Online backup services are popping up everywhere – and for good reason. I would suggest that every computer user, and especially every genealogist, needs a good backup plan that includes storing of data off-site. Anyone who has data worth keeping needs to have at least two fresh backups at all times: one stored locally near the computer and another stored some distance away. The distant backup provides insurance against theft, fire, floods, hurricanes, and other local disasters that will destroy local backups, along with the computer(s).
Online backup services have been around for years, serving commercial customers at rather high prices. Commercial services, such as Iron Mountain Digital, typically charge $100 a month or more to back up data off-site. Mozy was the first company to successfully go after the consumer marketplace and then has been followed by many others. I currently use Backblaze to back up the Macintosh and Windows systems in my home and am pleased with that company's $5 a month service.
Now still another company is advertising its services to consumers, and at attractive prices. Best of all, some of its services are FREE for personal use.
CrashPlan (a great name for a company that provides backup services!) works on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and Solaris. The company provides services to consumers and businesses alike. The company defines "home and home office" users as anyone backing up ten computers or less. Any customer who needs to back up more than ten computers qualifies as a "Business and Enterprise" customer.
One thing that differentiates CrashPlan is the ability to back up to the company's servers or to other computers or even to a local USB disk drive that is plugged into your computer. In fact, there are two different products: CrashPlan Free and CrashPlan Plus.
CrashPlan Free allows you to back up to a location that you choose: a local disk drive attached to your computer, a second computer in your own home, a friend's computer, or a computer that is in your office or any other location that is accessible via the Internet. The second service, CrashPlan Ppro, provides backups to the company's servers housed in a professional data center.
CrashPlan Free is an ad-supported product. The ads appear below the main navigation menu when CrashPlan is open and rotate at a slow frequency. CrashPlan Pro does not display ads.
If you elect to back up to CrashPlan's servers, the company will store up to 50 gigabytes of data (that's a lot) for prices beginning at $3 a month when you pay in advance for a three-year storage plan. The highest price possible for 50 gigabytes of storage is $5 a month for the monthly "pay as you go" plan. Not bad for up to ten computers backing up a total of 50 gigabytes! The company will provide even more than 50 gigabytes of storage for an additional fee.
I see this as a great plan to perform free backups to a computer at your office or at a friend's or relative's house. Even backing up to the company's servers by using CrashPlan Plus is very cost-effective.
CrashPlan is platform-independent. That is, you can back up your in-home Macintosh system to a Windows computer at the office or vice versa. You can also back up to and from Linux and Solaris systems.
You can also schedule the time of day when CrashPlan runs. To do so, install the software and then look under PREFERENCES. You will see a scheduling option that allows you to tell CrashPlan to run only during certain hours of the day.
CrashPlan also ensures your privacy by encrypting your files, using the Blowfish Encryption Algorithm before the files are sent, which keeps personal files personal. Even the CrashPlan employees cannot decode your data. If you back up to a friend's computer, that friend also will not be able to read your files that are stored on his or her computer. All files are encrypted before they leave your computer and remain encrypted when they are stored elsewhere. The only method of retrieving your stored data is to use the CrashPlan software and to enter your encryption key when restoring the files. Don't forget your encryption key! If you do forget it, your stored data cannot be decrypted.
Restoring a lot of data across the Internet can take days, depending upon the speed of your Internet connection. Restoring 50 gigabytes through a typical in-home DSL connection will probably require a week or more. Like most of its competitors, CrashPlan offers an option to have your data shipped to you via overnight air freight for an additional fee.
Best of all, CrashPlan offers the ability to "move back in time." You can restore previous versions of files exactly as they existed at a particular time of day. You control how many previous versions to retain — from one to unlimited.
I haven't yet tried CrashPlan and probably will not do so as I am quite happy with my present backup service, Backblaze. However, if I didn't yet have a backup service, I'd probably investigate several such providers, including CrashPlan.
For more information, look at http://www.crashplan.com.