If youve read any articles about Mac-based local and cloud backup software and services by me or any other long-time tech writers, youll know that, first, we largely recommended Code42s CrashPlan for Home and, second, we have long also had concerns about it. That turned out to be reasonable, given that Code42 has announced the end of its Home product. Now it’s time to pursue a CrashPlan alternative, and this article will help get you started.
First off, why did we like CrashPlan for Home so much? It was comprehensive, letting you back up nearly anything to anything: from a computer to external drives; from one computer to another you controlled for networked or remote backup; from one computer to a peer, a computer run by a friend or colleague, with full encryption so that person didnt need to worry about protecting your files; and to CrashPlans central cloud servers. It also had two strong options for user-controlled encryption.
CrashPlans funky old client will be no more soon.
But that was balanced with how ugly, awkward, and slow the Java-based client software was. Yes, Java! Code42 had promised a native Mac client starting years ago, which it deliveredonly to business users. Over the last few years, it got rid of multi-year, highly discounted subscriptions, and a method of seeding a backup by sending a hard drive and the complementary method of restoring by having them send a backup on a drive to you.
On August 22, Code42 announced it will discontinue its home offering, focusing instead on business and enterprise customers. While I long expected it, Code42s reassurances over the years feel a bit like ashes to those that stuck with the software.
Theyre not shutting down their Home servers tomorrow, or even soon, but if youre a user, you could wind up with a decision point to make in as soon as 60 days. I have suggestions for how you can shift your backup strategy and enhance it.
Code42 will stop operating its CrashPlan for Home cloud services on October 22, 2018. As of August 22, it no longer offers renewals or new subscriptions. All customers received a two-month extension on their expiration date to make sure nobody was canceled immediately. (There are no refunds, which seems unfair to recent subscribers. Without offering legal advice, you can check with your states consumer-protection agency about whether this violates regulations in your state.)
But heres the problem. If youre using CrashPlan in any reasonable way, youre not just cloning your current set of files, youre archiving older versions. The value of continuous cloud-based backup is having access to often many previous versions of the same file, including deleted files. You can configure CrashPlan and many other cloud services to control the depth of archives, when theyre culled, and how long and whether to retain deleted files.
Because Code42 will be shutting down its Home servers, unless youve maintained a separate local, networked, or peer-to-peer backup over the same period of time with the same settings, youll lose your archivesunless you migrate to another one of its services.
Code42 is offering a highly discounted migration option to its Small Business service that retains all your files (up to 5TB per computer) and gives you access to the native CrashPlan client that was once promised for Home users. Code42 will charge you nothing for the remainder of your Home subscription, 75 percent off the rack rate for 12 months, and then the full price. (If your Home subscription expires after the October 22, 2018, cutoff date, Code42 will migrate your files automatically to keep the paid-for service in operation.)
This flavor is $10 per month per computer, twice that of the Home services individual rate (if paid annually). But if you were using CrashPlans family offering, you paid as little as $12.50 a month on an annual basis for up to 10 computers. The Small Business software doesnt support peer-to-peer backups, but I suspect that feature was most important years ago before cloud storage was abundant and inexpensive. CrashPlan is also offering a discount on one-time rival Carbonites backup offerings, which I dont recommend for Mac users, for reasons described in the next section.
Given theres no penalty as long as your subscription is active, the path of least resistance would be migration to the Small Business offering if you have more than a few months left. This lets you evaluate other options and get the benefit of the better software without having to make a quick decision.
Id also suggest migration within Code42s systems if its critical to you to not lose any of these past archives. CrashPlan offers no tools to download or extract entire archives.
A separate strategy to retain archives and abandon Code42 would be to use CrashPlans restore feature to find a snapshot or snapshots of particular folders and retrieve those and keep those stored locally with carefully chosen names so you can walk backward in time to find those files.
While your account remains active, you can also use CrashPlans Web app to retrieve files. Youre limited to 500MB in a given restore set at a time.
If your archives arent important to you in the long run, or youre using Dropbox or other sync services to handle archives of files you create and modify, then youre not tied down. Lets look at how to cut the cord.
Because CrashPlan comprises local computer, networked, peer-to-peer, and cloud-based backup software and services, its possible you will need multiple methods to replace it. I recommend for most people that you have a clone of your system, an offsite clone or archive, and a cloud-based archive. (The clone allows a quick recovery from a failed or corrupted drive; the offsite clone can offer a similar benefit for a stolen computer or one destroyed in a disaster. If you encrypt your backup drive, you dont have to worry as much about it being stolen from an offsite location, too.)
Some people use very few applications, and rely on cloud-based photo, email, contacts, and calendars, in which case the most critical part is being able to have two backups beyond those synced documents and other files. Syncing services arent perfect, though its been a long time since I last heard of any major service having any data loss for customers.
Backblaze offers streamlined, speedy cloud backups.
Switch your cloud backup. The cloud part of CrashPlan is easiest. I recommend Backblaze hands down. Its affordable relative to CrashPlan for Small Business at $5 a month, $50 a year, or $95 for two years. It has a native and exceedingly fast backup client, recently upgraded to be even faster. Its been reliable in my usage of nearly two years, and its highly recommended by a number of long-time Mac pundits, writers, and tech heads who I know and trust. With a gigabit Internet connection, my backups can pass hundreds of megabits a second upstream.
Backblaze wont archive system files; thats the right behavior for a clone, and not for archiving software, anyway. What makes it stand out over Carbonite, which I dont recommend, is its encryption implementation. Lets be fair: CrashPlan does it best, if you use either of two strong options they offer. Using CrashPlans crummy Home or newer native clients, all encryption and decryption can happen using a key only you possess and know and entirely in the client.
Backblaze has the right set up for encryption, allowing you to choose a private key only you know and can access. Data is encrypted in its client and sent to its servers. Carbonite lacks this option on its Mac clients. Backblaze falls down only in restoring files: it only restores via a Web app, which requires its servers to temporarily possess your key. That opens a place of risk if its server software were compromised or it faced secret government orders, which are unfortunately a real thing in the U.S. and other countries. Id like them to evolve past this, and offer native on-computer decryption, which removes the risk nearly entirely of third-party access.
(You can read more details about CrashPlan, Backblaze, Carbonite, and other cloud-based backup services encryption implementations in a feature I wrote last year.)
Time Machine lets you pick any drive as a backup destination.
Switch your local and networked backup. If you were using CrashPlan for local or networked backup, the easiest swap is to Time Machine. Time Machine has a primary problem of being a black box, and when something goes wrong with an archive, you cant repair it. This is especially true with Time Capsule, which has an internal drive on which you cant run Disk Utilitys First Aid. Since I recommend rotating your clones offsite, Time Capsule also requires owning two Time Capsules to accomplish that, or using an attached external drive, which is very slow. I do recommend Time Machine for local and networked backup via a drive attached to one of your Macs as a combination of clone and archive. Just own two similar capacity drives, keep one offsite securely, and rotate them occasionally.
Time Machine has deep archives accessed via an outdated graphical interface.
You should also enable encryption on any drive you use with Time Machine. Then if someone were to obtain your Time Machine drive when your computer was powered down or grab one of your offsite drives, your data remains effectively impregnable. (See these instructions for turning encryption on with an external drive.)
Ive also experimented with using the Arq archiving software as a Time Machine and cloud service alternative. Arq archives files in human-readable format, not a proprietary one. It can archive them remotely to a variety of consumer-level and enterprise-class cloud account and usage-based storage systems. I reviewed Arq a few months ago. Its not terribly complicated and lets you set your own encryption for each archived destination. Depending on your needs, Econ Technologies ChronoSync might be the better option, even though its deeply complicated and better suited for sync or for very fiddly archiving plans; it has archive features and works with local and networked drives, and various cloud services, too.
Switch your cloning. If you were using CrashPlan to clone your systemCode42 didnt recommend that! But you could do it, anyway. Switch instead to Time Machine, which creates an effective clone as part of its basic operations; or pick SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner, software dedicated to creating scheduled clones on local drives or to disk images.
Switch your peer-to-peer backup. If youve been using CrashPlan to swap files with someone you know elsewhere also running the software, theres no direct replacement, and it may be time to start rotating backups offsite to a safe-deposit box or other secure location. More advanced users could look into using SFTP (Secure FTP), which uses a secure connection to access files, and will work over the Internet if your computer has a publicly routable IP address. It can be enabled as easily as checking the Remote Access box in the Sharing system preference pane, and it allows logins via macOS accounts. Pair this with Arq or ChronoSync.
If you want to continue to be able to restore files from your CrashPlan archives for as long as your subscription is active using the Mac client, you have to leave the software installed. You also cannot delete a backup set or change the contents of the set. If you do so, CrashPlan deletes the files that you removed or the entire backup set from your archives.
Instead, use Settings > Backup to change the frequency from Always to run in the least frequent amount of time, like 6:00 am to 6:01 am on Mondays.
However, if youre ready to remove the application entirely and never retrieve archives or use the Web site for restoring (limited to 500MB of restoration at a time), follow Code42s instructions on using its uninstall app. This allows directs you to find additional folders to delete that may have temporary or cached data.
Code42s decision reminds us how much other peoples business plans can affect our need for the persistence of data. Because Code42 uses a proprietary format and youre just effectively renting space on its servers, you cant retrieve your raw archives and move them. Its not like shifting from one email program to another.
As part of any change you make, if you need deep archives that you own for a long time or forever, Id urge that you look into software that lets you retain those and in a format you can read without requiring third-party software.
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