Crashplan is a service provided by Code42, a Minneapolis, MN, based company founded over 14 years ago to provide cloud services for individuals and businesses alike. The Crashplan service came to market only 7 years ago, pitching easy backup with unlimited storage space and bandwidth, for an affordable price. The market for cloud backup solutions has been expending year after year, so the user can get confused as to which is the right choice for his needs.
Complete Crashplan Review & Ratings
This in-depth Crashplan review below will highlight the details on the service and help you decide if this offer is for you.
Who can use Crashplan?
Every day we put more and more information in digital format: pictures of special moments with our loved ones, a home video picturing the first step of your child, even business proposals with complex cost spreadsheets. If you think that your computer will never fail, think again. We have lost count of how many users have lost all their data due to some malfunction on his computer or some component, how all his / her pictures have been gone forever.
Now think of your laptop: you go to a restaurant or airport only to find out your briefcase is lost or stolen, and your external backup hard disk was on that same briefcase. Hours, and hours, file after file, all lost, forever. Yes you can send you disk to a specialized company that opens the internals of your hardware and tries to recover what it can, but they never guarantee what percentage of the data can really be recovered, and it is a very expensive service.
This is where a serious user have to consider backup strategies. Nevertheless, the backup business is just copying your files over to another folder on your computer, right? I do not think so. Any experienced user will tell you the need to have at least two copies of your precious data stored away from your computer. If one of these copies is stored somewhere on the cloud, even better.
In the IT world, we call it the “3-2-1” rule of backups:
- 3 x copies of anything you care about – with two you are still at risk
- 2 x different formats – Never rely on magnetic (hard-disk) only or optical (CD/DVD/BD) only. Use both in combination
- 1 x offsite backup – If you face a huge fire, you want to make sure it’s safe somewhere else. One copy should always be stored somewhere remote, like a parent’s house or friends. If some of the files are THAT important, store them on a safe deposit box I at your bank of credit union
If you follow the rules above, you are very close to future proofing your files. Technology evolves and other options might arrive, nevertheless using widespread, multiple medium can be your safest bet.
This service is oriented to any type of computer user (PC or Mac) that cares about their data. If you worry that someday you might turn on your computer and its dead, all files gone, then Crashplan is for you! On the other hand, maybe you find yourself empty handed, as your laptop has been stolen with all your data! Crashplan is not an expensive service and can save all your files offsite, on an external drive (USB or NAS), on an external (internet-connected) PC, or on their cloud storage.
If you are a novice user, you will find that Crashplan is easy to sign-up, download, install and configure. It provides a standard configuration for Windows users, backing up the \User folder with all user files to your preferred destination.
For the expert user, Crashplan provides sophisticated configuration support, allowing the user to backup different files / folders to one or multiple destinations.
Destinations is another special feature of Crashplan: you can back up to a local disk, to a remote, internet connected computer, or to Crashplan cloud servers. Moreover, you can mix and match them, creating complex backup plans as you go. This can create an automatic triple destination backup strategy, providing the ultimate protection for the user’ files.
Signing up for the service is quite simple, just head to the web site, register, download, and within a few minutes you can be running your first backup.
You will find some benefits certainly.
- Can backup to local disks, as well as to an internet-connected PC, for free
- Unlimited cloud storage space on the paid plan
- One of the fastest Cloud backup solutions in the market, without bandwidth limitations
- Low Cost compared to competitors
- You can use additional services like “Seeded Backup” and “Restore to your Door”
- Backup client compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux
- iOS and Android app client enables you to access your files anywhere, and are free to download
- Supports multiple backup sets
You know nothing is perfect. Neither it is.
- Limited access via other devices (iOS / Android)
- No backup for mobile devices – you only get to access you cloud files, not backup you smartphone or table
- Limited search when restoring files
- Free service limited to 30 days storage on the cloud
- Can take a while to backup large amounts of data to the cloud
- Restore speeds is far from optimal, usually slowing down with time
- Backup to multiple destinations can create a complex and confusing configuration
- Cannot share nor sync the files you have on the cloud
- Support response times are not optimal
- Does not support backup of a Windows mapped drive or even an USB drive
- Crashplan is a Java application, exposes a huge list of security issues
- No integration with Windows explorer
Rating of Crashplan
We have rated it under some criteria. You will find it helpful
Sharing (Rating: 0/10)
Crashplan is missing a key feature of sharing cloud-stored files with someone you want. Many solutions allow you to send a link for the files you have on the cloud, but the team at Cloud42 (Crashplan’s developers) left this one out.
Syncing (Rating: 0/10)
This feature is also not available with Crashplan. No way to automatically push updated files to the clients. Most of its competitors have at least a basic sync feature.
Backup (Rating: 10/10)
Easy to use interface, allowing the user to choose what is backed-up and where should be stored, including multiple destinations, like local and / or cloud. You can also provide creative destinations, like a friend’s computer connected to the internet, or even another Crashplan user’s computer (provided they approve it beforehand).
You can select a single file on the tree-based interface, whole folders or an entire disk for backup. This feature becomes handy when you know a specific destination has some disk space constraints, and you can then limit the files and folders you want to back-up to that destination. You can select the frequency of your backups from every one minute, until once per day.
Optionally for the initial backup, you can request the “seed” service. Once requested, Crashplan sends you a 1TB hard disk to your home, you backup to it locally (a very fast backup), and then ship it back to Crashplan. No convenience comes free: the convenience will cost you $124.99. And you don’t get to keep the hard disk. This convenience only makes sense if you have over 300GB of files to upload, saving you over 10 days of non-stop file transfers.
The backup application has a number of configuration features, like CPU priority, Laptop battery saving mode, Back-up only when idle, e-mail alerts, password protection, file exclusions, pruning and deletion. The e-mail alerts is very handy, letting you know on a weekly basis the status of your backups, including alerts when your backup is not complete for any reason.
CPU priority is also important to control, as with large back-up set it takes a lot of memory do crunch the file preparation / compression. In these situations where you have a laptop can create a large heating and battery draining, so make sure you also look for your battery saving mode configuration. This also means that if your laptop goes to sleep due to unattended mode, when you wake it up, it will resume the back-up process.
Restore (Rating: 10/10)
The restore interface is very intuitive, and the process very simple. In order to provide a high standard of storage, Crashplan checks for the integrity of the files on a daily basis, recovering when it can, or notifying the user when it failed. Very few offerings in the market has this feature.
You can select a single file on the tree-based interface, whole folders or an entire backup set. By default, it will restore the files to its original location, which is something you will want most of the time. Otherwise, you can restore the files to a specific folder you select. You can also select the version of the file you want, helping get back at that particular point in time. Restore process is quick and reliable.
If you want an additional convenience, Crashplan has the “restore to your door” option to save your backup-set into a 1TB hard disk and then ship it to you. You run your restore process very quickly, since it is local, and then return the hard disk to Crashplan. This convenient services is also very costly, you have to pay $164.99
Access (Rating: 8/10)
You can access your files very easily using the supplied desktop application, or use the Web interface. If you have a mobile device (iOS or Android), the files can be downloaded as well. The mobile access apps are on its respective app stores and can be downloaded for free. The system supports versions of the same file automatically, but you have to manually select the newest version if that is what you are looking for.
In a world of integrated applications with the OS, Crashplan also falls behind a little bit. There is no native integration with either OS X or Windows. It seems that the decision of the developers to build a Java client has created some limitations on a cross-platform offering. Crashplan is promising a native Mac application for the future.
Security (Rating: 10/10)
While your data is being stored in a data center, these are located both in the US and across the globe. All data transmission is encrypted using 128-bit tunnels, so that no one can intercept the transfer. The files are encrypted as well, with a 448-bit enforced algorithm to guarantee that in the extreme case someone gets access to the datacenter servers (like Crashplan employees or a hacker), the stored files cannot be read without the secondary password.
They use a 2-phase password system: One for access to the application, every time it opens, and another for data encryption, securing the stored data. These datacenters are located in the US (3 of them), Japan, Ireland, Australia and Singapore and are equipped with the latest hardware and processes, like fire prevention, No-breaks, generators, redundancy, physical access control and Air temperature control.
Support (Rating: 10/10)
The support crew is very responsive, offering phone, e-mail / ticket and live chat communication. You will want to talk to someone if you have a critical situation with your backup / restore (specially a failing restore!). Their support is not around the clock (not 24/7, but 7am to 7pm CST) but are very upfront to their response times.
Their Frequently Asked Question (F.A.Q) page is quite extensive and gives a very thorough explanation of the features and configurations parameters of the service. The user can get most of its questions answered there.
What may satisfy you?
- Multiple backup destinations.
- Unlimited online storage.
- Unlimited bandwidth.
- Additional services for huge backup / restore sessions – Crashplan can send you a 1TB Disk for you to fill it up and ship it to them or for them to fill it up and ship it to you.
- Security with 2-layer Encryption: Application access and stored data.
- Plan for individual and for family use
- Low-cost service
- Automatic Triple destination for backups
What may dissatisfy you?
- The free plan is quite limited, no online backup.
- The free plan is full of Ads. Be prepared!
- No syncing, so your updated files do not get pushed to the clients automatically.
- No sharing. You cannot send a file stored in the cloud to someone.
- Simple can get complex. If you are a novice user, this can be as easy as 1-2-3, or can get over your head with multiple backups and multiple destinations.
- Backup from outside the US seems to be slow.
How Crashplan is compared?
Crashplan is a strong competitor in the market, running very close to other companies like justcloud.com and backblaze.com. In a recent survey (2014), polling end-users, Crashplan was the first, most voted solution, with around 50% of the votes. Users pointed out they really like the offering and jumped to use the service. If so many people like the offering, you cannot go wrong on your choice.
From a pricing perspective, they are a tiny bit above these ($53.88 and $50.00 accordingly, for a year for service) compared to $59.99, all offering unlimited cloud storage plans. Although all of the three offers unlimited storage, Crashplan has unlimited file versioning, so you never have to worry about a change that mistakenly erased all your work But be aware that retention of the orphan files is for 6 months.
Recently Crashplan started to offer a family plan, allowing you to backup up to 10 computers on the same account, for $149.99 a year. The Crashplan Family is also an unlimited cloud storage account. If you have a bunch of computers back home, this is your best option. If you have a business, Crashplan has the PRO plan and the more powerful PROe, for large enterprises.
Crashplan has an advantage by being the only one to offer Linux support for its client, so your Ubuntu box is covered!
Crashplan is also the only application that has the capability of backup up your files to three destinations at a time, automatically. You can set it to copy your files to a local disk, to a network connected PC and to Crashplan Cloud Servers, all at the same time. This brings a new meaning to the 3-2-1 backup rule!
Although most competitors have similar features, justcloud.com offers Sync and Share features by default, thus being a little more attractive. It also offers a capability of setting up network drives and folder collaboration. Have a look at them before you give your credit card out.
On the security side, Crashplan is the only one to offer top encryption, with 448 bit, called “storage encryption” – even Crashplan employees do not have access to your data. All others have inferior offers. One point to mention is that justcloud.com offer no encryption at all, potentially exposing your data to unauthorized access.
One feature that stands out for Crashplan is the forever store of your files. If you erase a file locally on your computer, Crashplan application will not erase the stored copy on the cloud. This creates a fantastic memory of your files, and peace of mind for the user.
If you are new on this cloud backup story, Crashplan offers a 30-day free trial, where the competition are offering 14/15 days. You can run the service without any strings attached, make sure it meets your goals, and after the 30-day trial period, just go and pay for the plan if you like.
How you can Back-up with Crashplan
Crashplan is a very flexible and intuitive application. You can select a single file, a list of files, a single folder or list of folders, and then where you want to store it: cloud, another computer connected on your network, another computer on the internet, another computer with a Crashplan account, of a local folder. Having this type of flexibility means the service can adapt to all kinds of needs from different types of users, from the beginner to the advanced.
The application automatically searches for all your personal files, including spreadsheets, music, movies and photos on your \User directory folder. If you want to backup more file types (like system files) that can be selected, too. Any file type can be added to your backup set. Some competitor services remove your capability of backup up your movies (like the ones on your iTunes library) as they understand you can download them again from the original application. Crashplan does not enforce that type of restriction.
Crashplan has a very sophisticated de-duplication mode, breaking down the files in small blocks, and searching for the changed blocks. This allow the service to backup only the changed parts, saving on bandwidth and storage space. The process is simple, but makes sure not only everything is backed up, but everything unique is backed up. The problem lies if your backup set is very large, where running on a slow CPU will make the backup seem to slow down or even stop. Do some research, as there are some Web sites on the internet where they teach you to tweak and disable this feature on Crashplan.
Prioritization is an advanced feature that also helps make your multiple destination backup more efficient. By prioritizing to local folders, then PCs on the same network, then internet (cloud) or other computers on the internet, it can assure the maximum performance and reliability. This helps a lot cutting down on the internet bandwidth, as sometimes you do not want to upload a whole movie to the cloud, but rather to a local drive / USB disk.
Backup Sets is another welcome feature, but you have to understand its logic: if you have multiple backup sets, Crashplan client will only move to the next backup set after it finishes the first one successfully. This applies to destinations as well. By creating multiple Backup Sets and combining with the multiple destination, you have total flexibility on your back-up process. Be careful as this is the feature that confuses most of the beginner users, so our suggestion is to go one step at a time.
Safety and security is a great concern, especially when you are doing off-site storage (a.k.a. Cloud). By using a highly secure 448-bit Blowfish encryption algorithm (known to be one of the toughest algorithms to crack, and 448-bit will take decades to break it), Crashplan can offer peace of mind. Another feature is the never delete anything rule, This rule keeps the file on the backup destination even if it was deleted from the source computer, so you can recover that file after it was deleted from your machine. The user can manually delete these orphaned files from the cloud storage.
How you can Restore the Backups with Crashplan
What is the point of backing up your files if you cannot retrieve them? Crashplan provides a very simple interface to restore your files. It is all in the same application and integrates both functions.
Crashplan shines in the restore process, and very flexible on the configuration of your restore destination, version and source (where the backup is stored).
For your files stored on their cloud servers, they check on the backup files every day, at night, so they can guarantee their integrity. In case it finds a problem, it will automatically try to fix it. Nevertheless, when the fix is not possible, the user is notified via e-mail. It is reassuring to know your files are intact, ready for that moment you need to retrieve the precious document. You can rely on Crashplan for this.
Once you need to run a restore session, you can choose from three access options: desktop, web and guest restore.
- Desktop Application (Windows and Mac versions available)
You execute by launching the local application on your computer. This access option is the most flexible of them all, and because of that, it can get a little confusing. Take this guide bellow as your beginner’s step-by-step guide to your first backup.
The process is as follows:
- Select the Restore option from the desktop application
- Select where the files were originally copied from (the original computer). Choose the right computer or drive from the provided list
- Select from the list of available sources (where are your files stored on the backup medium: external disk / USB / remote computer)
- Now you can look for the files / folders for the specific data you need, or just select from the tree-list displayed showing available files
- Select / check the box according to the file/folder needed
- You can choose if you want the most recent backed up version of the file, or choose date / time of the backup
- Every time you restore a file, it goes to the Desktop by default. Click on Desktop to choose a different location, cycling from Desktop, original location and a user-specified location
- When you are restoring files, it will overwrite every file if it already exists. If you click on the “Replace” link, changing it to Rename, it will execute the restore operation and create a new file, with a small change in the name to reflect the operation
- Once all these options are set, you just click on the “Restore” button
- Web Restore
You execute this one when you don’t have the local Crashplan application installed on the computer. Using your favorite Web Browser, login to your account and select the Restore option. On the Web version, you can only restore from the cloud storage, and only if you have a paid plan. Free plans do not have access to the web interface.
- Start your favorite Web Browser
- Login into your Crashplan account
- Select the Computers tab
- Select the computer where the restore will take place, then press Restore
- Select all files and/or folders desired.
- Press the Restore Button. Please take into account that using this mode you can retrieve files that total up to 250MB in size.
- Guest Restore
Crashplan has this nice feature offering you the capability of restoring a file remotely, on a friend’s computer. This is particular interesting if your computer failed entirely, but you configured Crashplan to back up your files to a friend’s computer on the internet (or your office computer). Just restore the files to an USB stick or Hard disk connected to your friends (or office) computer, using the fastest connection possible: physical connectivity.
You could use the internet to download, but depending on the size of the backup set, it can take hours (or days), as opposed to minutes on the local machine. Then you just take the USB drive or the hard drive back home!
Just follow these simple steps:
- Select the Friends tab from the client application, instead of the Restore
- Select the Guest Restore Button
- Enter your password when requested
- Choose the files / folders you want to restore from the tree list
- Select where you want the files restored to (your local USB disk connected to your friends computer)
- Continue with the steps outlined above, on the Desktop Restore
Our Final Opinion about Crashplan
If you are looking for a simple yet powerful backup tool, allowing you to store your files both on the cloud and on a friend’s computer, look no further. Crashplan is totally focused on the single task of backing up your data, making sure the data is protected and making it easy to restore. There are other offerings in the market with more bells and whistles, but a lot of times they lose focus on the primary task: back-up.
If you are looking for some specific features, like continuous backup solution with live versions and automatic update on clients, then this is not the correct tool. You may read SpiderOak review or livedrive review instead.
The yearly subscription cost is on the average (USD 59.99) compared to similar solutions or $5.99 a month, offering high grade of security and flexibility. If you have many PCs at home, the family plan costs a little over double that and allows you to extend the service to a total of 10 PCs, which should be enough for the household. Anything above that, you should look to the business plans.
I like the combination of security, flexibility and ease of use. The execution of the in 3 phases: preparation, upload and download is speedy and can be as simple as one likes. Take advantage of the 30-day trial period and run for yourself. Don’t forget to run some restore sessions, too!
The overall solution is quite mature (over 7 years in the market) and stable and should provide you, the user, with a comprehensive offering for your backup needs.