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 It wasn’t a complete loss – I had some additional backups in place that were only slightly out-of-date – but it was enough to make me realize that I needed to have at least one more backup plan in place.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.)