Can CrashPlan do what I need it to do?
May 28, 2014 10:26 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to migrate everything from Dropbox to CrashPlan, and the support person I talked to claimed he doesn't know what Dropbox is and couldn't help me.

For work, I have a lot of large audio (wav) files that I generate and need to backup in at least 2 locations. One of them is an external hard drive, which is pretty straightforward to use. The other used to be Dropbox, and now I want it to be CrashPlan, because it's 1/3 the price of Dropbox for unlimited storage. I also like the fact that CrashPlan doesn't download a version of the cloud onto your computer, taking up hard drive space.

I've purchased the 1 year, $5/month CrashPlan subscription, and so far I've just been tearing my hair out.

My laptop is what I take to work and where I initially generate and store these files. I am running out of room on the hard drive, as it only has 94.1 GB. Apparently choosing a SSD wasn't the best idea if I wanted more room, which I didn't know at the time I bought my laptop, a Lenovo T530.

So my question to the support person was: how do I upload something onto CrashPlan and then delete it from my laptop hard drive to save space? From what I could gather from our confusing conversation, CrashPlan will automatically backup whatever's on my laptop, and then I can delete it from my laptop, and it will still be in CrashPlan.

Now my other question is: my PC is actually my main computer, the one I have the "CrashPlan Central" on. I was under the impression that both my computer and laptop would have CrashPlan Central, but now I realize only one of them can have it. So I'm backing up my laptop to my PC. At work, I don't have internet. So my plan is to just wait until I get home and backup my laptop to my PC. Does this sound like a good plan?

Also, everything in my Dropbox is ostensibly backed up in CrashPlan (I see it when I go to my restore tab), but what will happen when I uninstall Dropbox? My worst nightmare is that it takes all my files with it.

Is there a less convoluted way to do all this? Some other service that both syncs and backs up? Something I do often with Dropbox is I make changes to a file on my laptop, come home and connect to the internet, then have those changes sync to the same file on my PC and then do further editing on PC. As far as I know, CrashPlan can't do this. So now I'm thinking I will still need to keep paying for Dropbox for the syncing feature... and I still need to learn to use CrashPlan.

Sorry if this was all very confusing, and thanks for any help you can provide.
posted by massofintuition to Technology (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Crashplan is automated backup, not file sharing or external storage. A better solution for your usage needs is something like Box.
posted by jamaro at 10:36 PM on May 28, 2014

You can, technically, upload something from your hard drive to Crashplan and then delete it and Crashplan will keep a copy but first you have to go into Advanced Settings and move the slider on "Remove Deleted Files" to "Never." I don't advise doing this as it means the only copy of your data is on storage space that you do not own. Also, the file upload speeds you are accustomed to with file transfers via DropBox will not be matched by Crashplan. Note: I love and use Crashplan. But it's for data backup that operates slowly and steadily as a background task, not quickie file syncing.
posted by jamaro at 11:28 PM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

CrashPlan is a reasonably priced, well-thought-through, set-and-forget backup software. It isn't archival storage. It isn't file sharing, and it isn't folder/directory sync.

So, you don't want to depend on it for your only copy of a file. You don't use it to share files with other people, and you don't use it to routinely gain access to files from one computer on another computer.

For $5/month, you probably have their unlimited plan for backing up a single computer to the cloud. However, you also get their free ability to backup from other computers to external hard drives, other computers you own, or friends computers running CrashPlan.

When you use the term "backup" it isn't clear exactly what you are talking about, or whether you are always referring to the same thing. Are you just talking about what CrashPlan does, or are you talking about manually copying files to an external hard drive, another computer, etc?

I'm not sure how long CrashPlan stores a file backup by default, but I know it is at least months, and you can set it to keep files forever. When you uninstall Dropbox, nothing should happen to your files. The folder and all its files should remain intact. If, for some unlikely reason, your Dropbox files disappeared, you'd be able to go in to CrashPlan and restore them, though you wouldn't be able to see them to restore them without setting the restore period back to a time before the folder disappeared.

What I would do, given my understanding of your situation:

* Use a cheap/free folder sync program to automatically sync changes of key directories between my laptop and my PC. BTSync is one option. I don't know how mature it is, but I have my eye on the opensource Syncthing.

* Move files on my desktop from my synced folder to an archival folder when I no longer want them on my laptop.

* Use my paid Crashplan account to back up the synced and archival directories on the PC to CrashPlan central and an external hard disk.

* Use the free CrashPlan option to back up everything on my laptop to the PC, and, ideally, something else, like an external hard disk at work (this might require creating another crashplan account and use their "backup to a friend's computer" feature.
posted by Good Brain at 11:32 PM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been a pretty happy Crashplan subscriber for awhile. As far as I can tell, it's supposed to be for "online" backups; that is to say, it works as "monitor these directories and upload anything new" instead of "hey upload this arbitrary file which I'm then going to delete".

That said, I've had times when my backed-up drives have been temporarily disconnected and Crashplan doesn't seem to care. Probably you could get away with setting it to back up your external USB drive, and disconnecting it when it's done. You'd have to give the drive a unique drive letter so it doesn't get it confused with other USB drives.

For multiple computers, I just get the Family plan, which gives you a 5-PC license for not much more than the 1-PC plan. You can cheat on this by backing up one computer to the other (using Crashplan), like you proposed, but Crashplan uses its own "backup" format, so a) you can't look at the files yourself, and b) you'd have to restore it twice -- once from the cloud to your desktop and once from your desktop to your laptop.

Re: Dropbox, I highly doubt it removes your files when you uninstall. If you're looking for a Dropbox alternative to sync files between computers, Bittorrent Sync works pretty well for that (strictly peer-to-peer, no central server, of course)...
posted by neckro23 at 2:35 AM on May 29, 2014

You might also consider just getting an amazon web services account and uploading content to s3 directly. Pennies on the dollar compared to Dropbox. There are lots of desktop clients (I used cyber duck at one point), so it is pretty easy to do and keep track of.
posted by rockindata at 4:16 AM on May 29, 2014

You can turn off automatic download of Dropbox files if you reinstall it and select the "Choose which folders to sync automatically".

Also, GoogleDrive does 1TB for $10/month. I switched there from Dropbox and am very happy with it.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:53 AM on May 29, 2014

Code 42 has a service similar to Dropbox, but it's designed for Enterprise. SharePlan. I agree with the other posters that GoogleDrive might be a better fit for your needs.
posted by missmerrymack at 6:04 AM on May 29, 2014

Agree with the others: Crashplan is an awesome backup service, and will not do what you want it to do. I would not trust Crashplan's archives for long-term archival storage (especially if you're not connecting often and are deleting your local copies).

That being said, I *would* trust it to backup your external hard drive if you're not deleting stuff.

Uninstalling Dropbox will not nuke your files. You can also configure Dropbox to *not* sync every folder to your laptop. (I have Dropbox set to not sync my "Shared Photos" folder to my laptop, to cut down on bandwidth and storage space).

Dropbox (and, to an extent, Google Drive) are synchronization services. Crashplan is a backup service. It sounds like you want a cloud storage solution where you can manually dump and retrieve files at will. Google Drive, Box, S3, or a private FTP server would all be decent options for you...
posted by schmod at 6:48 AM on May 29, 2014

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