Think about everything stored on your computer right now. Photos of special moments, that great vacation, or the last time you saw a friend, copies of the project that you’re working on for months or the paper you’re writing. Financial and tax records.
What happens if something happens to your computer and all that was lost? Let’s take a look at how to avoid all that tears and heart ache with CrashPlan!
Backing Up is a Virtue
The hard drive is a wonder of engineering that puts incredible amounts of data into a small space. It is mechanical device and like all things will break someday. When it does break all those files on your computer can be lost.
If you use a laptop, then there are dangers beyond a failed hard drive. All it takes is looking away for a moment at a coffee shop while a thief grabs your laptop and your data is also gone. Even if you work on a desktop, your files are still vulnerable to fire, flood, or other damage to your residence.
Even if you don’t lose your data, you might find that you accidentally delete a file and not realize it for several days. Or you change a file and later wish you had access to the previous copy. Being able to access an older version of a file or a file that no longer exists can provide peace of mind when editing and updated documents and files.
A backup creates the solution to both these concerns. With multiple copies of your files you’re protected from data loss. With copies made over time, you’re able to access a previous version or deleted file much later.
A backup solution needs to work automatically and store files in multiple locations. The best product for backups that I’ve found is CrashPlan.
Backing up with CrashPlan
You install CrashPlan by downloading the client for your computer from the CrashPlan web site. There are separate versions for 32bit Windows and 64bit Windows so make sure to download the appropriate version for your computer.
After installing the client, you must then create an account. This starts a 30 day free trial of the CrashPlan+ which includes CrashPlan Central, their online backup storage. After that 30 day trial, you must subscribe to the service or the program reverts to the free CrashPlan version.
The free version does not back up to the cloud, but will let you back up to an external drive, another computer under your account, or a friend’s computer.
By default CrashPlan will back up your personal files and documents. You can tell the program to back up any additional files or directories you would like including hidden files.
Once you’re satisfied all your important files are selected, you’re work is largely done. Both the paid and free versions of CrashPlan offer automatic backups though the free version is limited to once per day.
If the destination for a backup disappears or goes offline, the backup pauses and resumes where it left off no matter how much time has passed. There is also no limit to the size of files that you can back up. The client also prioritizes your backups so the fastest destination is completed first.
Crashplan protects your backup using 128 bit Blowfish encryption in the free version. CrashPlan also uses data deduplication on your data at the block level so if a part of a file repeats, it need only be transferred or copied once. This greatly reduces the disk space and transmission time for your data and is a feature normally found in high end enterprise backup solutions.
The settings for CrashPlan allow you to customize how your backups are processed. You can set limits on the amount of bandwidth and CPU the program uses. You can also receive email notifications when computers are not backed up for a period or time in addition to reports on the state of all computers you back up.
Another feature allows you to choose which wired or wireless networks will be used for backups. This lets you turn off backing up on limited bandwidth or restricted connections. I use it so that the program doesn’t attempt to back up over my MiFi connection and use up my limited data capacity. You can also pause backups completely for a period of time.
The paid CrashPlan+ plans add online storage for one or more computers. It also allows continuous backup compared the free version which only runs once per day.
The encryption of backup data increases from 128 bit to 448 bit Blowfish encryption. CrashPlan+ also enables backup sets. These let you create multiple rules on what files are backed up and which destinations are used.
For example, you may want to back up sensitive financial files other computers you own, but not to friend’s computers. Creating a separate backup set allows you to do just this. One set would contain the files you want to back up to friend’s computers and the other set would contain those you did not.
Restoring and Accessing Files
A backup is only as useful as the ability to restore files when needed. CrashPlan addresses this by verifying your backups on a regular basis. If errors are found in the backup data, it automatically repairs the archive. This ensures your files will be available when needed.
The comfort of knowing that you can restore a file backed up months ago because it’s regularly verified cannot be underestimated.
For added security, you can add additional requirements to restore files from your backup. You can set a custom password required to restore files. For even greater security you can create a custom certificate and require restores to provide both a password and your custom private key.
CrashPlan Central users can access backed up files from the web or from mobile clients. Currently mobile clients are available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. If you have multiple computers under your account, you can restore a file backed up from any computer to any computer through the CrashPlan client software.
In case of a complete loss of your computer and local backups, it can take a very long time to restore a large amount of data depending on the speed of your data connection.
CrashPlan+ users can elect to have a backup sent to you on a hard drive or DVD. This service starts at $124.99 depending on how the drive is shipped, but would greatly reduce the time to get fully restored after a complete computer loss.
CrashPlan is free if you only back up to external drives and other private computers. If you have several computers, this can provide an easy way to back up your files. If you have several friends on CrashPlan, then you can extend this to other computers to protect you from damage to your computers and still remain on the free plan.
To gain the extra functionality of CrashPlan+ and online storage you must subscribe to the CrashPlan+ service. For $24.99/yr you get 10GB of storage for one computer which is perfect for those with modest data backup needs. If you have more data, the CrashPlan+ Unlimited plan gives you unlimited data storage for one computer for $49.99/yr. For those with multiple computers to back up, the CrashPlan+ Family Unlimited plan at $119.99/yr will let you backup as many as ten computers to CrashPlan Central.
CrashPlan is more than a traditional online only backup solution. In addition to backing up to the CrashPlan Central cloud storage provided by CrashPlan, you also can backup to an external hard drive, other computers you own, or to a friend’s computer. These multiple layers of backups give you multiple options when you need to recover a file. These backups are stored encrypted so no one else can access your data when using CrashPlan online storage or someone else’s computer.
CrashPlan also supports multiple computers from a single account. You can back up Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and even Solaris all with one account. The CrashPlan+ Unlimited plan offers a very cost effective way for those with multiple computers to back all up to one place at a reasonable price.