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Issue 13.2 ('Control Animation')
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REVIEW

Crashplan

Issue: 13.2 (March/April 2015)
Author: Marc Zeedar
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 4,986
Starting Page Number: 12
Article Number: 13202
Related Link(s): None

Full text of article...

It's challenging to review a product that is, essentially, invisible. Crashplan is a cloud backup service, and if it's working correctly, it just runs in the background and you never really see it.

And that's exactly why I like it. I also use a similar service from BackBlaze, which is finicky and doesn't work as well. For instance, though I have BackBlaze set to tell me right away if it can't back up for some reason, the other day it suddenly told me it hadn't been backing up for over a week!

No such problems with Crashplan. It has a handy menubar app (on Mac OS X) that you can use to monitor the current backup state, but I rarely have to bother looking at it. When I do, it always shows me it's been working fine and tells me the next backup will happen in a few minutes. (They also email me a weekly report of my Crashplan status, which is a nice way to confirm everything's working well.)

There's a separate standalone app where you configure your Crashplan settings. I found it to be nicely designed with very clear settings such as choosing exactly which folders will get backed up, putting in your Crashplan account information, seeing your backup history, and much more.

I'd checked out Crashplan years ago and was put off because I heard it was a Java app, and most Java apps I've seen haven't been very good (poor UI, non-Mac standards). I also wasn't interested in having to install the Java runtime on my Mac. However, Crashplan now has the Java runtime built-in, so it runs like a normal Mac app. And it looks and works great; I can't even tell it's Java.

One nice feature of the app is that you can restore files from your backup right within it. It shows you a directory tree of your backed up drives and folders. You can navigate to a specific item, select it, and click the "restore" button, and it is downloaded and put on your desktop. Contrast that with BackBlaze where you have to use their website to select the files and then they email you a download link within 24 hours (the more files the longer it takes).

And, you really don't need to interact with the app much at all after the initial setup unless you want to change something or restore a lost file. The backup engine just runs in the background and gets things done, and it uses reasonable system resources (a few hundred MB of RAM, similar to an open tab or two in Safari). I have noticed that the background app does tend to use more memory over time, but it's still not the resource hog I feared. In terms of CPU, it's never more than a few percent.

My one criticism is that Crashplan wants to serve positively everyone; their website is a bewildering array of options. You can use Crashplan for free by setting it to back up to a friend's computer, for instance, or go all the way to enterprise level. There are price points all over the place.

For most of us, however, the personal cloud back up plan is ideal. It's unlimited and backs up all your attached external drives. Their plans start at $6/month (for one computer) and you can get the family plan for up to ten computers for just $14/month. You can also buy your plan by the year (or longer) and save.

If you aren't using a cloud back up service, you should be. You never know when disaster can strike, and a local backup isn't good enough if your whole house burns down.

If that's not enough of an incentive, Crashplan also has free mobile apps that let you access your Crashplan backups via your phone or tablet. That's a nice way of having a mirror of your full computer in the palm of your hand. If you're traveling and realize you left an important file at home, just launch the Crashplan app, log in, and download the file to your phone!

End of article.