People generally don’t like to think about things like backing up their hard drive until its too late. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when you will suffer a hard drive failure… and when that happens the result can be catastrophic if you haven’t taken a few simple steps to backup your files remotely (and ideally to a local drive as well). We insure our cars and our health with no second thought, but when it comes to insuring our digital life many are still unprotected. That’s why it’s critical for any online backup service to be fast, simple, and affordable. You want
It’s absolutely critical for online backup services to be fast, simple, and affordable for anyone. You want the setup to be fast and backups to occur automatically, in the background, without having to think about it. And you need to be able to access those backups from anywhere and at any time. There are dozens of online backup services available to you in 2017, but for those in the know, there are only 3 true contenders; Backblaze, Crashplan, and Carbonite. In today’s bake off we will review all 3 and uncover the undisputed king of online backup services.
When you’re looking for a cloud-based backup solution there are really only a few things to consider; cost, ease of use, security, and reliability. There are plenty of backup services that can check some of those boxes, but let’s be honest, if you’re paying for what is essentially an insurance policy the last thing you want to do is hand your files over to a small or non-reputable company that could disappear overnight. This essentially leaves us with BackBlaze, CrashPlan, and Carbonite, all of which have been around for roughly a decade and have a good reputation among customers. Let’s explore each company a little further…
Backblaze was founded in 2007 when the 5 founders quit their jobs to start the company in an apartment. The main goal of Backblaze from the very beginning was to make an online backup service that was easy enough to use that nobody would have an excuse not to back up their data. They now store over 100 Petabytes of data in their secure data centers around the world and have loads of satisfied customers. Plans start at just $50/year, making it easily accessible from a financial standpoint as well.
CrashPlan is owned by a company called Code42, and was also founded in 2007. In addition to Windows and Mac, CrashPlan also supports Linux making it a good choice for business. CrashPlan offers more bells and whistles than Backblaze and also uses 448-bit encryption in comparison with the typical 128-bit encryption used by most competitors. Plans start at $60/year, making it slightly more expensive but competitive with Backblaze. For families with multiple computers to back up CrashPlan offers a family plan for $150/year that supports up to 10 computers.
Carbonite was founded in 2005, making them one of the longest running cloud backup companies you’ll find. The company is headquartered in Boston, with additional offices and data centers spread across the United States and Europe. They now have over 800 employees and have recovered more than 40 billion files, making them one of the largest cloud backup providers in the world. Carbonite’s features and security lie somewhere between Backblaze and CrashPlan, with plans starting at $60/year.
Round 1) Features and Pricing
All three of our contenders offer unlimited data storage, so regardless of which one you choose you’ll never need to worry about going over. They are also similarly priced for a single computer, with BackBlaze coming in the cheapest ($50/year) and Carbonite coming in the highest ($75/year) when comparing plans with similar features, including external hard drive backups. For those who need to back up multiple computers, CrashPlan becomes more cost effective offering a family plan for $150/year that covers up to 10 computers. Let’s explore each company’s features a little closer…
Backblaze is best suited for individual users who want a super simple backup solution that you can set and forget. They don’t offer family plans and lack some of the granular configuration options of CrashPlan, but that can be considered an advantage for many people. You do have the option to back up multiple computers with Backblaze on one account, but you’ll have to pay $50/year for each computer.
The BackBlaze software is lightweight and native, meaning it doesn’t hog resources (less than 1% CPU usage in our tests) or have security vulnerabilities like the Java software used on some other services. All your files are encrypted before being transmitted over SSL to the BackBlaze cloud, where it will remain encrypted. All data is stored in secure data centers with 24-hour security staff and redundant power. You also have the option to add an additional layer of privacy to your account via a user-selected passphrase. This passphrase is used to encrypt your private key so that only you have the ability to view or access your files, keeping them private from
You also have the option to add an additional layer of privacy to your account via a user-selected passphrase. This passphrase is used to encrypt your private key so that only you have the ability to view or access your files, keeping them private from BackBlaze employees and 3rd parties. Keep in mind if you forget this passphrase there is no way that anyone, including Backblaze, can decrypt and restore your data.
- Restore multiple file versions for up to 30 days
- Automatic or scheduled backups
- Locate a missing or stolen computer
- Automatic bandwidth throttling or set your own upload limit
- Order a USB drive of your data for a local restore
One unique thing about CrashPlan is that they offer a free plan that allows you to backup your files to a local device or another trusted computer, such as one at a friend or family member’s house. If this is an option for you then you may not even need to use their secure cloud storage options, but you should understand that there are major security risks to taking this route. For most people CrashPlan will cost $60/year for a single computer, just $10 more than BackBlaze.
Have more than one computer you need to back up? CrashPlan offers a family plan for $149.99/year that lets you back up 10 computers’ hard drives. If you have 3 or more computers in your home then CrashPlan may be the option for you as it becomes more cost effective than BackBlaze.
Here are some of CrashPlan’s key features:
Big-time Security – CrashPlan uses 448-bit encryption on your critical files, including a private key option. This makes them the most secure option of the three. Having control of your own private key means CrashPlan employees (and 3rd parties) will never be able to view or access your files. However, if you lose this key, your data is lost forever. Use with caution.
Go Mobile – CrashPlan subscriptions come with free mobile apps for iOS and Android. This means you can access all your computer files from virtually anywhere, at any time.
File Versioning – CrashPlan retains unlimited file versions and holds onto deleted files “forever” (be careful when migrating files to a new drive). If you need to go back in time and retrieve an old file, you’re good to go with CrashPlan.
Carbonite’s basic plan will run you $60/year, the same price as CrashPlan, and gets you just about all the same features minus external hard drive backup. If you do need to back up an external hard drive then you’re looking at $75/year. Not a big increase, but definitely something to consider since it is always recommended that you back up your files locally as well. Cloud backups are considered superior to an external drive for a number of reasons, but in the case where you close your account or your payment lapses unexpectedly, you’ll be glad you had that local backup.
Carbonite’s feature set is pretty comparable to the other two services, giving you unlimited storage, automatic backups running continuously in the background, and encryption all along the way. Carbonite uses 128-bit military-grade encryption plus SSL in transit and while at rest on their servers. Their data centers are temperature controlled with emergency generators, uninterruptible power supplies, and are guarded 24 hours a day by security personnel. They also use multiple data center locations around the world.
Round 2) Creating Online Backups
Being able to easily and automatically create an online backup of your data is critical, especially when your files are constantly being updated and changing. All three contenders have done a good job of meeting this need by creating simple software that works quickly out of the box. BackBlaze, in particular, has put their money on simplicity. When you launch the Backblaze application for the first time, you don’t need to do much of anything. Once it’s installed, it automatically starts backing up your hard drive in the background. CrashPlan, on the other hand, has given its users granular control over their backup settings, which can be considered good for some but bad for others. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between our 3 contenders…
Creating an online backup with Backblaze is as simple as it gets. You start the application and it will start backing up your files without needing any further interaction. You do have the ability to change some options, like how often it backs up data and the maximum upload speed so it doesn’t hog your bandwidth. That said, Backblaze works just fine with the default settings on most computers.
One of the big selling points of Backblaze is that the software is very efficient. Backblaze was founded by ex-Apple employees and they created a solid native application that doesn’t hog CPU resources and doesn’t have the security vulnerabilities of a Java application. On average, Backblaze will use less than 1% of your system resources and works seamlessly with Time Machine. As a Backblaze user, you should be backing up your data in less than a minute after install.
Unlike Backblaze, when you launch CrashPlan for the first time you’ll be greeted with a ton of options. This wouldn’t be much of an issue except many of the settings don’t have clear descriptions of what they do or why you should or shouldn’t use them. You’ll have all the same configuration options as you get with Backblaze like when updates happen, how often they happen, and bandwidth throttling. In addition, you can throttle how much CPU power CrashPlan can use, what type of files and folders to backup, where those backups go, and more. For a technical user this may be preferable to a service like Backblaze, but if you’re looking for a backup service even your mom can use, CrashPlan may not be it.
Since CrashPlan runs on Java rather than a native application, it does use more resources than Backblaze. You do have the ability to throttle the amount of resources available to the CrashPlan app, which is a critical feature given it can be a resource hog on the default setting. You will see a noticeable dip in CPU performance (depending on how powerful your computer is) if you don’t play around with this setting.
Below is a list of backup features included with both the free and paid Crashplan services:
Carbonite’s backup settings are closer to Backblaze than to CrashPlan, offering super fast and simple setup. Like Backblaze, you are somewhat limited in what you can do with the application. You have the option to adjust how often it backs up and to throttle the amount of bandwidth available for backups.
You can also add files to and remove files from your backup at any time during your subscription. During the installation process, you can choose to have Carbonite select the most common file types for you or manually make your own selections. Removing a file from your backup is also easy to do through the interface, but keep in mind if you delete a file from your computer and the file is backed up with Carbonite, Carbonite will also remove the file from your backup within 30 days.
Important: Carbonite does NOT support file versioning in the Mac version of their software.
Round 3) Restoring Online Backups
Being able to easily create a backup is important, but being able to recover your files when something goes wrong can be even more important. There is nothing more frustrating than when disaster strikes and your insurance policy won’t get you back on track. Let’s take a look at how each service works when it comes time to restore your backup.
The Backblaze restore process is just about as simple as their backup process. Like the backup process, you are somewhat limited in the options available to you. When you request a restore from Backblaze they do what is known as a cloud restore. To restore your data you do not need to download Backblaze on your new computer, you simply log in to Backblaze using a web browser and enter your Backblaze account information. Once you have logged in to the Backblaze web interface you can request a restore of your data using the interface.
Backblaze provides you with a few different options here. You can download a zip file of your backup straight to your computer, or if you have a lot of data to restore and don’t want to hog your bandwidth you can have a flash drive shipped straight to your door. For most people who restore directly from the cloud, Backblaze will decrypt your data on their restore servers and then zip it and send it over an encrypted SSL connection to your computer. Once it arrives on your computer, you simply unzip it and you have your data back.
The CrashPlan restore process is very pleasant and provides more options than with Backblaze. On your new computer you’ll need to install the CrashPlan application and find the “Restore” tab. From there you will have the option to restore individual files, folders, or to restore everything at once. If you’re restoring your entire hard drive (most common), CrashPlan gives you the option to adjust permissions and file locations as well. And once again, CrashPlan retains unlimited file versions and keeps your deleted files forever, so if you need to restore an old version of any file you can do that (even if you deleted it long ago). This is a major selling point of CrashPlan.
Carbonite’s restore process is also very simple and gives you the option to restore your entire backup or to select specific files or folders, like CrashPlan. Carbonite keeps old versions of your changed files for up to three months, so if you need to recover an old version of a file you are safe for at least a short time. It keeps one daily version of the file for each day of the past week, one weekly version for each of the previous three weeks, and one monthly version for each of the previous two months that the file has been backed up. Carbonite will also keep at least the three most recent versions of a file regardless of age.
Important: Carbonite only supports file versioning on Windows. Mac users only have access to the latest backup of their files.
Overall the restore process on Carbonite is quick and painless. It does require that you download the Carbonite application to your new computer, but from there it is only a few clicks to get your critical files back.
Round 4) Pros and Cons
CrashPlan and Backblaze share a ton of standard features. They both offer unlimited storage, continuous backups, personal encryption keys for added security, unlimited versioning to pull up older versions of saved files, mobile apps to access backed up files, and bandwidth control. Put simply, both services offer everything the average person needs. But they do both have some exclusive options that are worth considering, especially if you’re an advanced user. We’ve already talked about some of these features above, but let’s get them all in one easy-to-scan place.
- Extremely easy to use with fast setup
- Cheapest option in the list
- Native apps for Windows and Mac make it very lightweight and secure
- Free external drive backup
- Restore by flash drive option
- Locate My Computer feature to find your device if it’s stolen
- Fewer options and settings than some competitors
- Doesn’t support Linux
- Good for multiple users (business/family)
- Unlimited file versions retained
- 448-bit encryption
- Free external drive backup
- Keeps deleted files forever
- Slightly more expensive than Backblaze
- More difficult setup process
- Java apps use a lot of system resources
- Most veteran online backup service in the list
- Fast and easy setup process
- Maintains at least 3 most recent file versions
- Does not support file versioning on Mac
- More expensive than other options
- No free external drive backup
Round 5) The Verdict
All three backup services we’ve reviewed today have enjoyed tremendous success and any of the three would make a solid choice for your cloud backup needs. But which one is the undisputed king? Like usual, that depends on your specific needs.
If you’re a single person that doesn’t want to spend a lot of time, money, or effort backing up your files, go with Backblaze. It is the easiest to use of the 3 choices and comes in at the lowest price point. For an average person, it will do everything you need and nothing you don’t.
If you require more features from your backup solution or you’re looking for a service that is good for groups (whether your family or your business) then CrashPlan may be the best choice for you. CrashPlan retains unlimited versions of your files (including deleted ones), uses a higher level of encryption, and gives you more options around what folders or files you can backup and restore. The biggest downfall of CrashPlan’s service is the Java applications that can hog your system resources if you don’t tweak your settings.
For those who are looking for something halfway between the two, Carbonite is still a great option that is trusted by many, many people. Carbonite gives you the ability to select which files and folders you want to backup or restore, like CrashPlan, but with a slightly easier setup process. The downfalls of Carbonite are the higher cost if you need to backup an external drive and the fact that it does not support file versioning for Mac users. If you’re using a Mac computer, it would be recommended to go with Backblaze (or CrashPlan if you require heavy duty file versioning).