Need a Crashplan plan.
July 19, 2013 7:54 AM   Subscribe

I’m finally signing up for an unlimited Crashplan package this weekend. This is my first time using web storage for any of my backup needs. Can you let me know if I’m thinking correctly about 1) what I back up online and 2) what makes sense for backing up in the future?

I have a Mac Pro jammed to the gills with hard drives, as well as a collection of external hard drives (mostly backups).

The Main HD is about 500GB (on a 640GB drive). It’s cloned to an external drive, and is also backed up to an internal Time Machine.

There are two drives of photos and other media (one is 900GB on a 1TB drive, and the other is about 1 TB on a 2 TB drive). Each of these is backed up to an external clone. Time Machine does not copy them.

(There’s also an internal SSD in the second optical bay that I will start to use as my main drive.)

I also have about 500GB of media on an external drive that is not backed up. It's only connected to the computer periodically--it's not always on (to the extent that matters for Crashplan).

If you have an unlimited Crashplan account, are you really pushing out your multiple terabytes of data on multiple drives (I realize you only push out the whole thing once and then it’s just incremental)? If so, how long does that take, and is Comcast going to flip out over the amount of data and think I’m seeding torrents or something? Did you add drives incrementally? If you’ve ever had a data issue, can you just download the specific files or drives you need to replace? Any concerns about Security (i.e., is the NSA now going to snoop through my precious backups of my 9th grade English homework)?

Also, once you started using Crashplan, did that replace your other backups? I’m sure I’d continue using Time Machine, but can Crashplan replace my clones?

Thanks in advance--I derive great peace of mind from my backups and I'm all flustered by the prospect of changing a backup regimen that I've had for years (but which is admittedly risky, given than all the drives are located in the same place).
posted by Admiral Haddock to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Crashplan is great for peace of mind. Yes, the initial push is time consuming, but it's done in the background. It had a noticeable but totally manageable affect on my computer's performance during that initial push. Absolutely none in regular maintenance mode.

I would advise to keep an additional backup of critical files onsite; restoring is very slow. Otherwise, I love Crashplan!
posted by bluejayway at 8:16 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't worry about the bandwidth suck. It's time-consuming because the process self-throttles. They want it to be able to run concurrently with your other network apps, without you noticing. If you don't notice it, neither will Comcast.

In all seriousness, I did basically the same thing, and I haven't heard a peep from my provider (Verizon).

You do want to keep the external drive connected for a while, though. At least until you can confirm that it's all backed up the first time.
posted by Citrus at 8:34 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

BTW if you pay CrashPlan $125 they will ship you a 1TB drive that you can use to start off the backup.
posted by katrielalex at 8:35 AM on July 19, 2013

Backup wonks will tell you that aside from Crashplan you should ALSO have a local backup on external media. Because what happens if the Internet stops working and you need your backups anyway, or what happens if Crashplan fails to restore the file you want for some unknown reason? They're engineered to be highly reliable, but they could fail or go out of business without warning or what have you.

Extreme backup wonks will tell you that you should have multiple redundant backups beyond the one physical copy because physical media backups can fail silently and physical media can become corrupted silently and there's nothing like having busted ass to have extremely comprehensive on and offsite backups and have all of your backups fail for no apparent reason (and I can attest to this! It does suck!).

But I'm just a security wonk and a geek and I have committed to just making do with Crashplan because it's easy and doesn't require tending and with unlimited, I can jam everything up to the cloud and not have to worry about it.

All that said, the other comments also have good information.
posted by kalessin at 8:39 AM on July 19, 2013

I've been a Crashplan subscriber for awhile now. (I think it's great, personally.)

If the data is truly important to you, an onsite backup is still a good idea, since restoring from a crash would take forever over the internet, of course.

I do a lot of uploading via Comcast, I don't think they really care. I don't think it counts towards your bandwidth limit either (when they decide to care about such things).

One thing to be aware of when doing your initial backup: You can create backup "sets" in Crashplan. I recommend chunking your backup into logical sets (one for each drive or data type) and then prioritizing them appropriately. Since it's going to take awhile (weeks?) to do initial backup, it's going to take awhile to get around to the last-priority files, so prioritize the important stuff first.
posted by neckro23 at 9:02 AM on July 19, 2013

What neckro23 says. Make various logical set and prioritize them. The neatest thing to keep in mind is that they have this smart backup thingy, you will upload a piece of data only once, even if you have it in various places on your hard drive or start moving stuff around. You can also dig into the settings and tune the upload speed. But sending in a hd might be a good deal for you?
posted by nostrada at 9:34 AM on July 19, 2013

kalessin: Backup wonks will tell you that aside from Crashplan you should ALSO have a local backup on external media. [...] Extreme backup wonks will tell you that you should have multiple redundant backups beyond the one physical copy [...]

By no means a backup wonk, but I do recommend stashing a static copy of your hard drive contents offsite. Just take one of your current backups from home and put it in a desk drawer at work with a neat post-it label. That way, if the worst happens (house fire, flood, tornado that takes your computer and the backup disks, lightning strike while backup drive is plugged in), at least you've got a starting point for recovery.

Crashplan is an excellent option too. I should really do that for my wife's computer. (= not a backup wonk.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 10:22 AM on July 19, 2013

I should also note that I paid for the 4 year CrashPlan family unlimited plan and I use the crap out of it. But I also often consider making yet more local media backups and have also considered renting a safe deposit box for the purpose of storing such things.

So far I haven't made any of that happen except for CrashPlan, so for now it has to do.
posted by kalessin at 11:10 AM on July 19, 2013

Since no one above has addressed the security question yet: everything you upload to Crashplan (and almost every other online backup system, SpiderOak and Tahoe-LAFS being the only exceptions I know of) is visible to 1. some people at Crashplan, 2. anyone who can compel Crashplan to share it, and 3. anyone who can hack their system. If you're willing to live with that, they seem to be a well-liked service. If you have critical documents which absolutely need to stay private, back them up another way or somewhere else.

Online backups shouldn't replace your local backups. They may give you a little more flexibility, but you're backing up your data this way because it is important: do you trust that Crashplan won't suffer some DDoS or get bought out or your Internet won't go wonky due to a hurricane, etc.? Some people are comfortable with having a single point of failure capable of pulling down the whole regime; some people aren't. All things considered, it's pretty trivial to keep a local backup.

I can't speak to Crashplan's recovery system, but I would be very surprised if you couldn't just pull individual files or directories if you needed just that much.
posted by introp at 11:31 AM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Another possibility that is not as secure as just not backing up to the cloud, but you might decide does all right (and is what I do) is to work with encrypted volumes that you back up to Crashplan or other cloud-based backup solutions.

Understand that encryption is not iron-clad and is significantly less secure if an unknown potential attacker has the encrypted bits in hand, but it's not as useful to a potential attacker as clear, unencrypted files might be.

As a security wonk, I tend to be the kind who is so paranoid I don't bother with some stuff because I think it's simply not as secure as we like to think it is, so that's why I didn't address the security.

But if you're not as paranoid as me and you think physical security is likely to deter attackers, that's cool. Don't back those files up to anywhere network connected. Consider working with those files only when your workstation is completely network-disconnected, and hope your physical security is top-notch, or at least a higher notch than your likely attackers'.

Crashplan allows you to pull individual files and directories, as well as previous versions of files from previous backups if you need them. I've used it a couple of times in that mode and it works great. Also allows you to move backed-up files from one computer to another.
posted by kalessin at 12:26 PM on July 19, 2013

I have a very similar setup as you describe. I was a BackBlaze customer until I had issues with them and started a CrashPlan account approx 46 months ago.

At first I was concerned that the throttling was affecting my ability to work smoothly on my desktop, but now that the initial back ups are done I love it. Iwas suspicious that it actually had completed backups of all my external drives and randomly picked an mp3 form my library of 57.000 tracks, low and behold there it was.

I still keep redundant local back ups and a time machine for safe keeping, I look at the Crashplan as being a last resort actually.

posted by silsurf at 12:35 PM on July 19, 2013

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