-bones as they come, but does provide a slew of helpful configuration tweaks

Winner: Backblaze

Round 5: Ease of Use

This is another close category, as both provide a simple, clean interface to manage the backup and restore process, but CrashPlan provides a lot more options and information, so it gets the nod. Specifically, CrashPlan lets you select which folders to back up via a folder tree, whereas Backblaze forces you to just select individual volumes. CrashPlan also shows you the file name being backed up, the current speed, time remaining, and more. More importantly, CrashPlan sent us emails letting us know the status of backups, while Backblaze does not. Both offer fine-tuning of the backup process, including file exclusions, schedules, and event logs, but CrashPlan is easier to use, simply because it gives the end user more control. Some might call that more confusing, but to us it equals peace of mind.

Winner: CrashPlan

And the Winner Is…

This was another hard-fought head-to-head, with both sides trading blows in every category, but in the end, the winner is CrashPlan by the skin of its cloud. Both backup products get the job done easily and effectively, but it was CrashPlan’s abundance of options, both for backups as well as support, that pushed it over the finish line first. We’d like to take a minute, though, to give kudos to both services for offering a very fair price for unlimited backups, which is a godsend for people like us with several terabytes of data to secure. Other services, like Mozy and Carbonite , are not set up to handle such large data sets in an affordable manner, so you can forget about sending them 4TB. Mozy charges $10 a month for 125GB, and $2 for every 20GB extra, so 4TB would cost you more than $400 a month. Carbonite is $100 per year unlimited, so it’s still very expensive compared to the two programs featured here. Either way, you now know what the best cloud backup solution is—we hope you never have to use it.

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