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Every so often, I remind y’all to back up your shit. This time it’s because I discovered that my Crash Plan plan (lol) expired. And just when I wanted to know I had a backup because I needed to fix some gnarly software issues on my computer. Now I loved having Crash Plan, but I found it very difficult to backup my external hard drive and keep it backed up—the initial took an entire week of not being able to unplug my external, and then it seemed to lose the external after a while. So what’s a queermo to do? Research other remote backup services, that’s what, and make sure that she’s getting the best of the best. Why a remote service, you ask? The benefit is two-fold. First, backups happen without you doing anything, so you don’t have to remember to take action in order to reap the benefits. It’s like a crockpot. You set it and forget it. Second, if something happens to your apartment, like a burglary or fire or flood, your backup is elsewhere, and therefore unaffected. Here’s what I’ve found out so far—feel free to add your experiences in the comments!
And y’all—this, right here, is the universe reminding you to back up your machines. Your phones, your computers, your EVERYTHING. Do it. Take the afternoon and sort it out.
I started with Carbonite because I remembered it being one of Crash Plan’s main competitors, and I wanted to explore it a little further. Indeed, it seems to have some of the same easy features as Crash Plan—install, set up what you want backed up, and let it run. At $60 per year, it seems be in the same price range as well. BUT! That’s for the Basic Plan, which doesn’t do external hard drives. The one that does? $100 per year. And if you want the ability to have a hard drive with your backup shipped to you for easy restore? That’s $150 per year. And I couldn’t find anything about adding computers to create a family plan, either, which would be a plus since I think I should backup my wife’s computer as well.
Bottom line? I think Carbonite would be PERFECT if you just want to backup one computer. They’ve got 24/7 support and are well-established in the field.
Free Trial: 15 days
If you, too, watch Critical Role, you’ll know why I know Backblaze (one of their employees is a Critter as well, and they have some…er…creative marketing for Critical Role fans as a result). The appeal of Backblaze is ease—everything is backed up automatically, so you barely even have to engage in any setup. Just install the thing and GO. It even has a plain English version of how long your initial backup (the LONGEST one) will take—though it’s going to go to the direst timeframe, don’t worry, it won’t actually take 58 days to backup. More like three days. This plan has the unlimited storage capacity of Carbonite and Crashplan, and it’s a touch cheaper at $50 per year or $5 per month. It’ll do external drives too, but the same applies—the drive needs to be plugged into your computer and scanned once every 30 days for it to remain backed up. It has a couple other cool features, though. You can encrypt your data with a personal key if you’re worried about Backblaze having access to it (don’t lose it, though! They won’t be able to restore your data if you do). And, unlike Carbonite, if you need to restore by mail, you don’t have to pay for a whole separate plan to do it. You just pay for the drive up front, restore your computer and mail it back within 30 days for a refund. Why is restore by mail important, you ask? Well if it takes three days to upload, think about how long it’ll take to download! They also have the ability to find a lost machine (supposing a thief hasn’t wiped the software and that it’s still connected to the internet). But alas, still no family plan here, and no dice if you’re looking to backup more than one device.
Bottom line? Backblaze is probably the easiest, cheapest option for one single computer and external drives. Even without a family option, I still might use it just because of how easy it is.
Free trial: 15 days. Credit card not required.
SugarSync is a little bit different—all your folders are backed up in their existing file structure, and instead of being locked away as a backup version, you can basically access it anywhere, anytime, on another computer, on your phone, etc. It’s kind of like having Dropbox but it’s your whole computer. And instead of bothering with how many devices you’ve got, they price their plans by the amount of storage needed. So if you want the individual 250 GB plan, it’s $10 monthly. And whatever you want to use that for—if you’ve got a desktop, a laptop and a tablet, for example—as long as it fits within your plan, back that ish up. The closest thing to a family plan, however, is a business one: 1-3 users for $55 per month, 4 users for $68 per month and 5 users for $81 per month.
Bottom line? If you’ve ever uttered the phrase, I wish my whole computer were Dropbox and then I wouldn’t have to worry about this shit, this one’s for you.
Free trial: 30 days.
SpiderOak works a lot like SugarSync in that files are available across all your devices. But they put security front and center in the way that they talk about themselves more than any other service featured in this article. They boast end-to-end encryption by default (not even SpiderOak knows what’s in your backup, only you do). Unlimited devices, but limited storage—$9 per month for 250 GB and $12 per month for 1 TB (which is actually really good, price-wise, in my opinion). Groups, while they market them to families as well, are minimum 10 users for $9 per month. That’s a BIG ASS family, but hey, if your family unit’s got 10 of you (or if you’re willing to pay $90 per month), check out that plan (it’s also UNLIMITED).
Bottom line? If you’ve ever uttered the phrase, I wish my whole computer was Dropbox but I hate Dropbox security and I don’t want to worry about this shit, this one’s for you.
Free trial: 21 days for an individual, 14 days for groups. No credit card required.
Naive questions: to what extent is the extra level of encryption required if you aren’t rich, a notorious activist, a journalist/doctor/lawyer/celebrity, a high-level employee of the Democratic Party etc? If I use SugarSync instead of SpiderOak am I opening myself up to the possibility of getting caught up in a giant hack?
It looks like they still use encryption to transmit and store your data, which will help prevent third-parties from accessing it in the event of a hack or breach. This approach should be fine for most users. The key difference here is that SugarSync technicians could potentially access your files, so it’s just a matter of trusting their other security practices. This is a pretty standard approach that places like Google, Dropbox, and Apple use as well. One upside is that they can help you regain access to your data if you forget your password.
Nice roundup! I hadn’t heard of the SugarSync or SpiderOak services before, and they sound pretty interesting. I think backups generally get too little attention, especially cloud backup services like these – thanks for making a Queer Your Tech for it, Ali. I’ll second the recommendation to take an afternoon and sit down with this stuff – future you will be so grateful when you need to recover from a crashed computer or some corrupt/deleted files.
For my backups I still love Crashplan – I’ve been a subscriber for the last 6 or 7 years and their tech support was helpful when I needed it. That said, I’ll be the first to say that their software interface is pretty clunky; it took me quite some time to set things the way I need them. I’m also fairly particular with this stuff so part of that is on me ?. Overall, I like the feature set and the price, especially since I have 2+ TB of data to back up. It’s also important that I can specify my own encryption key so that my (very) personal data is never accessible to anyone else.
I also have some more general advice if anyone is interested: if you’re only going to do one type of backup, go with one of these cloud services. Though large backups and full restores take longer than with an external drive, these backups are protected from events that local drives are not (e.g. ransomware, water spillage, and all the other things Ali mentioned). Online backup services also make *their* own backups, so there’s an additional layer of safety. That said, these services are very reliable but they’re not perfect – having some kind of local backup is recommended, at least for your most crucial, irreplaceable files.
Another thing to consider if you have a lot of data is your internet service’s upload speed – it’s often quite meager compared to download speeds (some services don’t even clearly advertise it). I first started my online backups with 1 Mbps upload bandwidth, and it literally took 3 months of 24/7 operation to upload 1 TB of data. It’s worth having at least 3-4 Mbps upload bandwidth if you need to rely heavily on these backup services.
Very nice info, thank you.
About the plans for one computer only. If my laptop’s drive is connected to my PC through my home network could it be backed up via the PC as another external hard drive?
I seriously need to get into cloud backup before my upcoming move because I’m so afraid that stuff is going to break. External hard drives are not everlasting.
I have had SpiderOak for years and love it. Their desktop software UI can be a bit confusing when I haven’t seen it in a while, but their backups have worked wonderfully for me.