Backblaze – my offsite backup strategy

backblaze_logo

After many many years of working with digital data I’ve gotten to be pretty careful and conscientious about doing backups.  I’ve had plenty of data lost over the years when I was young and naive but for the last several years I would run a nightly script that would clone my computer to a backup drive and I felt pretty safe.  Safe, that is, until the one day that the hard drive on my laptop decided to fail spectacularly right in the middle of the clone operation, spraying bits&bytes all over both drives as if they had been ejected from an active volcano.  It wasn’t a complete loss – I had some additional backups in place that were only slightly out-of-date – but it was enough to make me realize that I needed to have at least one more backup plan in place.   It was time to put on both suspenders and a belt.

Clearly the ideal backup situation is to make sure that your data is not just located on more than one disk drive but also located in a couple of different geographical locations.  So I went about exploring what my options were for some sort of cloud storage.
And after a bit of looking around I ended up trying out Mozy.  It seemed to offer what I wanted – a decent price for unlimited backup capability and it would continually run as a background process, making sure that anything new that showed up on my computer would get backed up in reasonably short order.

And it all seemed to be working fairly well, at least for the small drive in my laptop, and so I paid for a year’s worth of service and wrote a blogpost about how I was using it and also set it up to start backing up my big macpro (which has a lot more stuff on it).

But… then things got ugly.  For one thing, Mozy just couldn’t quite seem to handle the bigger machine.  And it was really slow – throttled bandwidth that meant it was going to take weeks, if not months, to get uploaded.  But that was almost a non-issue because it would keep timing out and/or just plain failing with the uploads anyway.  And Mozy would issue software updates that wouldn’t fix the problem and I would send off emails to their customer service and I wouldn’t get any decent responses and I would complain about them on Twitter and they’d contact me but then wouldn’t follow up and eventually I lost all confidence that they were every going to get their act together.

And for several months now I’ve been meaning to write a follow-up blogpost to that last one.  Because that post still gets decent traffic and I’ve been concerned that it’s misleading people into believing that I’m happily cruising along with Mozy as my backup solution.   Because I’m not.  Not even close.  Nope.  Mozy = Dead To Me.  Maybe they’ve since gotten things straightened out (though a bit of googling will show that my experience with them was far from unique) but after paying them $100 for what amounted to an exercise in Raising Ron’s Blood Pressure, it was very satisfying to uninstall the application from my systems.  [Note:  Technically I’m still ‘using’ them since I paid for a full year of service before I finally gave up and that year doesn’t expire for a few more months and I don’t feel any need to actually delete the files that I did manage to get uploaded… but nothing new has been put up there since I pulled that plug.]

Fortunately this story has a happier ending.  Another company came across my radar a couple of months ago – www.backblaze.com.  Backblaze offers much the same scenario as Mozy.  $5/month or $50/year for unlimited backup.  Automatic background-process uploading of data to keep the backup as up-to-date as possible.  Local encryption prior to upload. Etc.  Beyond that, Backblaze (unlike Mozy) doesn’t throttle upload speeds unless I tell it to.  So instead of waiting for weeks/months for all of my stuff to get uploaded, I could take advantage of a fast network and get my data – lots of data – safely backed up in a matter of days.

So I downloaded it and installed it and told it to get to work doing backups.  And, well, that’s pretty much the end of my story.  Because after that, I really didn’t think about it much.  Because it just worked.  It just happily kept shoveling files up to the Backblaze storage area and eventually everything I wanted was up there.  Everything, as in about 1 terabyte’s worth of my important files, documents and, in particular, photos.

And, finally I’m getting around to writing a good follow-up blogpost that makes it clear what my offsite backup solution of choice is.

There’s one other really nice thing about Backblaze.  It actually keeps a 30-day archive of incremental changes that you’ve made.  Sort of a mini time-machine.  So if you overwrite a document with a new version and then a few days later realize you need that original version, you can do a very quick, single-file download of last week’s version of the file.  I’ve already made use of this a couple of times.

But the bottom line for me is that Backblaze just seems to behave exactly as advertised.  Exactly as expected.

(Update:   One of the cool things about doing a reasonably-popular podcast like This Week in Photography is that we sometimes hear back from people and/or vendors that we talk about on the show.  I’d mentioned Backblaze a while back – recommended it to our listeners as a good service that I was happy to endorse – and recently got an email from Gleb Budman, the Founder & CEO of Backblaze.  We chatted a bit and he thanked me for mentioning his product on the show and I thanked him for creating a product that was worth mentioning.  So, full disclosure as of August, 2011, I’ve also signed up as an ‘affiliate’, so anybody that signs up through the backblaze link here or above will give me a nice little kickback.  No obligation to do so – you can just go to http://www.backblaze.com directly.  Either way, I’ll continue to endorse the service purely because I’m a very very satisfied customer.)

 

25 thoughts on “Backblaze – my offsite backup strategy

  1. very good post ron! and a perfect timing as I just stumbled over backblaze yesterday and I was wondering how good they are. I found several services and the one scott bourne is now using and all, but those seem to be alot more expensive. and as I just started my own photog business this seems to be perfect.

    thanks alot!
    teymur.

  2. Heard your comments about backblaze on TWIP a short while ago. I’ve been thinking about off-site backup for a while. I use time machine on my Mac but the constant thought has been ‘what if it all goes up in smoke…stolen.?’ etc… But that was the problem; I’d just been thinking about all this. I tried the free trial of Backblaze and have just signed up for the year. And I feel a lot lighter without my constant heavy thoughts about ‘what if’. At the moment I cant see any downside to backblaze and the fact that I can control the ‘throttling’ is a big bonus. Thanks.

  3. I don’t know Backblaze as I have a 2 years mozy contract. It’s worked for me so far. It does throttle the bandwidth, but this doesn’t matter to me as Verizon throttles it anyway down to 768KBit/s. I have some 150 GB backed up now (mostly photos), which took almost a year (when running the backup during the day while I was in the office).
    I can’t say how restoring works as I use it as second line of defense – for day to day backup I have Time Machine on a Drobo (thanks to TWIP’s relentless promotion ;-), which also works very well.

  4. Thanks for the info Ron. I’ve got externals lying all over the room, filled with various backups. A reliable online solution is something I had never thought to look into, but this seems very affordable and easy to use.

  5. Hey Ron – while I’ve heard of other stories similar to yours, I’ve yet to experience any problems with Mozy. I’ve got it running on three machines, backing up about 175GB of data. I didn’t notice any throttling, and was backing up about 15gb / day (only limited by my upload speeds).

    However, I can’t find a single person with a gripe about Backblaze. The only problem I have is that they’re a young company, who can easily drop off. You may be uploading your data to another provider if that happens (or signup with IDrive and get them to ship a drive to you, copy over your data, mail it back to them then do incremental backups – much quicker if you have lots of data).

    • (in reply to onlinebackupsreview.com – even though I suspect half the reason he posted here was to get the link back to his site :-)

      If my problems with Mozy had been purely technical I probably wouldn’t have been quite so vitriolic in my write-up. But the technical problems coupled with the very poor customer service – CS reps not reading the questions I asked and just providing ‘canned’ replies as well as complete non-response on occasion – that crosses an additional threshold for me.

  6. I heard about BackBlaze from TWIP and I am really excited about the Mac support and the price. It is nice to not have to be independently wealthy to afford the off-site backup.

    Thanks for the info.

  7. Hey Ron,

    Heard about Backblaze a few months ago from you, got into the Beta and signed up right away. Definitely very happy with the service and I’m happy to report that after 2 months I have backed up almost 500 GB of data online as part of my overall backup strategy. Thanks for the recommendation. Power to the sandals!

  8. Great post Ron!! Backblaze sounds great but it lacks some important features for me, since I mostly backup external HDD, network drives and USB drives from both my Pc and Mac.

    Most providers don’t have these features but this wasn’t a problem for SafeCopy (www.safecopybackup.com). It allows me to do the above features plus I can share the same account for both my Mac and Pc. I’m very happy with it and it’s worth checking out.

  9. Count me in as another happy Backblaze customer. I maintain about 400GB of backed-up data there and, now that the initial upload is finished, incremental file backup is completely transparent and painless with no measurable system load.

    • Glad to hear it. It’s nice when something just works.

      And I’ll reiterate that I have no interest, financial or otherwise, in Backblaze – I’m just a happy customer whose satisfaction is underscored whenever I think back to how much angst Mozy caused me.

  10. Another happy customer of Backblaze.
    It’s having trouble getting my 900GB+ files initially, but i just scheduled Super Fast at 1AM.
    Done.
    Love it. I’m trying to share my joy about a wonderful solution all over town. Great job explaining it a bit more, Ron.

  11. Ron, I’m just curious how you use Backblaze to back up your photos. iPhoto & Aperture both put your photos in a library file that will easily exceed the 4GB file size limit of Backblaze.

    • Hey Michael,

      A couple of things. First of all, I don’t actually trust Aperture (any more than I would trust iPhoto or Lightroom or whatever) to ‘manage’ my photos… I want them in a normal filesystem where I can find anything I want without needing to open an application to find things. So all my images are kept ‘outside’ of Aperture. But, having said that, Aperture’s Libraries actually ARE just kept as files on disk – they look (to the finder) like they’re one big file but if you open a unix shell and browse around you’ll see that that big file is really just a bunch of subdirectories. And I’m pretty sure that Backblaze treats them as such and thus you’re never going to get close to the 4 GB file size limit.

      Give it a try and let us know what you find out!

  12. Appreciate the info. My principal beef with Mozy has been their purporting to support external drives the same way Backblaze does–i.e. you can unplug the drive without losing the backup as long as you plug it in within 30 days–whereas in reality if you unplug a drive, that backup simply disappears. Very script-driven support techs who never seemed to have read anything very carefully, giving boilerplate replies that missed the point, finally were honest enough to admit that there was no solution to the problem. Gee thanks.

  13. I had the exact same experience with Mozy an my macs. The Mozy Client would constantly time-out or was unable to communicate with their servers. It has been several months since I have been able to complete a backup on my main computer. Have been relying on my Time Machine backup to tide me over.

    Mozy’s solution each time I contacted support was to download a new client. The new client never made a difference. Finally, after months of frustration, I decided to switch.

    I downloaded BackBlaze this weekend. The software is humming along backing up my 3 computers.

    So far a very happy BackBlaze customer.

  14. Pingback: Goodbye 2009. Hello 2010. | Backblaze Blog

  15. Great information for person like me who uses technology but understand very little of it. – I was just about to order Mozy until our tech coordinator at work provided me with your comments. Thanks a ton!

    • My pleasure Gordy. I’d like to think that Mozy has gotten their act together by now, but they had way too many chances to make it work while I was paying them $$$, they’ve got no more credit in the bank with me! Backblaze, on the other hand, has performed flawlessly since the minute I signed up and it’s saved my butt several times already.

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