Backblaze is Cloudwards.net's top pick thanks to its unlimited storage, decent pricing and ease of use.
Backblaze has been providing end-user computer backup since 2007 and currently ranks as one of the most popular online backup solutions available. In fact, here at Cloudwards.net, we feel it’s the best overall choice for consumer online backup today, as you can read in our roundup of best online backup solutions.
The reasons for that come down to three things above all: Backblaze provides unlimited backup for your computer and external drives, sets the bar for online backup when it comes to ease of use and comes at a cheaper price than any other service.
We’ll talk about those benefits in much more depth throughout this Backblaze review, in addition to discussing its file transfer speeds, security and support. We’ll also point out where Backblaze falls short, which might lead some people to prefer Backblaze’s most competent competitor, IDrive, which you can read all about in our IDrive review.
If you’ve already made up your mind to give Backblaze a shot, head over to Backblaze to make use of the 15-day free trial. For an overview of online backup services for home users, be sure to check out our best cloud storage providers comparison chart.
- Unlimited device backup
- Inexpensive plans
- Sync capabilities
- File-sharing capabilities
- Harder to use than Backblaze
- No unlimited backup plan
- No two-factor authentication
- Not multithreaded backup
- Unlimited backup
- Low cost
- Very easy to use
- Backup by file type
- Block-level backup
- Continuous backup
- No bandwidth throttling
- External HD backup
- Mobile file access
- Courier recovery
- File versioning
- AES 128-bit encryption
- Two-factor authentication
- Multithreaded backup
- Live chat support
- Limited to one computer
- Private encryption not end-to-end
- No mobile backup
- Versioning limited to 30 days
Backblaze’s defining strength is its ease of use, which is rooted in the fact that it’s an unlimited backup service and works by simply backing up files based on their extension. There’s very little user management required.
Weaknesses include a lack of mobile backup and the fact that previous file versions aren’t kept indefinitely. Also, you’re limited to one computer, although that’s not surprising for an unlimited backup service.
There are some concerns with Backblaze’s approach to encryption, too, which is only private when you’re backing it up. More on that in our “security” section.
Backblaze provides a good online backup service while still keeping the process as simple as possible.
As a solution designed to minimize the work its users need to do to protect their computers, it shouldn’t be surprising that Backblaze isn’t quite as feature-packed as online backup services like IDrive, SpiderOak ONE or CloudBerry Backup (CloudBerry Backup review), all of which take more complex approaches to disaster recovery.
For example, Backblaze doesn’t offer any sync capabilities like IDrive or SpiderOak do (SpiderOak review). Also, its scheduling options are much more sparse than what you’ll find with IDrive. We’ll talk a little more about that last point when we discuss the backup process below.
All that said, Backblaze does provide some nice perks. These include speed throttling, multiple backup threads, external hard drive backup, smartphone access and file sharing.
Backblaze also backs up previous versions of files, although only for up to 30 days. There’s no way to extend the versioning policy, which is a shame given that Backblaze is an unlimited backup service. This limits Backblaze’s usefulness when it comes to ransomware protection.
Backblaze also has some good security features that we’ll cover more, below. These include semi-private encryption and two-factor authentication.
Backblaze keeps its pricing structure as simple as its service. There’s just one plan for home computer protection, which gives you unlimited backup for one device. The cost is $5 per month, which makes it one of the cheapest backup services available in addition to being one of the best.
If you’re not opposed to a long-term subscription, you can even get two months free for signing up for a year in advance, and five months free for signing up for two years.
$ 5 00monthly
$ 50 00yearly
$ 95 002 years
Plan is for one computer.
Once you’ve decided Backblaze is the best home for your data, you might as well take advantage of the annual or biannual discounts.
Initial backups can take days or even weeks to complete, so switching backups is often more trouble than it’s worth, particularly if you’ve got a good service like Backblaze. Most backup services don’t actually offer a month-to-month option for that reason.
Now that CrashPlan has closed its doors to home subscribers, the closest competition to Backblaze is Carbonite (Carbonite review), which also offers unlimited backup for a single device. However, the nearest analog subscription Carbonite has to Backblaze Personal is its Plus plan, which costs $99.99 per year.
You can get Carbonite Basic for $59.99 a year, but that plan doesn’t include automatic video backup or external drive support.
IDrive is another popular CrashPlan alternative. Its monthly plan is $52.12 for the first year, after which it bumps up to $69.99. With IDrive, you’re capped at 2TB of backup space, too, although IDrive can be used to backup unlimited devices and sync files.
The bottom line is that Backblaze is all about the bottom line. For most users, there’s likely not a better deal to be found in the online backup space.
Backblaze unquestionably provides the easiest backup experience out of any service we’ve ever tested here at Cloudwards.net. Since there’s no need to manage how much data you’re backing up, Backblaze simply takes it all.
Well, most of it. Operating system files, applications and temporary files aren’t backed up automatically. The reason for this is that restoring those kinds of files can cause some issues for your computer.
The Backblaze application embodies minimalism. This sets it apart from services like IDrive and SpiderOak, which have interfaces packed with settings.
Backblaze does have a settings tab, but there’s no need to ever tinker with it unless you find the backup process slowing down your system (we didn’t experience any such problems during our testing).
The Backblaze web interface shouldn’t cause any headaches, either. Navigation tabs are along the left side where you’d expect them to be and include an “overview” tab to check your account status and “view/restore” tab to access files.
Overall, Backblaze is just really well designed.
During installation, the Backblaze client automatically scans your hard drive for files to backup. There are no file size limits. Once finished, it returns an aggregated overview of everything it’s found.
Click “okay” and your backup will get underway. Depending on how much data you have to backup, this can be a very lengthy process, taking several weeks in fact. (See our speed section below to find out how Backblaze compares with the competition).
If you don’t want to backup certain folders or file types, these can be excluded from the settings menu.
Once your initial backup completes, you can choose to let Backblaze protect your computer continuously, or you can opt for scheduled backups.
Unlike IDrive and a few other backup options, you can’t restrict your schedule based on certain days of the week. You can only switch to once-a-day backups, telling Backblaze what time to start running. This is only a minor inconvenience, however, given that continuous backup is the best way to protect your hard drive and doesn’t seem to impact system resources in our experience.
Backblaze also lets you backup any USB or Firewire external drives you have (do note it doesn’t allow NAS devices). If they’re connected during initial backup, it’ll handle that part automatically. Otherwise, you can plug them in later and add them from settings.
That’s really all there is to know about the backup process.
Restore processes with Backblaze are run entirely through the web interface. Clicking the “restore options” button in the desktop client opens your browser and your account on Backblaze, where you’re given three options to get your files back.
The most common is restore via zip file. However, zip restores are limited to 500GB per request and can take quite a bit of time. You don’t have to stick around and stare at your computer, though: you’ll receive an email once your zip file is ready. A maximum of five requests can be submitted at any one time.
Backblaze Courier Service
Alternatively, you can go with the Backblaze courier recovery service, which is usually faster for large recoveries. Courier recovery options include a flash drive for up to 128GB and a hard-drive for up to 4TB. The service costs money up front for the recovery device, but Backblaze will refund you when you send it back, basically making it a deposit.
Courier recovery is a nice option, but IDrive does the same thing for both restores and initial backups, and only charges you if you don’t send the device back.
Once you’ve selected your recovery preference, you can scroll down to select which files you want to recover. This part of the process is pretty straightforward. Our only complaint is that file preview is limited to images and only images smaller than 30MB. You can also access your files via your mobile device.
There’s not much getting around the fact that initial backups can take a lot of time. That said, some backup services handle uploading and downloading better than others.
Typically, we test how well a backup service performs by completing a few upload and download tests with a 1GB test folder. Because Backblaze backs up files automatically, however, we weren’t able to do so in this case. Instead, we had to rely on data provided by Backblaze.
When you run your initial backup, there’s a button in the client that reads, “how long will my first backup take.” Click this button and you’ll be redirected to a website where Backblaze will give you an idea of how long you’ll be waiting. In our case, it was two days.
The amount of data tagged for backup on our test computer was 89,251MB (about 89GB). That works out to almost 45GB per day or 1.85GB per hour. WiFi upload speeds on our test computer were clocked at 8Mbps, which without overhead should upload at a rate of around 1GB per 17 minutes.
So, our upload to Backblaze was running at around 50 percent of capacity, which isn’t great, although to be fair we also ran these tests from Chiang Mai, Thailand. Also, the two-day estimate we were given was rounded to the nearest day, so our math is far from precise.
Backblaze states it doesn’t limit upload or download speeds, so the only factors that should be impacting those times are distance to server (Backblaze is in California) and two processes: encryption and file compression.
For comparison’s sake, we tested IDrive under these same conditions and were able to upload our 1GB test folder in around 20 minutes. Backblaze was outperformed by IDrive, though not by too much. If you’re running backups in the U.S. and over a fast Internet connection, you shouldn’t have any issues.
Backblaze Speed Up
To speed things up, Backblaze also lets you increase the number of backup threads you have running, which is something most other online backup services (IDrive included) don’t do. Additionally, you can increase the speed at which backups complete by adjusting throttle settings manually.
Finally, after your initial backup, backups are processed incrementally. Not only are just the files that have changed backed up, but only the parts of files that changed, too. Backblaze does this by processing files at the block level.
Backblaze takes some but not all of the steps we like to see to protect consumer data. That includes an option for private encryption, which you can activate from the “settings > security” tab of the desktop client.
Normally, Backblaze retains your encryption key. With private encryption enabled, only you have the key. The advantage is that only you can ever decrypt your files.
However, Backblaze’s implementation of this feature is deeply flawed. While your files are encrypted privately before being sent to the cloud, recovery requires that you give your passphrase to Backblaze so the service can decrypt them before sending them to you.
Most other online backups that offer private encryption, including Acronis True Image (Acronis True Image review), don’t require the same. The reason is that all Backblaze restores are performed over the web, rather than using your desktop client.
Backblaze states that your passphrase isn’t recorded and is deleted after its used to decrypt your files. However, you have to take the company’s word for that, which completely defeats the purpose of private encryption (not having to take anybody’s word that your privacy won’t be mishandled).
The disadvantage of private encryption — even Backblaze’s halfway version — is that if you forget your password, Backblaze can’t reset it for you; you’ll have lost access to your data.
With or without private encryption, Backblaze encrypts all of your files at rest on its servers. The level of encryption used is AES 128-bit, which for all practical purposes is uncrackable. It’s estimated that it would take brute force attack from a supercomputer several billion years to succeed.
Your files are encrypted before they leave your machine and are further protected in transit with SSL to rebuff any would-be eavesdroppers. Within the data center itself, multiple copies of your files are stored on multiple servers so that if one should ever crash, you won’t lose your data.
This method of data protection is called RAID. The Backblaze data centers are also secured against both physical and virtual intrusions, and designed to withstand natural disasters. They’re also climate controlled.
With 2FA on, whenever a login occurs on an unrecognized computer, a security code will be required in addition to your normal user credentials. Backblaze lets you receive that code via text or using Google Authenticator.
You can also choose to require a security code every time you login. In addition to great security for your data, Backblaze features a computer location option. While not really in the scope of backup, it’s a nice feature to have.
Backblaze provides two support channels for resolving any issues you might have: email and live chat. Email requests can be sent through an online form or you can email support directly. You can check the status of your request online after it’s been filed so you’re not left in the dark.
Generally, however, email response times are pretty good. Backblaze has support technicians answering them 24/7 and guarantees a response within 24 hours. We filed a test question Saturday morning and received a response back in about two hours.
Live chat will result in an even faster response, provided the issue doesn’t require escalation. However, live chat support hours are restricted to Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. PST.
In addition to email and chat, Backblaze maintains a knowledge base that should answer most basic questions. In fact, as you’re filling out a support request, Backblaze will suggest a few articles from its help site that might be relevant.
To help navigate the support site, a search option is provided. You can also browse by categories such as installation, troubleshooting, backing up, restoring and FAQs. Overall, we were impressed by the depth and clarity of available articles. Video tutorials would have been a nice addition.
A forum might be a nice touch, too, although Backblaze is so simple to use that it’s not likely it would get much use.
There are reasons to not like Backblaze. You’re limited to one computer and mobile device backup isn’t included. The most compelling reason to look at some of our other online backup reviews, though, is the company’s incomplete implementation of private encryption (the fact that you have to supply them with your password when recovering data, which shouldn’t be the case with true private, end-to-end encryption).
Beyond that, there’s not much to dissuade our belief that Backblaze now reigns as a king of the online backup hill — at least, when it comes to consumer backup. The term that comes to mind when trying to encapsulate what Backblaze is all about is “set-and-forget.”
It’s the backup solution for users who don’t want to be bothered backing up their computer but still want it backed up (the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too crowd).
Automatic file uploads based on file type and unlimited backup make that possible. Beyond ease of use, Backblaze offers exceptional data security and pretty solid customer support. Overall, it’s just a well-designed, elegant approach to hard-drive protection.
Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.