When I first started in digitial photography back around 2002, ensuring that my photos were safe was more of a practice of faith. Once in awhile I would pray to the hard drive gods for no crash and that was about as far as I went. Shortly there after I started to back-up to CDs, then DVDs, and finally I upgraded to a home Network Attached Storage (NAS) with redundant drives. While all that is great the reality is that if my house burns I am still going to loose over 10 years of my photography. With prices dropping in cloud services now seems to be the time to take a more serious look and online backup solutions. Enter applications like Crashplan.
While there are plenty of online backup services target at photographers like Irista from Canon, Google Drive, Backblaze, and Carbonite, Crashplan is the tool that I choose to pilot for myself due to the feature set. As a photographer what I liked about Crashplan included:
- Easy interface, but still customizable to back-up only what you need.
- Unlimited storage
- Very competitive pricing
- Can be easily ‘hacked’ to also backup network drives (NAS Storage)
- Options to mail in UBS drives to ‘feed’ the backup if you have huge amounts of data to secure
- Option to reqeust (at an additional cost) UBS drives with your data mailed to you in case of a crash to speed recovery time
- App to check status of backups on a mobile device.
- Runs in the background without a huge performance impact
- Designed for both PC and Mac
Installation & Setup
Installation on the both PC and Mac was a breeze. After a few minutes I had the application installed on my PC and was already selecting folders to back up. Within about 5 minutes my files were already being streamed slowly to the cloud.
Alternatively, I also installed the app on my wife’s Mac, and tried the local back-up option. This ‘Cloudless’ back-up allows you to backup your files to a USB or NAS device. Running Crashplan in this way is 100% free with no subscription required. Again, selecting the required folders, and defining the destination location for the back-ups was simple and I had a backup running in minutes.
In the case that you want to backup NAS storage from a PC installation, there are a few hacks that have to be implement. The setup requires a bit of working with the DOS command prompt. For a seasoned PC user this is not an issue, but for a novice it might be a bit intimidating. The developers of Crashplan have published an ‘unofficial’ instruction on how to backup network drives on their website. For me the hacks have proven to work smoothly and have given me the ability to also secure over 1 terabyte of data on my NAS device.
Backup Run Time
In my situation after I installed the application on my PC and had my NAS drives connected I had almost 1.3 Terabites of data to backup. Given Crashplan’s architecture and they way is only sends limited data to ensure your PC or network connection does not overload, I expected my backup to take a long time. And rightly so it did. The process ran in the background for about 30 days before I had my first full backup. I should point out that my files on my PC itself were backed-up in just under a week. The majority of the time was spent sending files from my NAS device to the cloud.
As an alternatively, when using the local USB drive as a backup target location, I was able to backup roughly 43 Gb of data in about 3 hours. Considering my wife was still using the Mac at the time and didn’t really sense a performance impact, I consider this more than acceptable.
If you have large volumes of data that you want to back-up and you don’t want to wait 30 days like I did. Crashplan will ship you USB drives and you can run their propriatry software, put your data on the drives, mail them back, and the team at crashplan will seed your cloud backup with the data you provided. If you’d like more information on this option check up the Support article and video on seeded backup.
Testing a Restore
While I have not had to restore large volumes of data yet (thank goodness), I have tested a few restores for images and documents. The restores were performed and exectuted by selecting the files needed via the Crashplan application and then defining a target location for restore. The restores were quick and accurate in restoring my images and documents without a problem.
A Wrap Up
For the price and the feature set I find that Crashplan is a great value for the money. I’ve had success running back-ups and restores both storing my data in the cloud with Crashplan’s subscription service as well as using there free back-up to USB drive option. For any Photographer looking for a reasonably priced solution this could be your ticket.
In addition, if you are looking for more information on Crashplan and how to use it to support your photography addition check out the great article written by the Crashplan developers over at Code 24. Photographers Guide to Backing Up Using Crashplan
If you have your own experiences with the tool, leave a short Crashplan review in the comments.