To help you make the best backup decision for your needs, we decided to take a look at three of our favorite backup solutions side-by-side: IDrive, CrashPlan and Backblaze. At Cloudwards.net, we’re all about convenience.
Why We Use Cloud Backup
Chances are, the fact that you’re reading this article means you already grasp at least some of the benefits of storing your data in the cloud.
To recap for those still in the dark, cloud backup lets you send your hard drive data to a remote data center for safekeeping. By storing your data remotely, you lessen the chance that hard drive failure, physical damage, theft, viruses or ransomware will part you from your valuable files.
There’s likely a good chance you already understand the key differences between cloud backup and cloud storage, too. Namely, while cloud storage solutions like Google Drive and Sync.com are fantastic for work productivity, they’re not designed to efficiently protect your hard drive.
The biggest issue with using cloud storage for backup is that such tools usually follow the Dropbox model of making you move any files you want to safeguard into a specialized sync folder. While doing so streamlines your workflow, it isn’t a good way backup your data because it makes it easy to overlook important content.
Cloud backup solutions, on the other hand, let you tag folders and files for backup no matter where they are in your file system. Many, like Carbonite and Backblaze, even automate the process so you don’t have to worry whether you’re backing up every single document, video or photo on your hard drive.
Unlike cloud storage solutions, most cloud backup solutions also incorporate backup schedulers and other tools to help manage the process so it doesn’t sap resources and prevent your from getting your work done.
The Match: IDrive vs CrashPlan vs Backblaze
There are many excellent cloud backup solutions available. Two Cloudwards.net favorites, super-secure SpiderOak and user-friendly Carbonite, aren’t featured in this article. Rest assured, however, as we’ve written plenty of material on both services.
We chose to feature IDrive, CrashPlan and Backblaze in this article because they present a fascinating case study in how approaches to cloud backup products can differ drastically despite having the same goal in mind. Those differences are highlighted in part in our 2017 best online backup roundup.
In that roundup, our three featured services earned top rankings in four of five categories:
- Best unlimited backup: CrashPlan
- Easiest cloud backup: Backblaze
- Best cloud backup with syncing: IDrive
- Best business cloud backup: IDrive
In our 2017 rankings for best overall cloud backup, which you can find in the same article, IDrive, CrashPlan and Backblaze listed first, second and third, respectively. Not only are these three cloud backup solutions the best consumer options available, they earn top marks for very different reasons.
Coming up, we’ll go through the pros and cons of each service during five rounds of point-by-point analysis: price plans, tools, features, speed and security. If you’d like to get the headlines on what we like about these services, check out our video reviews below.
IDrive Video Review
CrashPlan Video Review
Backblaze Video Review
Round One: Price Plans
First up, we’ll take a look at backup limits and cost to help you determine which solution best fits your budget and data needs.
Maybe the most obvious thing that sets IDrive apart from the crowd of online backup services is that all of its plans, from basic to business, allow you to backup unlimited devices with a single subscription. Most providers either limit you to one device or make you sign up for a more expensive multi-computer plan. That includes both CrashPlan and Backblaze.
However, IDrive does not provide you with unlimited storage space, which is also a break from the model used by many other top cloud backup services. That’s not surprising if you think about it, though, since offering both unlimited storage and unlimited device backup wouldn’t be the smartest business strategy.
All of IDrive’s plans also come with separate but equal buckets of backup and sync space. Very few competing backup services offer sync, a key component of cloud storage. Notably exceptions include Livedrive, Sugarsync and SpiderOak.
IDrive offers a free plan, but given that it’s limited to 5GB of backup space (+5GB of sync space), it probably won’t suffice for most hard drive backups. The two basic personal plans should, however, get the job done.
1-year plan $ 4.34/ month
$52.12 billed every year
2-year plan $ 4.34/ month
$104.25 billed every 2 years
1-year plan $ 6.22/ month
$74.62 billed every year
2-year plan $ 6.22/ month
$149.25 billed every 2 years
1-year plan $ 6.22/ month
$74.62 billed every year
2-year plan $ 6.22/ month
$149.25 billed every 2 years
1-year plan $ 12.47/ month
$149.62 billed every year
2-year plan $ 12.47/ month
$299.25 billed every 2 years
1-year plan $ 31.22/ month
$374.62 billed every year
2-year plan $ 31.22/ month
$749.25 billed every 2 years
Both tiers require that you pay a year in advance. However, IDrive is currently offering 25 percent discounts on the first 12 months of service. You can save fifty percent on the first year if you pay for 24 months in advance.
With the one year discount on a 1TB plan, which is what most users will need, that works out to just $4.34 a month — a bargain in the cloud backup sector.
SMBs and IT professionals may be more tempted by IDrive’s business plans, which offer additional features like sub accounts, server backup and priority support.
Monthly options are available for the four most expensive plans, but your get two free months by paying for a year in advance. Right now, IDrive is offering an additional 25 percent discount on annual business plan subscriptions, too.
CrashPlan lets you backup unlimited data, but limits how many devices you can backup.
There is no free version of CrashPlan, exactly, but you can take it on a 30-day test drive to see how you like it. Afterwards, you can keep using the CrashPlan interface to manage your local external drive, but will be cut off from online backup.
CrashPlan has two basic consumer plans.
|CrashPlan for Business|
CrashPlan also a more expensive business plan, which is priced at $10 per month per computer. With the business plans, you get additional admin and dashboard controls, plus 24/7 phone support.
Backblaze’s pricing structure is about as simple as it gets.
1-year plan $ 5.00/ month
$60.00 billed every year
Save 17 %
2-year plan $ 4.58/ month
$110.00 billed every 2 years
Save 24 %
There’s no free plan, although there you can try Backblaze out for 15 days before committing. Backblaze also doesn’t offer any sort of family plan or discount for multiple computers.
There is a business plan, though, priced at $50 per year per computer. That’s the same cost as signing up for a year of personal plan service. The difference is that the business plan gives you some admin controls to track billing and generate reports.
Round One Thoughts:
As you can see, there are some pretty big differences between each service’s pricing model. To summarize:
- IDrive offers a complicated array of pricing options
- Backblaze takes a minimalistic approach
- CrashPlan offers something of a middle ground
What’s interesting is that these three approaches to pricing fundamentally align with other aspects of how each service approaches the backup business, which we’ll see in the coming rounds.
Which one is the best approach when it comes to value? If you only have one computer to backup, probably Backblaze. It’s $5 month-to-month plan matches the annual cost of CrashPlan. Compared with its own annual plan, you wind up paying $10 more per year if you go month-to-month. However, the luxury of being able to cancel at any time is one some users will covet.
If you don’t mind paying for a year in advance, Backblaze’s annual cost is still the best deal if you’re only looking to backup one computer.
If you have multiple computers and less than 1TB of total data, IDrive makes more sense. If you have three or more computers to backup and more than 1TB, CrashPlan should be your pick. $13.99 per month for unlimited backup on 2-10 computers is a bargain.
Round Two: Tools
During round two, we’ll look at operating system support, desktop tools, browser access and mobile access.
IDrive works with a broader range of platforms than most cloud backup solutions, which is a nice benefit for a service that lets you backup unlimited devices.
Desktop applications are available for both Windows and Mac, but not for Linux. The interface itself is packed with functionality.
It’s not easy on the eyes, but the convenience of having so many features a click or two away means less digging through menus.
Along the left side, you’ll find handy tabs for basic IDrive capabilities: backup, restore, scheduler, sync, server backup and settings. We’ll get into a few specific features of these tabs in the next round. Note that the server backup tab is for business account users.
While most of your backup management will be handled via the desktop tool, IDrive’s web interface is likewise feature rich and maybe a bit easier to use.
For the most part, you’ll be using the web interface to get at stored content from a browser, which is useful for when you’re on a computer that doesn’t have the IDrive application installed.
Mobile access to your cloud backup data can achieved with downloadable apps for Android, iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Windows Phone.
Most online backup services only let you access stored data via the mobile app, but IDrive actually lets you backup mobile data, too. This includes:
- Contact lists
- Calendar events
Android users can also backup texts, call logs and apps.
In addition to devices content, IDrive does something else that most other cloud backups don’t do: it lets you backup your social media accounts. This includes both Facebook and Instagram.
IDrive Business plans also include the ability to backup Linux servers, not to mention several popular business platforms such as MS SQL Server, VMWare and Oracle servers.
CrashPlan has desktop applications available for Windows, Mac and Linux. The desktop interface sports a nice combination of aesthetics and features.
Along the left, you’ll find menu tabs for backup, restore, settings, history, friends and destinations. The experience isn’t nearly as overwhelming as working with IDrive thanks to better menu design within each tab. The two-tone look is easier to take in, too, which helps minimize distraction.
CrashPlan also provides subscribers with browser-based access so you can get at your data from anywhere without having to download the desktop tool.
The web UI is pretty straightforward and intuitive, just like the desktop tool.
CrashPlan mobile apps are available for both Android, iPhone and iPad. The mobile apps work fine for accessing your stored content, but they can’t be used to backup phone data. CrashPlan’s business plan can’t be used to backup your Linux server, Oracle, SharePoint or other platforms favored by businesses.
Backblaze supports backup for Windows and Mac. The desktop interface for either operating system has the most minimalist design of any online backup service we’ve tested. That’s a big reason why it took first place in our 2017 rankings for easiest cloud backup.
There are buttons to pause and start backup, restore data and alter your settings. Aside from a few lines of basic information, that’s pretty much all you’ll find.
This beautifully streamlined approach will keep less tech-savvy users from getting overwhelmed. Combined with a few complimentary features that we’ll touch on shortly, the design really helps to make the entire backup process as invisible as possible.
As with IDrive and CrashPlan, it’s mostly a way to get at your stored data from a browser in case your computer isn’t handy or your hard drive has crashed, and you really need a file.
Backblaze has mobile apps for Android, iOS and iPad. Like with CrashPlan, the apps are mostly used to view and share stored content.
Round Two Thoughts
Once again, there’s more separating our three featured backup solutions than you’d think possible.
IDrive supports more platforms than CrashPlan and Backblaze, including mobile backups. More business platform options also means IDrive will probably appeal to businesses more than the other two services, which is why we gave it the top nod in our best cloud backup for business rankings.
That said, IDrive also has more complex interfaces than most other cloud backup services. This may appeal to technically included users and those who like to be very involved in monitoring their backup routine. Others may find it overwhelming.
Backblaze takes the opposite approach by reducing its interface to the bare minimum of what you need, and that’s going to appeal to many people, too. CrashPlan, of course, strikes a balanced approach, blending options with streamlined looks.
Despite its complexity, it’s hard not to give IDrive the round on account of its mobile support support and business platform options. We only wish that its personal plan had a Linux desktop tool.
Round Three: Features
We’ve talked about pricing and we’ve looked at the tools. During this segment, we’ll break down the features.
Like any good cloud backup, IDrive lets you schedule routine backups for when you’re tucked in for the night. Plan your backups from IDrive’s scheduler tab.
As you might expect from from IDrive, the scheduler is loaded with options. You can set start and end times, limit backups to certain days of the week and create notifications to keep you informed.
In addition to scheduled backups, IDrive also offers persistent backup for files under 500MB in size. Cloud backups services generally term this feature “continuous backup.” With IDrive continuous backup can be set to run close to real time, or every 10, 30 or even 60 minutes.
When you install IDrive, it will automatically tag certain folders for backup to try and capture all of your documents, photos and videos. However, there are no limitations on type of file that can be backed up on IDrive. You can mark any file or folder you want to save from the backup tab.
The desktop application lets you send those selections to both the IDrive cloud and an external hard drive. Being able to do both is useful: It’s smart to keep both local and remote copies of your data but a hassle to manage those processes separately.
We mentioned that IDrive gives users a separate data bucket for “sync.” Sync is a work productivity feature that automatically aligns content across your devices. That idea is that you can hop from device to device without having to transfer work content with a flash drive.
Any files stored in backup or sync can also be shared by generating a URL link. Links can be sent to email recipients or shared on social media.
IDrive also supports file versioning. File versioning lets you revert back to previous versions of files. This helps you undo unwanted changes and lessen the risk of file corruption, including that caused by ransomware. IDrive retains the 10 most recent versions of any file stored in backup or sync. Deleted items are also kept for 30 days.
Unlike IDrive, CrashPlan defaults to continuous backup and does not limit the size of the backed-up files continuously.
Continuous backup ensures you never lose a file and CrashPlan does a nice job with file compression to ensure backup processes don’t impact system resources. However, those with less computing power may want to turn go with scheduled backups, which are also an option.
CrashPlan’s scheduler is pretty straightforward. You can set a start and end time, and enable or disable days of weeks on which backups run.
CrashPlan tags certain folders for backup when you install it. There are also no file-type restrictions with CrashPlan. Tagging for backup is achieved through the file tree on the backup tab.
Like IDrive, the selection process can be a little tedious. Also, it’s very easy to overlook files and folders that you want to save. CrashPlan does let you manage external drive backup from the desktop tool, though, which is a big time saver.
You can also use CrashPlan to backup your hard-drive data to a friend’s computer, which is a unique feature to this service. Your friend won’t have access to these files unless you want them too, and they don’t have to be a CrashPlan subscriber themselves.
Another thing we love about CrashPlan is that it doesn’t skimp on the unlimited data. You can backup files of unlimited size, and even retain unlimited versions of any file. You can even retain deleted files indefinitely. This flexibility helped CrashPlan win our category for best unlimited cloud backup for 2017. CrashPlan does not support file sharing, however.
Backblaze lets you backup data continuously, set a daily schedule or only backup on command. Continuous backup is the default, though. Backblaze’s schedule is almost too simple, making it one of the few times the service’s minimalist approach comes back to bite it a little.
Unlike with other cloud backup services, you can’t set days of weeks. You specify a start and an end time — and that’s it.
The backup process with Backblaze stands out with its file-selection process. You don’t have to spend time searching through your file tree for folders and files you want to tag for backup. Instead, Backblaze does the work for you by automatically finding and backing up all files of certain types as soon as installation completes.
Default file selections included:
While Backblaze does offer unlimited backup space, some files types are not selected for backup in order to alleviate bandwidth bottleneck. These include various system files and temporary internet files.
If you want, you can alter what file types get backed up by visiting the “exclusions” tab in settings.
In addition to backing up your computer’s hard drive, you can also backup external drives by connecting them to your computer via USB or firewire. However, unlike with IDrive and CrashPlan, the Backblaze interface does not let you back up to these drives. You’ll have to handle that manually.
More disappointing is that Backblaze also only supports file versioning and deleted file retention for up to 30 days. Given that it’s an unlimited service, it would be nice to see Backblaze double down with unlimited versioning like CrashPlan.
Round Three Thoughts
Backblaze’s simple approach to file backup is what sets it apart from every other cloud backup service. Only Carbonite really comes close in that regard — and not very. It’s easy to grasp why IDrive, which limits how much data users can back up, requires a more limited, user-controlled approach. However, CrashPlan should follow suit.
That said, Backblaze limited versioning is a concern, especially if you’re hit with a ransomware attack that corrupts content not recently updated. While CrashPlan takes more management, unlimited versioning and deleted file protection killer value proposition.
We like IDrive’s inclusion of sync, though, which allows it to not only compete in the backup space, but position itself as a secure cloud storage competitor in the mold of Sync.com. (We’ll talk about security in round five).
Round Four: Speed
Backup can take a frustrating amount of time, especially with mediocre Internet speeds and large files. During this round, we measure how our three contenders fair in a file transfer race, so you don’t have to find out the hard way. We promise to make it quick.
In order to test each provider, we prepared a 500GB compressed folder filled with various files types. Then, we let IDrive, CrashPlan and Backblaze try and upload the folder, one after the other.
These tests were performed on the same machine. We turned our Wi-Fi off and plugged our computer directly into our modem to limit bandwidth fluctuations. To eliminate bandwidth fluctuations, these tests were performed with Wi-Fi turned off, and my computer plugged directly into my home computer modem.
According to speedtest.net, download/upload speeds at the time of testing averaged 120Mbps/12Mbps.
|Upload time||Download time|
Generally speaking, upload time is the bigger drag on system resource, so give CrashPlan’s upload victory a little more weight than IDrive’s download win.
Incremental Backup and Speed Throttling
The raw data presented above isn’t the full picture.
All three services incorporate incremental backup in their file-transfer architecture. Incremental backup means that after a file has been uploaded once, future uploads will only take place if the file has changed. Better yet, only those parts (or blocks) of the file that are changed will be uploaded.
The beauty of incremental backup is that it cuts down considerably on the time it takes to backup files.
Additionally, all three services let you throttle your upload speeds. Throttling is a means of controlling how much bandwidth the services uses. While maxing out your throttle is the norm, if you have a bad internet connection, doing so could hamper your ability to simultaneously engage in other web activities (like watching Cloudwards.net video content).
IDrive also helps speed initial uploads and full restores along with their IDrive Express service.
IDrive will send you an external hard drive of up to 3TB, completely for free. You transfer the data you want to backup onto that drive and mail it back. IDrive support technicians will then upload your data onto their servers. Given that full initial backups can take days or weeks to complete, this is a huge advantage. Also, if you need to perform a full system restore, IDrive can load a hard drive with all your data and send it to you.
Backblaze offers a similar service, but only for restores. Unlike with IDrive, you have to pay for the hard drive in advance, though, at a cost of $189. You’ll get a refund after you send it back.
Round Four Thoughts
If you take into account IDrive’s mailing service, declaring a winner in this round becomes somewhat muddied. However, most users will likely never use IDrive Express, and day-to-day backup operations are more reliant on each service’s upload/download speeds.
None of the three services will kill you on on download times, but CrashPlan does seem to have an edge when it comes to uploads.
Round Four Winner: CrashPlan
Round Five: Security
Whether you’re a privacy advocate, own a business with sensitive content or you’re a cautious private citizen, examining the how well your cloud software commits to security should make your consumer checklist. During our final round, we’ll break down how IDrive, CrashPlan and Backblaze protect your data while in transit over the Internet and at rest server side.
IDrive encrypts data in transit with secure SSL connections. The service also encrypts your data while sitting stored in their data centers, which protects your content against data breaches. Your data is scrambled in both cases with 256-bit AES encryption, the protocol recommended by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.
One way IDrive sets themselves apart with regard to data security is by offering users the choice either a default or user-generated encryption key.
By choosing to set your own encryption key, only you, the user, can decrypt your content. This means IDrive can function as a zero-knowledge backup solution.
While we fully recommend your protect your data with with a private encryption key, know that if you forget you IDrive password, you’ll be permanently cut off from your cloud data. That means you’ll have to go through the initial backup process again.
Whether you go with a default key or set your own, all encryption takes place on your computer prior to transfer. Many cloud services then decrypt and scan your data before storing it on their servers. IDrive does not — they leave it encrypted until you pull it back. That makes IDrive an end-to-end encryption service.
CrashPlan doesn’t fool around when it comes to encryption, scrambling your data with 448-bit Blowfish before it leaves your machine. Most cryptographers consider 256-bit AES more secure, though, while marking Blowfish as the slighted faster protocol.
That said, neither protocol is believed to be even close to crackable, so don’t worry too much about the difference. Your data is further protected while moving between your computer and the cloud thanks to an SSL tunnel to prevent eavesdropping just in case.
Typically, CrashPlan creates encryption keys onsite with a random-number generator. However, like IDrive, the service also lets you enhance your data privacy by creating your own encryption key.
You can also create a separate archive password for restoring data that is different from your account password.
CrashPlan gives you the option of enabling two-factor authentication, too. With this feature enabled, you’ll be asked to enter your typical user credentials plus a one-time code delivered via text or email to access your data.
Backblaze “only” uses 128-bit AES encryption. However, that’s the same level of encryption used by most financial institutions. It would take several billion years for the world’s most advanced supercomputers to brute force AES-128.
Most cloud services go overboard with 256-bit encryption, in part to secure services against future breakthroughs, and in part for marketing.
LIke IDrive and CrashPlan, your data gets encrypted on before leaving your computer and remains encrypted in Backblaze’s data centers. In between, SSL shields it in transit.
Typically, Backblaze creates and retains the encryption key for you. However, also like IDrive and Backblaze, they offer users the option to create their own key.
Backblaze further matches pace with CrashPlan with optional two-factor authentication. CrashPlan’s version requires you to enter a six-digit code sent to your phone before accessing your data.
Round Five Thoughts
All three services do a fantastic job offering users the choice of creating private encryption keys that only they know. We wish more cloud services included this option. Despite the risk of losing your access, zero-knowledge encryption best ensures your data is never compromised. If you’re afraid of losing your password, a cloud password manager can help.
While IDrive is the only service of the three to use the recommended 256-bit AES encryption protocol, it’s also the only one that doesn’t offer two-factor authentication. We’re giving this round to CrashPlan, thanks to slightly better encryption that Backblaze.
However, it’s a close content and you really shouldn’t feel concerned with how any one of these three services approach security.
Round Five Winner: CrashPlan
If we were going purely by round wins, we’d probably call this matchup a tie between IDrive and CrashPlan. Both services took two rounds each. Ultimately, though, assigning value to any of these three services varies wildly depending on your personal data needs.
If you’re looking for an affordable solution to backup multiple computers and expect that 1TB won’t cut it, CrashPlan’s family plan probably provides the most value. But, if you’re only looking to backup one computer and don’t like to worry about details, Backblaze is probably the better option for you. We can’t help but admire its distinctively simplified approach to cloud backup.
Since we believe that most readers are multi-device users who will fall below the 1TB threshold, we ultimately have to give this battle to IDrive. IDrive’s sync capabilities, unlimited device backup and mobile backup are key features that you won’t find with most cloud backup solutions. While limited in how much data you can store, unless you deal with huge files routinely, like high definition video, that shouldn’t be a concern.
Think we got it wrong? We’re always open to other perspectives. Please let us know in the comments below, thanks for reading.