With CrashPlan getting out of the consumer cloud backup game, what’s next best?

recommended in 2015—announced earlier this week that it was getting out of the consumer backup game to focus on its enterprise offerings. Customers have until October 22, 2018 to find alternative backup solutions.

CrashPlan’s service was compelling because it was inexpensive—$60 per year for a single computer—offered unlimited storage, and had a good (if not great) client for both backup and restore operations. It’s recommending its customers switch to either its small business plan, which doubles the price to $120, or to Carbonite. Carbonite has a $60 plan that’s comparable (and migrating CrashPlan users get a 50 percent discount on that price), if a little less convenient (it won’t automatically back up files greater than 4GB, though they can be manually backed up), but has a functional deficit relative to CrashPlan. While Carbonite supports versioning (so that you can restore older copies of your files) and a personal encryption key, it only does this when using its Windows client. The macOS client lacks both features.

CrashPlan isn’t the first cloud backup company to shake up its offerings in a way that leaves customers unhappy. In 2011, for example, the popular Mozy service dropped its $5/month unlimited cloud backup plan, replacing it with a $6/month 50GB plan. Non-backup services have also struggled; Bitcasa, for example, launched in 2011 with an unlimited cloud storage offering for $10/month or $100/year. In 2013, this price was raised to $1,000/year, and in 2014 the company dropped the unlimited plan entirely. In 2015, Microsoft dropped its unlimited OneDrive storage plan.

These retreats seem to have been largely financial in nature, with companies finding that while most users of their services don’t use much storage, there are always outlier users that use tens of terabytes or more, making the economics of such services untenable. CrashPlan insists that its decision is motivated by a desire to better serve business users, but this claim is a little hard to reconcile with its continued promotion of its small business plan. Functionally, the small business offering is very similar to the old home plan—it’s just more expensive, and hence, more likely to actually make money.

As such, it’s not entirely surprising that many of the alternatives on the market, such as Zoolz Cloud Archive, IDrive Online Backup, ElephantDrive, and Acronis True Image, don’t offer unlimited storage.options at all.

Of the services that do still offer unlimited storage, Backblaze has consistently taken second place to CrashPlan. Backblaze is unusually open about the way the company provisions its storage; it regularly publishes data about the reliability of the hard disks themselves, and also publishes the designs for its high density storage servers.

Perhaps more significantly, the company has consistently maintained to us that its consumer backup service is profitable. While this provides no guarantees that a later pivot might take it out of the market, this probably represents the best safeguard that Backblaze will continue to provide consumer cloud backup services indefinitely.

The historic reasons for preferring CrashPlan to Backblaze also seem to be somewhat diminished. In the past, Backblaze had a strong backup client, but a much weaker story for restores, with all file restoration happening not through the backup app, but through the Backblaze website. Files couldn’t be directly downloaded, either, but had to be zipped up first. In an update made earlier this month, that changed; files smaller than 30MB can now be retrieved directly.

The company also continues to offer the option to have your files put onto a hard disk and mailed to you. If you mail the hard disk back when you’re done with it, there’s no charge for this service, either.

As such, Backblaze is the way to go.

Cloud backups are great for protection against fire, flooding, theft, and similar disasters, but for bare metal restores and rebuilds, a local backup is important and valuable. Mac users can, of course, use Time Machine for this. Macs can reinstall their operating system directly from the Web and then recover their working state from a local Time Machine backup. Windows users have no such easy option; while the latest Surface devices can in fact install Windows from the Web too, most Windows systems will need install media of some kind. The File History system that’s included in Windows 10 is a not-quite-as-good-as-the-original copy of Time Machine, but it should be enough to get the job done.

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