February 17th, 2008, 07:31 AM #1
Review: CrashPlan Backup
When it comes to backups, you should have at least one backup stored locally and one stored remotely. The local backup gives you the ability to quickly restore or recover lost files, while the remote backup provides a secondary back to your primary, giving you comfort in knowing in the event that your local machine and backup are stolen or destroyed by water, fire or natural disaster, that you can still get access to your core files, the files that cannot be replaced.
I have used many backup applications on a daily, weekly and monthly basis over the years. I have stored data on tape, CD, DVD and secondary hard drives. I have run applications like Retrospect, SuperDuper, Mozy, TimeMachine, Rsync and many more. Never have I came across an application that allows me to meet my personal backup goals while helping others to join the backup bandwagon, even family members who have not yet made the Mac migration until CrashPlan came along.
What is CrashPlan?
CrashPlan is more than a backup application, it is a philosophy. It gives you the ability to backup your data fully encrypted to one or more computers whether they are on your local network or located at a distant location over the internet. You and your “friends” as CrashPlan calls them can backup your data between your systems over the Internet without worry that your “friend” might get access to your data, because everything is fully encrypted. You can easily be your own friend and backup data between computers running at work and at home, or between two or more computers at home. Your friends can be family members, no matter which OS they are running. We all know that some friends are better than others, which is why CrashPlan allows you to backup your data to multiple friends at multiple locations. Last but not least, if you don’t have any friends you can always subscribe to their offsite backup storage service as a last resort.
Screenshot of both CrashPlan running connected to multiple systems.Features Overview
CrashPlan is an application written in Java. I have rarely run into an application written in Java that I liked or that functioned very well on my Mac. CrashPlan is an exception in this area. It includes a Backup Engine which runs in the background all the time which is both a “server” and a “client” process. The second application is the graphical user interface (GUI) for the CrashPlan engine.
You can run “Time Machine” type backups which allow you to have incremental backups of your information with complete control on how long that data is stored, how many revisions, how many days (or infinitely) to store deleted files, which files will be backed up or which files are excluded. When your running backups that go over your Internet connection, you can limit the bandwidth that is used when your present and increase that limit when your idle. You can have CrashPlan run all the time, keeping ongoing backups to changes to your files every 15 minutes or you can have it only run during certain times. You can limit the amount of storage space you provide your friends, giving some friends 10GB while not setting limits for others.
It is a true install it and forget it backup software. If CrashPlan is not having success in making backups, it will send you an email based on your criteria. You can remotely manage your CrashPlan settings through the CrashPlan web site.
CrashPlan like most applications requires a software license and depending on your backup needs is $19 for the Basic and $59 for the Pro version. CrashPlan in client mode is free, which means that you can recruit your “friends” computer to be a backup destination, without requiring them to buy a license. The downside, they can’t initiate backups to you (or anyone else) and we all know that friends don’t let friends compute without backups.
How CrashPlan Fits into your Overall Backup Strategy
With the release of Leopard, TimeMachine has replaced my “Complete System Restore” desire when it comes to backups. However, since I run FileVault, TimeMachine doesn’t backup my FileVault data incrementally and it only makes a backup of my FileVault volume when I logout, which I rarely do. I accomplish live local backups of my FileVault by using Rsync and it works flawlessly under cron on the Leopard Sparse Bundle FileVault volume. If my primary drive crashes, I can restore my system with TimeMachine, sync up my last FileVault backup, and I am back where I left off.
The downside of the above implementation is that my data is stored at the same location of my original files, as such a tornado, fire, flood or theft is not going to help me recover my files since my original and backups are stored at the same location. In addition, because I run FileVault, I don’t get true incremental backups of rsyncing the FileVault volume itself, not the files inside FileVault.
CrashPlan fits into my strategy and completes it. Not only do I get all my files I wish to backup stored remotely and encrypted, but I get incremental backups to files located in my Home directory under FileVault.
I have been running CrashPlan for over 4 months and their support is superb and they provide regular updates and enhancements. I have become a big fan of CrashPlan, deploying it on my grandmothers computer, backing up her home directory (mainly the iPhone library) to my machine as an offsite backup, while having her run TimeMachine for her local backups. I have installed CrashPlan on a Linux server to allow me to backup my files remotely to it, and have it backup important information to me. My wife runs CrashPlan and runs backups of her MacBook to my iMac and to the Linux server. When time allows, I will be installing it on my Father’s Windows XP computer so he can run backups to me, and I might run backups to him as well.
If you have a large amont of data to backup remotely, it can take days or weeks for your data to backup over the Internet due to limited upstream on most home broadband connections. CrashPlan does allow you to create a “seed” that you can use to then give to your “friend” on whatever operating system they are on, and that saves you the need to spends weeks copying over your data in the background.
No application can be everything to everyone. CrashPlan was built to run backups to remote systems, and as of this writing, you cannot run a local backup of your machine to yourself (ie to create a “seed”) but can be done with another local computer on your network or running Windows/Linux on Parallels/VMware as a backup destination.
If you don’t have any “friends” to backup your data too, you must subscribe to CrashPlan Central which allows them to be your “friend” for a price. The minimum rate is $5/mo to store up to 50GB, then just 10 cents/month per GB of data after that. Which is still a good deal.
If your connection requires a proxy to get out, you may not be able to run CrashPlan. For example, backing up your systems between work and home may not be possible depending on how your work network is setup. However, this may be addressed in a future release.
It works and doesn’t slow down your machine. A true install it and forget it application which is best for dealing with backups. Restoring files is just as easy. It runs on all major operating systems.
You can download a 30-Day Trial including access to CrashPlan Central (without entering any CC information) to give CrashPlan the ultimate test without recruiting any friends. A video demonstration tour can be found on their site.
Last edited by ScottW; February 17th, 2008 at 07:47 AM.
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