Have a CrashPlan

A little over a month ago our home was broken into and several of our personal possessions were taken including all of our external drives and backups. These drives included the entirety of our family photos including memories including the birth of both of my daughters.

And As If That Didn’t Suck Enough…

In a turn of horrible luck (coupled with a bit of my own procrastination), the time of this break in coincided with my regular routine of bringing my offsite backups home from my office in order to update them. When our home was robbed, all copies of our family memories were taken.

While I was able to recover a good portion of my library from an old MacBook Pro that happened to be at my office, over a years worth of family photos were gone. Now I’m an over sharer and was able to recover many of our favorite moments, but even losing the bad photos of your daughters birth is an experience I hope none of you ever have to deal with.

The “3–2–1″ Approach

Now I thought I had backup covered. After the third or fourth time spent listening to Patrick Rhone caution about having sufficient backups I applied a variation of what he calls his “3–2–1″ approach. Three total backups, two at home, one offsite. I had a Time Capsule backup as well as two SuperDuper backup of both my computer and external media drive (one set for work and one for home). While marginal, this approach leaves a small window of risk when the offsite drives come home.


As a victim of this small margin, I’ve decided to step things up. To take Patrick’s approach to a slightly more paranoid level, I’m now applying my own “3–2–1–0″ approach. Essentially this is exactly what I had before, with the addition of one more precaution: a cloud-based backup solution. My intent is to never have to use this. I look at it like an insurance policy, the thing I have that I hope I never need. My desire is to never have to use this drive, but to rest comfortably knowing that it’s there.

Backblaze and CrashPlan: A tale of two backup services

Now a while back, I attempted a cloud backup with Backblaze. They are a great company, with a great service at a reasonable price ($5 when charged monthly) and the ability to backup not only my MacBook Air, but my external media drive. However I ran into a wall when it came to attempting to move my massive library though Time Warner Cable’s overcrowded pipes here in Brooklyn. After running for well over a month I barely made a dent in backing up my massive library. After that, I mistakenly decided that my initial 3–2–1 approach was enough. Having lost a good amount of a years worth of photos (including many shots from my youngest daughters birth and first birthday party), I made the decision that no price was too much when it comes to the safekeeping of irreplaceable memories (lucky for me these kinds of services are very reasonably priced). I also decided that I couldn’t get my files onto the cloud fast enough. Sadly Backblaze does not offer what is known as a “Seeded Backup” (in other words, sending your first massive backup to them directly on a drive), but their competitor CrashPlan does.

I had initially eliminated CrashPlan in favor of Backblaze after hearing a few people complain about the way they’ve implemented their app. I also found that it had a few more bells and whistles than I needed, even though it’s less expensive at $3 a month ($6 for a family plan). This time around their Seeded Backup service made it a no brainer. This optional initial step is expensive, $124.99 to be exact, but in hind sight it’s a small price to pay when compared to losing precious family moments. Within 10 days a hard drive was shipped to me from the company and less than a week later my files were securely backed up on their servers. In fact, this very post will likely be backed up and on the cloud before the night’s out.

While the app still has a few things I don’t need, such as the ability to backup to a friends computer or have friends backup to your computer, I haven’t found it to slow down my Mac. The on boarding process could have also been a bit more clear. I wasn’t quite sure what to do right after purchasing both my subscription and my Seeded Backup service. Turns out the answer was “do nothing” but it was mildly annoying that I needed contact their customer service, who were lovely, to find this out. That one small hiccup aside, it was a painless process for getting a tremendous amount of data up and into the cloud in a matter of days.

If this sounds a bit crazy…

To many, a Time Capsule backup, a SuperDuper backup at home and work plus a cloud backup will sound excessive. Fair enough. But it sucks to have gone through this experience and it really sucks to have lost our valuable family memories. So if you’re not nearly as crazy as I am (lucky you), let me at least urge you to have at minimum one backup at home and another up in the cloud. If you have sufficient bandwidth, $3–5 a month is a small price to pay for this kind of peace-of-mind. If you live in an area with slow service or worry about leaving your computer running for days on end churning away sending a massive amount of data to the cloud, $124.99 might seem steep, but I hope you never have to know just how good of a deal that price seems in hindsight.

And in a related side note: if you don’t have decent digital safe at home, get one and put the possessions you care about inside of it (sadly children will not fit… I tried).

Note: I didn’t use any affiliate links for this post. I just really, really want to ensure that not a single reader ever has to deal with this.

6 Responses to Have a CrashPlan

  1. Great cautionary tail. I like the simplicity of 3-2-1-0 as a way of explaining your backup strategy. I use a 2-1-0 strategy (or maybe it is 2.5-2-1-0). And I have several “flavors” of the 0 (cloud) level — crash plan + dropbox (current work) + AmazonS3/Arq (selected files). I do have a question about the digital safe — this would protect from fires, but what would prevent the thieves from taking this item also?

  2. I got all excited about CrashPlan’s Seeded Backup, until I read this on their site:

    Where is this offer available?

    50 US States, all overseas US Armed Forces POs and Australia.— Crap. I live in Canada. Great article, though. Another option recently announced for long-term storage is Amazon’s Glacier: http://aws.amazon.com/glacier/ At USD$0.01 per GB per month, it’s about $10/month for 1TB. They also offer a “seeding” option, but you can use your own drive as long as it meets their supported requirements. And it can be up to 16TB by default (unlike CrashPlan’s 1TB seeding limit), but they note larger sizes can be handled. Expect to pay about USD$102.41 for 1TB, including return shipping in the US (or about USD$137 including return shipping to Canada). Note: I am not using Glacier at this time, just telling folks about it. Definitely time to revisit backup strategies, regardless of the product or service used.

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