• Review: Backblaze

    You should back up. Everyone knows this, and so few of us actually do it - much less to the level of having an offsite backup. Too much hard work! But what if it wasn't? Let's take a look at Backblaze, which bills itself as "the easiest online backup service".

    I'm actually a little nervous talking about Backblaze, because it's my offsite backup strategy of choice and (knock on wood) I've never had to test it. So at the risk of inviting catastrophe, let's press on.

    Installation and configuration couldn't be simpler. Download a disk image, run the installer and bada bing, you're done. You interact with the app by means of a preference pane in System Preferences, where you can set exclusions, scheduling, bandwidth usage and more.

    You can set the app to run continuously in the background, once per day or only when manually triggered. While continuous backup is the obvious choice, it might not work for some users so it's good to see other schedules available.

    By default, Backblaze backs up everything...ish. It doesn't back up apps, your OS, caches or logs, and you can also set it to exclude anything else you like - filetypes, directories, etc. This approach is pretty clever as it doesn't require you to remember to include anything in particular.

    The other variable to configure is bandwidth usage, or Performance as it's referred to. For users with a good ADSL2+ connection (or those lucky few on cable or the NBN) the default setting of automatic management is probably okay. In a house with two Macs (both backing up via Backblaze), two iPhones and two Diablo III players, I've never noticed any impact in terms of available bandwidth. As you can see below, the app will also give you stats on estimated upload per day and the actual transfer speed of the last upload.

    Once you've installed and tinkered with the config, Backblaze starts backing up. The initial backup can take quite a while - and I mean quite a while, though obviously this will depend on how much you're backing up, how you've configured Backblaze and what your internet connection is like. For reference, my initial backup was around 170GB and took about two and a half months to complete.

    (This highlights the major caveat of any online backup service for Australians - if you're getting charged for uploads, as most users are, you'd better have a ton of quota available. I depend upon and highly recommend Internode's Power pack, which provides uncounted uploads at $10 per month.)

    After the initial backup, incremental backups take place as needed, Time Machine style. (And it really is Time Machine style, as Backblaze keeps four weeks worth of file versions.) At this point you really stop thinking about it and the app just works in the background - which is pretty much the point, right?

    All right, so what happens if something goes wrong? Simple enough: you log into Backblaze via the web, select the files you need and choose a method of receiving them. You can choose anything from the whole enchilada down to an individual file, with hourly versions available for the past two days, daily versions for the week before that, or weekly versions for the three weeks before that; it's delivered in your choice of .zip file, or 28GB/1TB drive via post. (The zip file is free; the drives are $99 and $189 respectively. This includes worldwide next day shipping via FedEx.)

    At $5/month (or $50/year) per computer for unlimited backup, this is as affordable as peace of mind gets. I never have to think about my offsite backups, and that's the highest compliment I can pay Backblaze.

    About the author
    Toby Nieboer is the lead developer at a Melbourne based media and digital agency. In his spare time he follows the NFL and watches far too much TV.

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