Review in progress
I finally bit the bullet and plucked down $50 for a year subscription. I'm a bit data paranoid, years and years ago I lost an IBM 75 GXP Deskstar (a 45 GB HD) in early 2001. It's a funny detail that I can remember something so esoteric as a hard drive model, especially considering how many I've owned over the years but it speaks to the gravity of it.
I had a PowerMac G4 at the time, with a set of two 18 GB Western Digital HDs, a 40 GB Maxtor, and had moved to my new (fast for the time) 45 GB IBM Deskstar. Back then, I was near the absolute fringe with so much storage. All it took was self encoding a sizable collection of a few hundred CDs to 320 Kbps MP3s to fill nearly my entire 40 GB. It all came down to a realization that I had: Data storage would become so abundant that there was no reason to store my music other than at the highest bitrate. Thus, I decided I'd eat the cost upfront to save myself regret in the future.
I wasn't the only person to be burned by IBM, soon a class action lawsuit followed but the damage was done. My 45 GB Deskstar, (affectionately dubbed the "deathstar" by legions of scorned customers) was my boot drive, storing all my most important documents. While I didn't lose my music collection, the data I did lose was irreplaceable: art projects, websites, school work, among other things. My lesson was learned and data backup became part of my life. My first attempts were CD-Roms, followed later DVDs. Eventually using I started other HDs as manual backups, even Carbon Copy cloner and a RAID1 + 0, setup.
While it might sound like paranoia I had good reason to fear, my income throughout college and after was always tethered to my web projects. Even my art major, digital arts depended on a working computer. When Apple debuted Time Machine 2007, all of my previous habits were abandoned and it changed the way I fundamentally approached my computer for the better.
So as I write this, I've been using Time Machine for 9 years. Time Machine ranks as absolutely one of the best features Apple has ever added OS X. If you're not using it, you should be. Time Machine provides backup repository of your entire HD, including revision histories.
Time Machine is damn near magic but it has major flaw: Its a local only backup solution. Unless you have a friend with a beefy internet connection, a VPN, and who's willing to leave a NAS (Network attached storage) drive on 24/7 and a little OS X know-how, you're limited to backing up Time Machine only when you're physically at your Time Machine Drive's location. It doesn't take much imagination to see how this could be problematic: a catastrophic power surge could ruin all your electronic devices, frying your computer and time machine drives, or perhaps your house is burglarized, computer, hard drives and all. For these and many more reasons is why offsite backup is the holy grail.
So what is Backblaze? It'd be easy to simply call BackBlaze a "cloud" time machine, but that'd be inaccurate. Backblaze doesn't do version history, and it isn't particularly designed for single file downloads (although it can be done).
- Offsite backups
- Time Machine level of simplicity
- Backups can be downloaded or shipped to you at no cost on a USB drive (long as drive is return within grace period)
- BackBlaze has a "find my computer" feature for stolen computers (assuming your drive isn't wiped or replaced)
- Not full backup: OS and applications aren't backed up
- Backups are entirely dependent on internet speed, expect weeks of backing for drives larger than 500 GB
- No back up prioritization
- No file versioning
- Files stored for 30 days
The 30 day backup for BackBlaze is a bit tricky but basically if a file has been deleted, BackBlaze will stop storing it after 30 days, unlike say, Time Machine which will keep the file until Time Machine is forced to delete old backups for storage. Clearly, for Backblaze this is an overhead check. Storing every file indefinitely for each user is likely a very tall order. However, it's also important to understand the implications. If you use Backblaze to backup external drives, they will need to be connected to the computer in question at least once a month while Backblaze is running to reauthorize the index of the files. I wouldn't count on Backblaze to backup data from infreuqent external sources, and if you're going to be away from your data for more than 30 days without connecting to the internet, Backblaze may not be for you. 30 Days isn't bad, but I'd much prefer if they were a bit more generous.
Setting up BackBlaze requires two things: Signing up for a trial or paid account, and downloading and installing it's application. The initial takes a fair amount of time, it probably took longer for me than the average user with 6 HDs to sift through, which took about a half hour.
The installer, nearly complete
Once installed, Backblaze lives as a control panel in your system preferences. For those familiar with Time Machine, the options are similar: you can pick the drives/folders you'd like to exclude, but unlike Time Machine you can specify backup frequency, max file sizes to upload, and what speed to upload.
Get used to this moving at a snail's pace
Updating over time
Currently I'm only two days in on BackBlaze, and uploading around 10 GBs a day by leaving my Mac Pro roughly 16 hours a day on a medium data capping, over the weekends I intend to untether the data cap. BackBlaze is a passive experience. My intent is to update this review as my impressions.
Currently it appears that the service shoots for small files first, the first 1.1 million files appears to have constituted roughly 20 GBs of space. My best guess is that roughly 10,000 files constitute 90% of the space. I have a feeling I'm on the extreme end of who this service is geared towards. Most users are on laptops, and most laptops are on SSD, very few users probably have larger than 1 TB drives. I'm an outlier, my Mac Pro's bootdrive is a 750 GB SSD, and the backup boot drive is a 2 TB Hard Drive. BackBlaze auto-ignored my two time machine drives, and my bootcamp HD. I picked to ignore my 3 TB external drive, and my other external 2 TB HD. So in short, I'm backing up two drives since those both store what I'd consider my valuable data. Between more than a decade of shooting photos (RAW and between several iPhones) and digital music as my hobby, I probably have more irreplaceable data than most users, (sans the hardcore videographers). Will I manage to get my first back up within three months? I'm unsure.
A week later (8/22/16)
After a week of roughly 16 hour runs on my 50 Mbps/20Mbps connection, I've uploaded 200 GB of 1.9 TB for my initial backup with roughly 300,000 of the 1,500,000 files being uploaded. I noticed by default the Downloads folder isn't excluded by default, added it which reduced my uploads by about 60 GB, a drop but in all likelihood 3 less days of uploading. So far the biggest miff I've had is there isn't any prioritization to what data is targeted first. Smallest files to largest seems like a logical strategy but I'd also like to assert some data as more valuable that supersedes the base priority, especially after the initial upload. I still have some questions about how daily backups are handled, and what happens if a file changes before a backup is complete. I'm guessing if its been uploaded, it will not be backed up until the next batch update.
Two weeks later (9/3/16)
I was gone for two nights and left my Mac Pro operating 24 hours instead of the rough 14-16 hours a day. Backblaze this morning e-mailed me to let me know I've backed up 646,284 MB of 1,906,920 MB, a hair over 1/3rd done. It's a slog but I'll get there.
One month later (9/18/16)
Only 734,542 MB left of 1,832,009 MB. I got a little smarter and added to the exclusion list: ipa (iOS apps), irdata (Lightroom preview cache file), and mkv (video containers as its a distribution format that I do not use, any video work is in other formats). Looks like in less than a month, I'll have completed my first back up. Much better than its initial scare of 100+ days.
One and half months (9/27/16)
I've added a simple graphic that shows remaining files and remaining data, the data is listed in MB. For the most part, I've run my computer about 14-16 hours a day with only a two 48 hour bursts. Slow and steady, and it appears roughly 500 files constitute for 1/4 of my data. I was slightly off roughly 10,000 files counted for half my space on my HDD.
Is Backblaze worth it?
Considering that Backblaze is cheaper than Amazon's Glacier, Backblaze already makes a bit more sane. However there are competitors, like iDrive which is cheaper but is limited to $35 a year for 1 TB and offers multi-computer backup/accounts. There's also SpiderOak, Tresorit, CrashPlan, Carbonite, and SugarSync.