Backups Done Right

For all those who are still riding the “Crashplan Home” wagon, you know that time is running out.

The disk is the single component of your computer that will definitely fail.

I always had the feeling I was doing backups wrong. I’ve done them since I can remember but I could never shake the “there has to be a better way”. From early on, we’re talking 90’s, I mashed a home-brewed set of scripts that did the job. It then evolved to an intricate solution involving downtime and Clonezilla and eventually to the ever-present rsync where I tried to hammer life into a differential backup. That is, up until 2010 when I smashed head-first into Crashplan and started doing three-tier backups.

Backup to three simultaneous zones each progressively slower to restore

Crashplan obviously allowed to backup to Code42’s Cloud but excelled in doing backups to multiple zones. 3-2-1 backups are the recommended form of backup by the US-CERT Team and they excel at several levels:

  • Local Backup – fastest to restore from but the first to disappear if instead of a broken hard drive you experience theft or a fire. I know a couple of people and at least one business who only had local backups and were left empty-handed after robberies.

  • Nearby Backup – a little slower as you’ll have to drive somewhere but fast enough to go live on the same day, prone to area-wide disasters like floods. I don’t know a single person who experienced both local and nearby backup failure but it may happen and if it does…

  • Cloud Backup – the safest of them all, also the slowest; depending on the amount of information it may take you a long time to download the full set of data (I’ve witnessed a friend cloud recover taking almost 9 days). Nothing feels safer though, than knowing your data is ten thousand miles away stored inside a former nuclear bunker by a team of dedicated experts.

Crashplan, against what the majority of the industry was doing in 2010, was unparalleled at this 3-2-1 backup with just a little configuration. While you could only backup to their cloud it offered a persuasive product in which you could send your data mostly everywhere – another drive in your computer, a friend’s machine across town or your own server on the other side of the Atlantic. Cloud-wise, for obvious reasons, it’s a walled-garden product; there’s no compelling reason for Code42 to allow you to use the competition.

Sometimes you’re forced to take an alternative path…

Until I had to re-evaluate my options…

And it’s fortunate that sometimes you’re forced to take the other side of the pathway. You see, 9 years ago Stefan Reitshamer started what is now known as Arq Backup and it’s fundamentally the tool we were waiting for. It’s got everything on the alternatives with the fundamental diference of freeing you from a specific cloud. Your software. Your data. Your choice of cloud.

Arq Backup has all the fundamentals correct. What a nice surprise it was when I dug up resource usage:

Compared to Crashplan, Arq Backup is minimal on resources.

The values from above are idle. During backups Arq will go up to 100MB and take about 5% CPU where Crashplan will go up to 800MB and eat about 8%. CPU values will obviously differ depending on your processor.

What about price?
Crashplan for unlimited data charged $9/month.
Arq Backup has a single fee of $50 and then it depends. It’s your choice, really.

Prices for Q3 2018:

Provider $/GB/month GB to reach Crashplan’s $9
Amazon S3 $0.021 428 GB
Backblaze B2 $0.005 1800 GB
Google Nearline $0.010 900 GB
Google Coldline $0.007 1285 GB
Microsoft Azure $0.018 500 GB

Your mileage will vary but my 200GB of digital trash are currently costing me $1/month on Backblaze B2. Should I also go with Backblaze’s backup client? Definitely no! While I do appreciate what Backblaze has been doing from the very start, their blog is mandatory, switching clouds using Arq is as simple as pointing to another location. For me, personally, the cost of Arq will be offset in 6 months. But it’s not even that what compels me to use it, it’s the freedom you gain. It’s knowing that if Amazon tomorrow goes bananas and drops price to $0.001 you can switch clouds with a simple click keeping the backup client you’re already familiar with. No alternate setup. No extra testing.

Don’t just take my word for it:

This post is not sponsored, I put my money on software I believe in.

Mike from PhotoKaz brought to attention the price difference between B2 and BackBlaze when the the amount of data starts pilling.

I have 5TB of data stored at Backblaze, if I put that on their B2 service it would cost >$300/year instead of $60. I’ll pass.

BackBlaze regular gives you unlimited data. Storage has a direct physical correlation to drives thus the ideia of it being inexhaustible doesn’t scale. Like BackBlaze says, BitCasa, Dell DataSafe, Xdrive, Mozy, Amazon, Microsoft and Crashplan all tried but eventually discontinued unlimited plans. The only two still in the game are BackBlaze and Cabonite which can only offer it by offsetting the returns of the majority with that of the few that effectively overcost.

As a final customer you should go with the deal that best fits you.

As such, the cost effective sweet-spot is everything bellow 1TB.

Size BackBlaze B2
100GB $60 $6
500GB $60 $30
1TB $60 $60
5TB $60 $300

But I like Arq Backups and their inherent flexibility so much that if I’d ever find myself on the 5TB+ tier I’d probably still use Arq client and setup a NAS on a remote location. Backups are completely encrypted and I’d keep the flexibility of choice. Mind you that an 8TB NAS goes for $400 so BackBlaze home, cost effective, is probably still a better choice. Thanks for the input Mike!

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