Backblaze vs. CrashPlan: Reviewing Backup Options

Looking for the quick and dirty winner? It’s Backblaze for speed and price. You can say thanks for saving you the hassle by using my affiliate link to Backblaze and tossing a month of free backup my way.

No one needs a backup until they need a backup. It’s kind of like buying insurance–completely unnecessary until something goes wrong.

backblaze-v-crashplan

Something most definitely broke when I spilled coffee on my laptop. Despite my best efforts to resuscitate it, 1 my laptop was cooked. The silver lining is I was able to clean it up, disassemble the beast and sell the parts–with the disclaimer that they I baptized them in coffee–for some cash to mitigate the disaster.

I’ve always had a local backup–that is an external hard drive where you backup your computer–for my computer, and now it has saved me two times. Unfortunately, if your external hard drive that you backup with is stolen, or if a natural disaster takes out your homestead, your backup is kaput too.

That’s what makes online backup amazing.

Two of the most well-known backup solutions are Backblaze and CrashPlan. I’ve used both–which includes going through the arduous process of waiting for all of your files to get to the magical place we call “The Cloud” for both solutions. Depending on the number and size of files you have in conjunction with your internet speed, it can take a week to a month to get all of your files saved.

Let’s breakdown the key features to find a sure-fire winner in the online backup space.

Backblaze vs. CrashPlan

Price

CrashPlan is $5.99 a month if you have a month-to-month plan.

Backblaze is $5 a month for a month-to-month plan.

You can snag Backblaze for $50 for a year or CrashPlan for $60 for a year.

Things flip-flop when you have more than 2 computers to back up, but if you’re a one-man show, Backblaze wins on price.

Result: +1 Backblaze for one-(or two-) trick ponies, +1 CrashPlan for 3+ computers / the Duggers.

Security

Both services use 448-bit file encryption, which means it’s like cracking into the Pentagon to get access to your data. No differences here from the two services.

Result: Draw. Bodyguards for your data all-around.

Backup Speed

CrashPlan throttles (i.e. slows down to a screeching halt) how quickly you can push your data to their service. Backblaze touts fully unthrottled (i.e. as fast as your little Internet wings can carry you) backups. It took me close to 2 weeks to back up with CrashPlan and only 7 days for Backblaze. There’s a huge difference here, and the faster your internet speeds are, the greater the gap will be.

I can’t over emphasize how much faster Backblaze is in creating the initial backup. Way better. Way, way better. And kind of the whole point of having a backup is having all of your information backed up. So speed is important, and as you add and change files on your computer, these services will continue to update in the background.

Result: +1 Backblaze for actually blazing.

Access

Both companies have an iOS app so you can get access to your files on the fly. I think Crashplan’s app works slightly better, and the Backblaze app gives wild file names to the files you download.

You can also access your files by logging in online through a browser, and both experiences here are very similar.

Result: +1 CrashPlan for simplicity.

Long-Term Storage

Backblaze will only save files they have “seen” on your computer in the last 30 days. CrashPlan has no such “limitation.”

At first, having access to files that haven’t been connected to CrashPlan for over 30 days was why I chose it over Backblaze.

However, what ends up happening is file duplication if you move files around on your computer. That means lots of crud and files you cleaned up and removed still being stored on CrashPlan. It’s nice that Backblaze will clear out files you don’t have on your computer any more.

Result: +1 Backblaze for not promoting hoarding.

Restoring with a Hard Drive

Both services offer shipping a hard drive or flash drive to you with all of your files if you don’t want to wait for all of your files to download again onto a new device.

CrashPlan charges $164.99 for a hard drive shipped to you and Backblaze charges $99 for a 128 GB flash drive restore or $189 for a hard drive of up to 3 TB.

Result: +1 Backblaze if you’re under 128 GB, +1 CrashPlan if you’re over.

Design

Backblaze has a flame logo and CrashPlan has a house with dots. The flame is much cooler. Also, Backblaze has a cleaner interface overall and CrashPlan feels a bit dated.

Result: +1 Backblaze for being aesthetically pleasing.

Backing up External Hard Drives

Have some external hard drives you want to back up in addition to your computer? Here’s the info on Backblaze, straight from the horse’s mouth

Backblaze automatically backs up all the external drives you have plugged in when you install. You can add additional drives later in the Backblaze Settings for no extra charge. We support any connected USB, Firewire and Thunderbolt drives.

CrashPlan doesn’t, even though there is a wonky workaround for it.

Result: +1 Backblaze for getting your back on the extra data you have floating around.

Final Results

Backblaze is the winner by a score of 6 to 1 (unless you’ve got 3 or more computers or you have more than 128 GB of backups, than it’s a bit closer but I still give the edge to Backblaze.)

You can checkout Backblaze here via my affiliate link and start with your two week free trial.

Finally, for those of you still unsure about online backups, let me help eliminate any fears you may have.

Common Objections to Online Backup

It’s not safe!

The encryption is actually almost double what your bank uses. So if you’re cool with online banking, you can be cool with online backup.

It’s too expensive!

$5 a month may seem expensive, until you lose everything you’ve ever done on your computer, at which point you’d pay practically anything to get that stuff back. Family vacation photos and videos, that book you’ve been working on, your tax documents–they are too valuable to not backup. It’s the best digital insurance you can buy.

$5 each month for insurance and piece of mind. Compared with your car insurance, this is nothing.

I don’t trust them with my files!

They don’t care about your cat pictures. But, I understand having sensitive documents on someone else’s data center. The thing is, these companies are legitimate, their security is way better than what you likely have on your computer, and companies that aren’t mining you for data (i.e. those you’re paying for a product instead of being the product a la Google and Facebook) are generally trustworthy. Your satisfaction is in their best interest.

But! If you have some files you don’t want to keep online, you can uncheck folders with both services and only backup what you want.

It takes forever!

I can’t deny this. You could either get better internet (or plug in with Ethernet instead of using Wi-Fi if possible) or just wait it out. We would leave our laptops plugged in and on overnight with the screen brightness turned down and the Mac app Caffeine on so that it will backup while you sleep.

Again, that’s a huge reason I love Backblaze–there’s no limit on how fast you can upload, while CrashPlan caps most uploads to 1 MB/s or so, which makes the initial backup process painfully slow. Backblaze provides a huge advantage here.

I backup at home. I don’t need online backup!

Do you backup every single day? That’s the beauty of online backup–no effort, no thinking–it just happens in the background, automatically. No one can be as diligent as these cloud services, because they are always working.

Resistance is futile. Online backup is totally necessary, and I can’t recommend Backblaze highly enough.

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  1. I did everything short of mouth-to-mouth, and if it would have worked, I probably would have tried that too

Worshipping as a Family

My parents are Christians. They love the Lord and, as essentially first-generation followers of Jesus, they did a good job of pointing me to Him.

However, an official time of family worship was never a “thing” in our family–I honestly don’t think the thought crossed anyones mind. We did our own things for spiritual growth–Bible reading and private prayer–and we went to church together on Sundays. But we never cracked open the Word together or as a family worshipped outside of church.

guitar-worship

Some friends who regularly practice family worship encouraged us to make it a cornerstone of our family as well. I highly recommend A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home by Jason Helopoulos. It was a major encouragement to me and my wife, and Helopoulos clearly spells out the sweet grace of worshipping together, as a family, regularly, and how to do it, practically.

Here’s the usual Shirkman Family Worship routine:

  1. Sing a selected song or hymn. Our voices are most certainly a joyful noise, but not much else. I normally play guitar and we both sing. Instruments (quality voices or otherwise) are by no means necessary to do this well.
  2. Prayer for illumination. We pray the Lord would open our eyes and help us know Him more and understand the passage we’re reading.
  3. Read from the Scriptures. We’ve been making our way through the book of Luke, a chapter or half-chapter at a time. We then discuss the section and ask about things we don’t understand or share thoughts about the passage.
  4. Pray together. We normally each take a prayer request–for ourselves, our families and friends, coworkers, students we work with, people who are sick, etc.

We basically ripped off the suggestions of our friends and the ideas from A Neglected Grace. Nothing fancy, nothing difficult, just a family worshipping together.

We aren’t perfect about doing this every night. We normally do it just after dinner, before we clean up the dishes so we don’t get distracted. We move from the dining room to the living room because it’s a bit more comfortable. Some days we miss, but it’s always a blessing when we do it. It’s 15 – 20 minutes (perhaps some of the best spent of our day), and it has been a major blessing for us as a family.

When we have guests over for dinner, we like to invite them to take part in it with us, and I hope it has been an encouragement for them too.

My greatest exhortation if you’re considering this as a family is to just start. Give it a shot no matter what stage of life your family is at.

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Increasing Digital Security with Two-Step Verification

Before you get into this post, know that it’s a 2,400+ word labor of love. This stuff is tricky for me to explain, but I cannot overemphasize how important it is, and that’s why you’re reading a preface to a blog post. The few minutes it’ll take to read this post and the 20-minute process of setting up 2-step verification is worth it. At the bottom of this post you’ll see all the links you need to get started.

I’ve written about the need for serious security in our digital lives. It’s too easy for thieves to swipe passwords, bank account numbers, and critical information that could create a crapstorm of chaos, frustration, and loss for us.

locks

Fortunately, there’s an added layer of security that’s equivalent to bringing your toughest friend to back you up in a schoolyard brawl. It’s called 2-step verification (2SV) or sometimes two-factor authentication.

Basically, as well as having a password to sign into an account, you need a second device which gives you code–essentially verifying your identity–as well. It’s like providing two forms of ID when you get a driver’s license–a social-security card plus a birth certificate. It greatly reduces the chances of criminals accessing your accounts because they have to have two things only you should have–your password and your phone.

2SV means hackers need more than your password to access your accounts when you sign in from an “unknown” device1. With a strong password and 2SV, there’s a great chance dirtballs are going to give up on you and try to steal from an easier target.

Two Ways 2SV Works

There are two main ways 2SV validates that you are who you say you are. It still starts with you entering your password, but then the service either sends you 1. a text message with a new code every time you want to login on a new device, or 2. enables you to use an app called a code generator to create time-sensitive codes for you to enter when you login.

The good news is that you don’t have to use 2SV every time you signin–only when you’re on a new device. So the hassle is minimal and totally worth it for the security enhancements.

1. The Text-Message Option

A text message 2SV is simple–when you set up 2SV on your account, the service will ask for your cell phone number, you plop it in, get a text, and then punch in the 4- to 6-digit code they sent to you.

That’s how it’ll work every time. I find this way a bit restricting because you always to have your phone with you.2 If you travel abroad often or don’t always have cell phone service (for our backwoods blog readers), it can really cramp your style. You could also be charged for text message fees while abroad if you’re a globetrotter.

Not all country phone numbers are supported, so unless your Uncle is Sam, you may not even be able to enable this option. Also, if your phone is stolen, you’ll be forced to use your recovery code (more on that soon), so you have fewer options with this method. 3

2. The (Better) Code-Generation Option

The second option is a code generator. You download a code-generating app like Authy, my app of choice, or Google Authenticator, then you login to the service where you’ve enabled 2SV and choose generate a code.

Once you’ve set up your account in Authy, you’ll login to the service you want to have Authy generate codes for–e.g. Gmail or Evernote. Then, in the 2SV-option section, choose something like “code generator.” The site will bring up a QR code4 that you’ll scan, linking your account to the app, and voilà, you’re up and running with 2SV. Anytime you need a code for that service, just open the Authy app. It’s faster and easier than a text message, and you can use it anytime you have an Internet connection.

You can set up multiple services this way with Authy, so I have my Evernote, Dropbox, and Gmail accounts all in one place. That makes Authy a one-stop, code-generating shop.

I prefer Authy because you can login to the app on multiple devices, so you can have the same codes generated on your iPad and iPhone. I’m not sure how to get Google Authenticator working on multiple devices, so that’s why I prefer Authy–it syncs automatically if you create an Authy account (and the app guides you through that process). That means whatever device you have handy will work. Be sure to save the Authy backup code saved somewhere (like 1Password), which allows you to access Authy from a new device if your other devices are lost are stolen.

Best Practices

2SV can get overly complicated quickly. Here’s what I would focus on.

1. Save your recovery code

When you setup 2SV, each service will give you a super-duper important recovery code that is your get-out-of-jail-free card if you happen to lose your device that you generates your one-time authentication codes.

You absolutely, 100% must have a system for organizing these one-time, single bullet in the chamber, use it or lose everything, recovery codes in case you lose the devices with which you have your account setup.

Each service will give you at least one recovery code (e.g. Apple and Dropbox) or sometimes 4 to 10 (e.g. Evernote, Google). No one can save you, not even Jesus, from being permanently locked out of your account without this code if you lose your primary devices where you’re already signed in. So, if your phone is stolen and that was the only place you had your backup codes saved (not a good idea), you’re cooked and permanently locked out of every important thing you have in those accounts. Goodbye Evernotes, Dropbox files, emails and apps.

I cannot possibly strike into you the fear-of-God about losing your recovery code enough. I have mine saved in 1Password, my wife has a copy in her 1Password, and I have another secret place I keep my codes. 5 I’m that nerdy and that serious about security and not losing everything. I would even consider getting a safe deposit box at a bank to put the codes in if I knew how to do that in Slovenia.

2. Use 1Password and make your life easier

1Password makes saving your one-time recovery codes a cakewalk–just save your recovery code under your login details for whatever app you’ve enabled 2SV with, like this:

Google Codes Screenshot

I wouldn’t recommend going with 2SV route without a solid password manager, like 1Password. It might be a good idea to give your recovery codes to a spouse or trusted relative to hold onto. If you print them out, as many services suggest, and your house burns down with all of your codes and devices, you’ve increased your nightmare.

If you’re using Dropbox to sync your 1Password across devices LINK, 1Password has a pretty amazing feature where you can access your information anywhere you login to Dropbox. Just open 1Password.agilekeychain, then the 1Password.html file. That will bring up a version of 1Password that runs in your browser where you can type in your Master Password, and then access all of your account information. Incredibly handy if you’re using someone else’s computer but still need your passwords.

As long as you can login to your Dropbox account, you can get to your other codes and information. That means your single Dropbox recovery code is the golden ticket of this entire system. So tattoo that code to your inner thigh, print it out and stick it between your insole and shoe, or fold it up nice and tiny and stick it just inside your left ear. Just don’t tell us which option you choose (we won’t judge if you stray away from the tattoo option).

3. Be organized

2SV adds an additional burden to users, but it’s worth it for the extra security. You have to be organized. Now you have to know your main password, and have a way to get a code (via text or app). If you don’t use a password manager, which, come on, I’ve already beat that drum and we know it is a huge mistake, you better be so organized you can appropriate dust mites in your sleep.

A password manager is worth the investment, but if you don’t go that route, you better have A-Beautiful-Mind-like brain where your store all of these strong, unique passwords and recovery codes.

4. Be patient

2SV is a bit cumbersome and confusing. That is, unfortunately, the reality of living on planet earth post-Garden-of-Eden. 90% of the time, you’ll never have to use a code generator once you set it up.

It’s frustrating that every service has a slightly different process for setting up 2SV as well. I wish there was a streamlined way to say, “Just do this and you’re good to go,” but it’s not that simple.

For example, you can use a code generator with Google, Evernote and Dropbox, but Apple requires you use a cell phone and receive a text message, or get a notification that they push through to one of your iOS devices.6

5. Understand how 1-time passwords work and why you need them

For every app that accesses your account, you’ll need a specific password that is different than your main password. Each service issues these passwords slightly differently, and when you first setup 2SV, you’re likely to get all kinds of error messages and dialogues that tell you your password is wrong in different apps–especially email-related apps.

So, for example, I have Fantastical set up to sync my Apple iCloud calendar. That means I need to login to my Apple account online, generate a 1-time password for Fantastical, and paste that into the app. Don’t worry about saving these passwords–they are useless once you put enter them in the app and are only used once.

You’ll have to do this with all of your apps that use your accounts, so that can take some extra time on the front end. Again, it’s worth it. I also save the page where I can access the single-use passwords into 1Password, so I can just click it and quickly get a password. Here are the pages to generate passwords for the services I use. 7

Apple’s site for app-specific passwords

Google’s site for app-specific passwords

6. Get your terminology straightened out

I’ve been tossing the word code around here like candy, and there are a few different distinct codes, so I want to clarifying them a bit further.

  • Your password–that would be exactly how you think of your password currently–the main thing you use to access websites, apps, and services
  • Your generated login code–that’s the 4- to 6-digit numerical code you need every time you login to a service or app from a new device
  • Your recovery code–that’s the I-truly-can’t-tell-you-how-stinking-important-this-thing-is code that is your spare-key-under-the-mat for getting into services if you lose your device. You’ll hopefully never have to use this thing, but you’ll need to keep it safe, and in a few different places, to make sure you have it if you lose your verification device (i.e. your phone).

More Good Stuff about 2SV

If something gets stolen, you can remotely disable services

Of course, there’s the option to just permanently wipe your device if you’re using Apple products, but not all smartphones have the “kill switch” enabled. So, if you want to be able to nix access to key accounts: email, Dropbox, Evernote, 2SV is for you.

To do this, you’ll just need to login to the service you want to shut down remotely. Navigate to your history of generated passwords and click “Revoke Access” to that app on that device. Boom!

If your password is compromised, you’re still ok

If your password is stolen, a bad guy still needs to have a secondary device. Of course, it’s a good idea to change your password once you know this, but the extra security should help you sleep better at night.

The Links You Need

Twofactorauth.org has a list of tons of services and information about each and 2SV.

Apple

If you use iCloud with any third party apps, such as email, address book, or calendar clients, you can create app-specific passwords that let you sign in securely, even if the app that you’re using doesn’t support two-step verification.

Via Apple’s site on 2SV.

Generate an app-specific password:

  1. Go to My Apple ID.
  2. Select Manage your Apple ID and sign in.
  3. Select Password and Security.
  4. Click Generate an App-Specific Password.

Dropbox

Here’s Dropbox’s blog post about 2SV.

Click here to enable 2SV with Dropbox. Just click Enable under two-step verification.

Evernote

Here’s Evernote’s blog post about 2SV.

Click here to enable 2SV with Evernote.

Google

Here’s Google’s main page and pitch for getting you started with 2SV. Just scroll to the bottom and click get started.

Click here to enable 2SV with Google

Page to generate an app-specific password with Google.

1Password

I promise 1Password didn’t pay me to write this post. I can’t help but evangelize about it. Here you can pick up a copy of 1Password for your Mac ($50), and here is 1Password for iOS (Free with a $10 in-app purchase).

(Finally) Wrapping Up

Hopefully this process wasn’t too painful or confusing. As I prefaced, I think this is an unfortunate but necessary step we need to take to get our lives locked down online. If there’s anything that’s unclear, I’d love to help and clarify so you can keep the services and accounts you use and love completely to yourself.

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  1. An internet-connected device you haven’t logged into that service with before

  2. As opposed to being able to use another device, like an iPod or iPad

  3. Like a true 20-something, I detest this method because it doesn’t allow me to “keep my options open.”

  4. Perhaps the only valid use-case for those funny squares

  5. I’d tell you where, but then it wouldn’t be a secret.

  6. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t think there is a way to get these codes on a Mac, which is frustrating and a bit confusing. My guess is that if your laptop gets snatched, no one can just log into your accounts, especially if you save your passwords in Safari.

  7. I don’t have Evernote or Dropbox listed, because they don’t generate app-specific passwords but instead just “link” your account once you’re logged in. That’s a more elegant way to do things, but not really possible for Google or Apple because of how email clients work, as far as I can tell.

My 2015 Reading List

In light of doling out suggestions on reading more books, I thought I’d share the list of books I’m planning to read this year. These are always subject to change, and I’ve purposely not included enough for each week of the year because 1. I’ll come across more recommendastions–perhaps even from you–and 2. new books published this year will catch my eye and get added to the list.

You’ll notice some books on this list have a * beside them–that means I’ve already read the book and I’m planning on reading it again. Some books are that good.

blank-list

I’ve assembled my list from a myriad of sources: blogs that I follow, Twitter links, personal recommendations, and from the book behemoth Amazon itself. I’ve included affiliate links so you can snag copies for your reading pleasure.

I can’t endorse any of these books that I haven’t read yet1 and I’m mostly taking other people’s word on them. This is the part where I wash my hands of any books you pick up and absolutely hate on this list. Maybe we can hate them together at the end of the year.

Without further ado, in no particular order, my 2015 incomplete reading list.  … 

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  1. Weird, huh?.

Two Tips for Reading More Books

For the last few years, I’ve tried to read a book per week. That didn’t quite happen in 2014, but I’ve found two keys to getting close to that goal.

Reading-on-Kindle

1. You have to actually read.

Most of us like the idea of reading more than reading itself (myself include, at times) and planning to read versus actually reading are about as similar as being an armchair quarterback and an actual quarterback.

If you can:

  • read a half hour per day, every day
  • squeeze in some extra reading time on weekends (an extra half hour or hour)
  • and you’re reading a book around 200 pages

you can tackle a book in a single week. If you want to cheat a bit, start with shorter books to build up your pace and confidence.

If you’re a slow reader, take heart! Other smart people are slow readers. The more you read the faster you’ll get (to a certain extent), so don’t give up, and shoot for finishing a book every other week.

2. Make a plan for what you’ll read.

This is the biggest motivation for me to start another book–knowing that once I finish, I have another book I can’t wait to read. That’s a large part of where I went astray in 2014–I didn’t have a solid plan for what I would read. I often reached for whatever was on my shelf instead of getting recommendations, planning ahead, and purchasing books that I was hungry to read.

Another key to this working is not starting multiple books at the same time. I used to meander through three or four books at a time. It’s too difficult to finish a significant amount of books this way. Get good recommendations, put those on your shelf (virtual or otherwise) and knock ’em down one by one.

Finally, don’t give up on a book too early. I heard a formula for deciding when to give a book the boot:

100 – Your Age = Pages to Read Before Giving Up on a Book

I envy all the centenarians who can simply judge a book by its cover.

Good luck on making this year the one in which you read (and learn) the most.

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