THIS SEEMINGLY CHEAP AND CHEERFUL SERVICE OFFERS A RICH RANGE OF FEATURES – AND GREAT BACKUP PERFORMANCE
CrashPlan is one of several cloud backup providers of headline proposition: for a nominal ering a simple fee (in this case around US$5 per month), you get a “set-and-forget” service with unlimited storage, so you don’t need to worry about clearing out old files, nor indeed think about backup at all until disaster strikes.
CrashPlan offers granular control over the client’s CPU usage
For many of us, that’s a persuasive pitch – when you look at how much the likes of Dropbox and OneDrive charge for storage, it almost sounds too good to be true. But having put CrashPlan comprehensively through its paces, we’re pleased to confirm that there’s no catch.
Let’s start with performance. You may expect a cloud backup provider to cut costs by cheaping out on bandwidth, but in fact CrashPlan was one of this month’s fastest backup services. Our 5GB folder of personal files was uploaded in a whisker under two hours: only Carbonite was faster. And when we came to restore our backed-up data, it came back down the line at more or less the full speed of our fibre connection. Our complete set of files was back in place in a mere 21 minutes.
Nor does CrashPlan play games with the promise of unlimited storage. You can happily back up files from external media as well as internal drives; the client will even allow you to back up network shares, although on Windows you have to use a little unsupported trickery to get the software to see them.
Moreover, while CrashPlan won’t keep unlimited versions of old files forever, the client lets you decide how frequently updated files should be archived, according to their age. For example, you might specify that you want to keep an hour-by-hour history of files from the last three months, but only need a monthly history of files more than a year old. If need be, you can keep track of file changes as often as every 15 minutes.
Similarly, you can choose when files that have been deleted from your desktop are also purged from your cloud archive – the default option being “never”.
There are a few other welcome options.
You get nice granular control over the client’s CPU usage, both for when your computer’s in use and when it’s idle.
You can also switch between continuous and scheduled backup, and use wildcards to exclude files from backup – although, since your storage is unlimited, it’s hard to see why you’d bother, unless you’re generating gigantic files that will bottleneck your network connection.
There’s a good range of security options, too. You can password protect the application itself, to prevent unauthorized users from accessing your download settings, and optionally specify your own backup encryption key.
If you do this, you can choose whether to share it with CrashPlan or keep it secret: the latter option provides unbreakable data security, making it impossible for anyone to decode your backed-up data – something you might welcome, since CrashPlan coyly doesn’t reveal the location of its data center. But, as with all backup services, if you keep the key private and then manage to lose it yourself, you’re sunk.
Like Acronis True Image 2017, CrashPlan also elevates itself above the crowd with its support for multiple backup sets. From the one client, you can have specific files and folders backed up to the cloud according to one schedule, while a second backup job runs at diferent times, moving another set of files to a range of destinations.
From US$60/yr per PC, unlimited storage • crashplan.com
This brings us to another of CrashPlan’s strengths. In addition to CrashPlan’s own servers, and your own local and network drives, you can also upload your (encrypted) data directly to a friend’s computer. This is a simple way to gain an additional of site backup without paying a penny – assuming that your friend doesn’t bill you for the storage.
Uploading to a friend’s computer is as simple as sharing the code shown in the client software
As long as CrashPlan is running on both computers, getting set up is as easy as sharing the unique six-character code that’s generated by the program, then configuring your backup task as usual.
Along with the standard home-user licence, CrashPlan ofers a business-level “Pro” service, costing US$10 per device per month. It’s a very similar service, but with centralized management, which allows the administrators to remotely configure and update clients, as well as initiate backups, monitor resource usage and enforce policies.
While the basic formula of cheap, unlimited storage is hardly unique to CrashPlan, the package is more rounded overall than its rivals. Your subscription even includes telephone support – although you’ll want to keep an eye on your phone bill, since you’ll be calling the company HQ in Minneapolis. It may still not be quite as feature-packed as Acronis, but if you’ve got a substantial archive of data, CrashPlan is an impressively versatile and cost-efective way to keep it safe.