CrashPlan has decided to focus entirely on its SMB customers with CrashPlan for Business; so far it seems to have paid off.
By Joseph Gildred – Last Updated: 26 Feb'18
In August, 2017, CrashPlan sent coffee spitting out of mouths everywhere when its users woke up to the news that the company would be withdrawing from the consumer backup competition. CrashPlan made the move, ostensibly, to focus solely on its business customers.
While that’s a tough break for consumers given CrashPlan’s popularity as a home computer backup solution, the added product attention is likely good news for business owners. Here at Cloudwards.net, we already rank CrashPlan for Small Business (formerly CrashPlan PRO) as one of the best cloud backup for business solutions available today.
The reasons for that high regard are many, including the fact that CrashPlan grants you unlimited backup, doesn’t cost much, has an option for private encryption and has some of the best versioning capabilities of any online backup service we’ve reviewed.
If you’re itching to give CrashPlan a spin to see if it’s a fit for your business, you can visit Crashplan for Business and sign up for a 30-day free trial. Otherwise, keep reading to see where the service shines and where it falls short as we breakdown its features, cost, user experience, security and support.
- Unlimited backup
- Competitive pricing
- Backup external drives
- Mobile file access
- Browser-based admin dashboard
- Customizable versioning
- Retains deleted files indefinitely
- Live chat/telephone support
- Doesn’t backup by file type
- Backup for just one computer
- No two-factor authentication
- No mobile device backup
- No multithreaded backups
- No courier recovery
- No nights/weekend live support
The feature that sets CrashPlan for Small Business apart from many other online backup tools for business is that it provides true unlimited backup. There’s no cap when you get to 10TB of data and no file size limits. By comparison, competitors like Carbonite for Business and IDrive Business limit you to 250GB on their base plans and make you pay to add more storage capacity.
The catch is that CrashPlan only lets you backup one computer, while Carbonite and IDrive can be used to backup unlimited computers. You can, however, use a single CrashPlan subscription to backup as many external drives (but not NAS) as you want.
Operating systems supported by CrashPlan include Windows, Mac and Linux. You can download a client for any one of the three to manage your backup plan. CrashPlan also has mobile apps for Android and iOS that can be used to access files.
CrashPlan includes all of the basic online backup features we look for when evaluating a service. This includes continuous backup, scheduled backup, backup to local drives, incremental backup, deduplication, file compression, speed throttling, email notifications and block-level file copying. We’ll take a closer look at the general backup process in a bit.
CrashPlan also supports file versioning, which lets you revert back to previous file states to back out of unwanted changes or file corruptions. One of the nice things the backup service does is let you set your own versioning policy, which can be done from the desktop client.
Versioning with CrashPlan isn’t quite unlimited, but given that you can retain file versions based on 15 minute increments indefinitely, it might as well be. CrashPlan also gives you the option to keep deleted files indefinitely, which is nice since many online backup providers permanently remove them after 30 days.
Essential for business owners, CrashPlan grants admin access to monitor employee backups and even access their files. That way, you don’t have to spend too much time worrying about work laptops getting left on planes or stolen in coffee shops.
Security features, which we’ll also talk more about below, include at-rest encryption, in-transit encryption and optional private encryption.
In terms of what’s missing, there’s not much. There’s no built-in option for two-factor authentication, although CrashPlan can be integrated with an SSO platform like OneLogin. CrashPlan doesn’t let you run multithreaded backups to speed things up like Backblaze does. Also, mobile device backup — even just for photos — isn’t supported. CrashPlan also no longer has courier recovery.
Probably the biggest feature miss, however, is that CrashPlan backs up by file location rather than file type. We’ll harp on that a little more when we break down ease of use.
CrashPlan keeps its small business pricing simple: each computer you need to protect costs $10 a month and you get unlimited backup to work with. Unlimited backup means you and your employees don’t need to worry as much about what gets backed up and what doesn’t, which in turn lets you keep the focus on productivity.
There are no discounts for annual subscriptions. The cost is always billed monthly, which has the advantage of letting you cancel at any time. Prior to shelling out any money, however, you might as well take advantage of the 30-day free trial.
The cost seems good when you compare it to, say Carbonite for Office, which charges $200 per year for 250GB of backup, and $99 per additional 100GB that you need. Supposing that you need to backup 1TB of data on a single computer, that means Carbonite will set you back around $900 per year compared to $120 with CrashPlan.
The cost comparison analysis loses some luster, however, when you throw Backblaze into the mix. Backblaze for Business also lets you backup unlimited data for one computer at a rate of just $50 per year.
CrashPlan shouldn’t provide any serious hurdles for most users beyond getting past the initial backup phase, which can take days or weeks to complete depending on how much data you have to backup. The client takes just a couple of minutes to install, after which you’ll be asked to sign in.
On the other hand, while it isn’t hard to use, backup operations with CrashPlan could be simpler. As an unlimited backup service, Carbonite could simply backup based on file type. That way, you wouldn’t have to worry about whether you’ve added your documents, images, videos and other files to your backup plan because CrashPlan would be protecting everything. This is how unlimited backup with Backblaze works.
Instead, CrashPlan backs up based on file location, which means you need to manually tag folders and files for backup. That approach takes more time and is more prone to errors.
CrashPlan Desktop Client
The desktop client itself is well done and intuitive enough, with navigation tabs lined up vertically along the left side for backup, restore, settings, history and destination.
Small business owners looking for account oversight should be happy with the CrashPlan web interface, where you can check up on user statistics and monitor file restoration from a dashboard view.
There are also views to add and deactivate users, monitor and deactivate devices being backed up, download client apps and create reports to keep you on top of backup failures.
From a tactical standpoint, the web experience is an excellent tool for business owners with employee monitoring capabilities you don’t get with CrashPlan’s cheaper competitor, Backblaze.
The CrashPlan mobile app lets you access your files from anywhere without having to log into your laptop, but it has some usability issues. For example, it doesn’t let you share or preview content. You have to download files first and then open them in a compatible app like Microsoft Office Mobile. Some users report frequent app crashes, too, and as of this writing, the Android app hasn’t been updated in 17 months (since April, 2016).
Backing up files to CrashPlan requires that you tag their location in your file system. You can tag at both the folder and file level from the “backup” tab of the client.
While CrashPlan can’t simply backup all files based on extension, you can exclude certain file types from backup if you’d like to from the backup tab in settings.
Prior to starting your backup, you’ll want to designate a backup destination, too. By default, this is the CrashPlan cloud. However, you can also add local drives for backup. The advantage is that local drives can be used to restore data more quickly than from over the Internet. By setting a local drive, you’ll also still be backing up to the cloud, meaning you’ll be doubly protected.
You can also use CrashPlan to backup your external drives. So long as your drive is attached via USB or Firewire, it should show up. However, CrashPlan cannot be used to backup NAS devices (for that, check out our best online backup for NAS article).
Once you have your backup plan in place and your initial backup completes, by default CrashPlan will run backups continuously. Continuous backup is the best way to protect your hard drive as files are uploaded as changes are made.
That said, continuous backup can also hog system resources and impede other work. To account for that, you can limit how much processing power CrashPlan uses while you’re actively using your computer.
Another option is shutting off continuous backup and running scheduled backups, instead. You can choose when backup starts, when it stops and on which days it’s run.
In most cases, however, continuous backup shouldn’t be an issue and is the best bet to protect your business files.
Restoring Files with CrashPlan
When it comes to getting your files back from the cloud, there are a few different options available with CrashPlan.
The first is to use your desktop client by going to the “restore” tab. From there, you can navigate your stored folders and files and select what you’d like to grab from the server.
Below the file selection pane, you can click the “links” to select file version, permissions and location settings for your restore. Locations can be the original file location in your file system, your desktop or a folder on your desktop.
You can also restore files directly from your web browser by going to “devices” and clicking the restore icon associated with the device you want to restore from. Doing so means you don’t have to download the CrashPlan client to access files on a computer that isn’t yours. Also, if you’re the owner of your CrashPlan for Small Business account, you can access files that your employees have backed up.
CrashPlan also lets you access files from your smartphone, which we mentioned earlier.
One option missing from CrashPlan’s restore repertoire is courier recovery service, which it used to have until discontinuation in 2016. Courier recovery means that the backup provider loads your data onto an external drive and mails it to you, which is often faster than restoring gigabytes of data over the Internet. If courier recovery is something you need for your business, IDrive, Carbonite and Backblaze all offer it.
Backing up your hard drive is a smart idea, but it’s also a time-consuming pain in the tuches. Getting all of your data from your computer to the cloud can take several weeks, in fact, depending on how much you have to store, your Internet speeds, your location and how well your online backup service manages file transfers.
To determine how well CrashPlan for Small Business performs when it comes to backup and restore speed, we conducted a few simple upload and download tests using a 1GB compressed folder made up of various file types. Our tests were conducted from faraway Chiang Mai, Thailand, over a WiFi connection upload speeds of 20Mbps and download speeds of 25Mbps.
|Test One:||Test Two:||Average:|
Those upload speeds aren’t great. In fact, they’re pretty terrible, even for someplace faraway from the CrashPlan cloud, like Thailand. Interestingly, CrashPlan itself asserts that, on average, users can expect to backup 10GB of data per day.
That’s works out to about 1GB every 2.5 hours.
For a 20Mbps upload speed, without overhead, a file should take about seven minutes to transfer. Granted, online backup complicates the equation with file compression, encryption and deduplication processes, but even still it’s hard not to be disenchanted by our test times.
You can actually turn all three off to speed things up. We wouldn’t recommend doing so for obvious reasons, but shutting off deduplication in particular does seem to help tremendously, leaving us thinking that the issue rests in that algorithm in particular.
You can also throttle your file transfer speeds to limit how much bandwidth the backup process uses. CrashPlan even lets you set the client so that it increases speed when you’re away from your computer.
Finally, while the initial file transfer process takes time, afterward things should run much more smoothly. That’s in part because CrashPlan, like any good online backup service, uses block-level file copying to speed things up. This method of file copying means that when a file change occurs, only the parts (blocks) of the file that contained the change gets sent to the cloud.
CrashPlan for Small Business uses advanced encryption standard (AES) to scramble your data while at rest on its servers. This encryption takes place before your files leave your computer. The level of AES used to protect files is 256-bit and backup transmissions are further encrypted using 128-bit AES. There have been no known hacks of AES encryption and, in fact, it’s estimated it would take a supercomputer billions of years to brute force crack an AES key.
By default, CrashPlan will hold onto your encryption key for you. That way, if you ever forget your password, the company can reset it. However, it also means that a malicious employee or hacker that gains access to the server where user credentials are stored could pilfer your intellectual property, business records and other sensitive data.
If that’s a risk you’d rather not take, you can set up a private encryption key from within the security settings pane of the desktop client.
Regardless of whether your go with a private encryption key or let CrashPlan generate one for you, you’ll want to make sure you create a strong user password since, 256-bit encryption or not, your files are really only as safe as your password. Often times, cloud services help protect users from password hacks by letting them turn on two-factor authentication. However, that’s not a feature that CrashPlan supports yet, which is probably where it falls the most short on security.
We mentioned earlier that CrashPlan supports versioning. It’s also worth a mention that versioning offers a measure of protection against ransomware, an increasing concern for businesses. With versioning, rather than pay out ransom money for uncorrupted copies of your files, you can just revert to intact copies once you’ve removed the malware that caused the issue.
As far as data center security, CrashPlan maintains 24/7 surveillance of its facilities in addition to other safeguards against intrusion. The facilities are also equipped to resist failure, whether from device malfunction, power outage, fire, earthquake or another disaster.
CrashPlan maintains several support channels, which includes telephone, email and live chat. The variety should appeal to small business owners who can’t wait around for problems to get resolved. However, telephone and live chat support are only available Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m to 7:00 p.m. U.S. Central Time. If something goes wrong at night or over the weekend, you’ll need to either wait, figure it out on your own or give email support a try.
Email support is funneled through a ticketing system that’s supposedly monitored 24/7. Of course, we put that to the test to check response times, firing off a request at 3:29 a.m. Central Time.
We received a response back in a little over 12 hours. Note, however, that we asked a relatively minor question about two-factor authentication. CrashPlan maintains a triage team that escalates more important tickets for faster responses.
If you’re more of a DIY user, CrashPlan also maintains a support site with articles for both CrashPlan for Small Business and Enterprise articles. Small Business articles include a guide for admins, a user guide and FAQs. You can also search for articles to find relevant content more quickly.
CrashPlan also keeps a community page, which could be a good way of crowdsourcing solutions to problems if anybody used it…
Overall, CrashPlan supplies a reasonable amount of support that should do the job for most business users.
CrashPlan for Small Business isn’t a perfect backup solution for SMBs. Our biggest complaint is that the service doesn’t take advantage of its unlimited backup capacity to simplify the user experience with file-type rather than file-location backup. We’d also like to see backup for mobile included, even if it’s just for photos, and two-factor authentication. Additionally, deduplication seems to really slow the file transfer rate down.
Beyond those complaints, however, there are plenty of excellent reasons to pick CrashPlan to backup your business’s computers. Unlimited storage means you don’t need to worry about what gets backed up and what doesn’t and $10 per computer means you can do so without hurting your bottom line too much. Private encryption means better control over your intellectual property. CrashPlan also has some of the most accommodating versioning and deleted file retention setups of any online backup solution we’ve ever tested.
That’s all we’ve got on CrashPlan for Small Business for now. Hopefully, the company will redeem its decision to sunset its services for home consumers by continuing to hone the business client with more features and a smoother experience. Until then, we welcome your comments below and thanks for reading.