CrashPlan – Initial thoughts and “feelings”

[Disclaimer: CrashPlan in AU provided me with a free 12-month Family subscription and use of a seed drive. This isn’t a paid review but clearly I’ve benefitted.]

So, a short time after my post on Backblaze and Mozy and why I was going for the cheapest (but not necessarily nastiest) personal cloud backup solution, the Australian arm of CrashPlan got in touch and offered to help get me started with them. So I thought I’d do a post to cover off on some initial thoughts and feelings and provide some public feedback on how it went. Just a reminder, every product is different, and every user’s circumstances are different, so don’t complain to me if you find that CrashPlan isn’t for you. Additionally, I hope you appreciate just how hard it is to take photos that look this bad.

So, the killer feature that CrashPlan offers for me, and residents of the US, is seeded backup. You can read more about how that works here. This was one of my complaints with Backblaze – I couldn’t get all of the data I wanted to up to the provider due to the extraordinarily shitty ADSL1 connection at my house. So gigabytes of home movies and other media were, beyond Time Machine backups, at risk. So, Adrian Johnson from Code42 offered me the use of a seeded backup drive, and I must say it’s been a really smooth experience. Again, here’re the rough steps, but you can look it up for yourself:

  • Support contact me to confirm my details;
  • Courier arrives with hard drive;
  • I attach hard drive to computer and add it as a destination;
  • I backup my stuff to hard drive;
  • I box up hard drive and send by pre-paid courier back to CrashPlan;
  • They contact me when they receive it;
  • They contact me when seed data is uploaded at their end;
  • I restart cloudy backup. Everything is pretty much there, barring a few new files from iPhoto; and
  • Profit.

It was pretty much that simple. So, here are some pictures to fill in the space where I should be offering thoughts. Firstly, I was mildly panicked when I saw that the drive was formatted as FAT32. It seemed like that would just suck as a transfer mechanism, especially for large files.

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And at that start of the process, it certainly looked like it was going to take some time.

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But the key thing with this service is compatibility. It is compatible with Mac OS X, Windows, Linux and Dots OS (?).

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I also found that by fiddling with some of the power saving settings on my Mac I was able to get the transfer speeds up to a more reasonable level. Also, like most backup products, lots of small files will choke the I/O, whereas big DV files go through at a healthy clip. Note also that this isn’t a straight file transfer. The data is being de-duped, compressed and encrypted. So, you know, that can take some time. Particularly on a 850GB backup set.

So what’s in the box? You get:

  • Instructions;
  • A LaCie rugged drive (1TB);
  • A USB3 cable; and
  • A pre-paid courier satchel to send it back in.

I took some photos, to make me look more like a tech journo.

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And, then, magically, a little over 2 weeks after the drive arrived, I have 850GB of my data in the cloud. Almost like magic.

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There are a few other things you can do with CrashPlan but I’ll look to cover those off in the next post. Because I’m tired now. In short, the NAS compatibility is cool (if you’re a QNAP owner – check this post out), as is the ability to send data to your friends.

So, I’ll wrap up with some of what I thought were good things about the product. Firstly, I can pay in Australian dollars. This may not seem like a big thing, as we’ve had parity with the US for a while, but recently the dollar has dipped to 85 cents. So, on a $50 subscription, I pay, after fees and charges, $60. Which, isn’t that big a deal, but it’s enough to make me pause. Secondly, the access to local support and a seed drive service is fricking awesome. And support have been helpful and informative every step of the way. Thirdly, CrashPlan pricing, for unlimited storage, is pretty competitive. Here’s a link to the Australian offering. Whether they can sustain that pricing remains to be seen. As an aside, I often wonder what Mozy’s pricing would have been like if they hadn’t been bought by EMC. But that may have had nothing to do with it.

So, in short, I’ve been really happy with my CrashPlan experience thus far, and am looking forward to doing some more stuff with it. I still won’t hesitate to recommend Backblaze to people, if it seems like a good fit for them, but I’m having a hard time arguing against a local presence and the somewhat parochial comfort that that provides. Thanks again to Adrian Johnson and the team at Code42 support for making this a really simple and effective exercise.

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for clarifying Darin. And Open Solaris makes sense given the number of NAS products being built to use ZFS nowadays.

  2. Hi Dan!

    Great and in-depth article! I was already wondering how Crashplan’s seed packing and drives look because I never had the chance to try them out. Unfortunately, we have experienced some upload/download speed issues with Crashplan despite optimizing network settings probably because we’re based in Europe.

  3. Hi Laura,
    I’m glad the article was useful. I think the issues you’ve experienced go back to the crux of the problem – unless you’re using a backup provider that has infrastructure in your local area, you’re going to have a difficult time getting a useful service working. Best of luck with it in any case.

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