By Paul Niemeyer
May 22, 2013
Summary & Verdict (just in case you’re in a hurry)
Crashplan offers a seamless way to create file backups that can be stored in the cloud, on another computer, or even in a local folder for later use. With affordable prices that include the ability to enjoy unlimited storage, the service is perfect for those seeking a great value on remote storage and effortless, invisible file backup software.
- unlimited cloud storage
- automatic, easy to use backup
- affordable family plans
- slow backup speeds
- no file sync
Perfect for the Novice: Crashplan is Easy to Integrate into the Desktop
Like any good backup solution, Crashplan comes with a desktop application compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux desktops or laptops. The software is the central piece of the system, allowing users to select certain files, folders, or entire hard disks that should be backed up to the system’s remote storage or to another location of their choosing.
Yes, that’s right. You can even backup and store your data either on an external hard drive or even at a friends house.
The Crashplan pricing scheme offers unlimited storage for individuals, unlimited storage for whole families, or a more limited, 10GB storage plan that reduces the price for those on a strict budget. Its seamless integration allows for file downloads via the client and via the web, making the service easy to learn for those who have never used a backup service before. Best of all, low overall pricing packages mean that families and individuals won’t have to sacrifice a big part of their budget to try out a backup service.
The design of Crashplan is pretty sophisticated, despite its reputation for being novice-friendly for a typical installation. While most competing backup and cloud storage services offer only to send backed up files into the cloud for retrieval at a later time, those using Crashplan can use their desktop client to specify other destinations for their backups. Users can choose to back certain files up and store them in a local folder on their same computer, or they can opt for the service to perform a backup and store it on one of their own computers or a friend’s computer. Cloud service is still available and should be combined with local and off-site backups.
The desktop client initiates an automated backup procedure that occurs every fifteen minutes, which is quite a bit more frequent than competing options. This is actually very good for those who work from home or those who are constantly modifying key files on their desktop throughout the day. At the very most, a file will be fifteen minutes old when its most recent backup is downloaded. That compares favorably even with non-cloud services, like Apple’s competing Time Machine option for OS X desktops.
A 10GB monthly storage plan is available for just $2.99 per month, while unlimited storage can also be purchased for a slightly higher fee. Individuals will pay $5.99 per month for unlimited storage linked to a single computer. Families looking to backup the information on between 2 and 10 computers can do so with a $13.99 family plan that includes unlimited storage as well.
A Look at the Process: Backing Files Up with Crashplan
File backups are initiated through the desktop client by choosing those files, folders, or disks that the software should monitor over time and upload to the server every fifteen minutes. This process is undertaken as soon as the client is installed, with the first-run configuration procedure asking users to identify those files that need to be duplicated by the service.
During this procedure, users will also be able to specify a destination for the backup. The default option is to send all backups into the cloud, where they’ll be universally accessible on any desktop with the client software as well as through any web browser on any device. In some cases, it may make sense to back those files up to another local computer or to a friend’s computer. A step-by-step wizard is offered that allows this to be setup with minimal technical knowledge. Of course, users can always choose to back files up to a local folder, though this not a very redundant method and is generally not recommended.
File uploads will take place as soon as the selected files, folders, and disks are selected. In my testing Crashplan performed both poorly and decently when it comes to speed. Sometimes it would use my full broadband connection and other times only a fraction. I tried to setup the network preferences at full throttle but it wouldn’t improve. It think, it largely depends which data center your upload string is allocated to and how fast Crashplan handles those uploads.
Restoring Files from a Crashplan Backup
By default, the desktop client will check all selected files, folders, and disks every 15 minutes. This is a good policy, but one that can be altered in the settings based on the frequency of file modification on a typical day. Automated backups can be set to occur more frequently, of course, as well as only once per day or even further apart. No matter the duration between automated file backups, the most recent version of the file can always be instantly downloaded and restored using the desktop client installed by the user.
The one quirk for individual users is that the client has no mobile equivalent. Android, iOS, and Windows Phone owners will not be able to download backups outside of a web browser. Luckily, the file download interface adapts well to the screen size currently being used. Most files will be eligible for instant download, but the service does limit web-based file restoration or download to 500MB in size. Any files larger than this limitation will need to be downloaded to the desktop via the Crashplan client.
File restoration was very quick and easy with the Crashplan client. Like the file upload procedure, the Internet connection used in testing was sometimes maxed out by the application until the backup was fully retrieved other times it took ages until a successful restore had been performed
Crashplan is a pretty basic file backup service, with a simple desktop client and a web-based interface for other devices. With affordable storage, automated backups, and an easy piece of desktop software, it essentially does all the work without user involvement. That makes it perfect for novice users and those who want a hassle-free, redundant way to back files up locally, across a network, or in the cloud.
Do I recommend Crashplan? Puff, that’s a tough call here. I like the security settings (private encryption) and overall feature set but I think the software can get pretty overwhelming for beginning users. Also, I’m a little weary about the speed issues. Hopefully, Crashplan gets that fixed soon. However, you can’t go terribly wrong with that service.