The number of available online backup services keeps expanding alongside the increased use of the cloud by consumers and businesses alike. Backblaze offers many of the advantages of other backup services such as Carbonite. Backblaze will also cost you less. But does lower pricing translate into making Backblaze the best choice? In this review, we’ll find out.
Other than that, there are lots of similarities between Backblaze and better known competitors like Carbonite, Mozy, and SOS Online Backup. All of these are designed to let you back up files to far away places in the cloud, in case of any sort of local disaster, and also to restore the files to the original computer.
Backblaze will back up multiple drives attached to a single PC, including internal drives, USB drives that are connected at the time of the backup, and other external drives. It does not, however, back up network drives or NAS devices connected to your network.
Backblaze also gives you the option to exclude files with specific file extensions, which is a useful feature (also available among competitors) if you only want or need to backup specific types of files, such as business files, documents, or music.
Backblaze does not back up applications or operating system files, an issue which can make a full restore difficult if these files become damaged on the original PC. (This is true with many other backup solutions, too, and it’s one reason why you should perform image backups at least occasionally.)
One cool feature is that if you need to restore an entire system, you can ask for the recovery files to be sent to you on a flash drive or USB hard drive instead of downloading them.
Other pluses include the availability of Backblaze for both Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS. Unlike some other backup services, though, Backblaze doesn’t support mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
I tested Backblaze over a cable Internet service called Optimum Boost, which claims a 50Mbit download speed and a 35Mbit upload speed, on an old Toshiba Satellite laptop containing 47,439 files totaling 71,015MB (71 GB). The PC was connected to Optimum Boost via a gigabit Ethernet connection.
Backblaze tells you that the initial backup can take as long as a week to perform, but that the computer will be useable while the backup is being conducted. I chose not to exclude any file types, and I left the laptop undisturbed while the backup was in progress. The initial backup took almost three full days. After the initial backup is finished, backup continues on an ongoing basis in incremental mode, changing only those files in the backup that you add or modify on the PC where Backblaze is being used.
Restoration gives you the options of either doing a full restore or just restoring a specified number of files. The restore also gives you the choice of receiving the files either as a Zip file (free), on a flash drive ($99), or on a USB hard drive ($189). Of course, if you need to get files or a complete backup immediately, the two physical options are pretty much out. On the other hand, the Zip file that Backblaze generates for a restore may be too large for your email account to accept.
I went through the Restore process after backing up the 71GB of files. As in performing the backup, I requested that all of the files be restored. Backblaze first creates the Restore file and then emails it to whatever email address it has on file (in my case, an AOL address).
After a bit more than half an hour waiting for the restore file to show up in my AOL mailbox, nothing appeared. Unsure if this was because Backblaze was taking a long time to create the 71GB Zip file or something was wrong with the AOL email account, I signed back into Backblaze, changed the email address to my Gmail account, and started the restore process again. Backblaze provided no indication of how long the restore would take.
After another half hour of waiting, I resolved to check my Gmail about every 15 minutes. Unfortunately, when I looked under the My Restores tab on the Restore page, it indicated that the restore file was 26GB, a considerably lengthy download even when the preparation finished. To do a complete restore, my only options would be to go for a physical drive, either flash or USB.
Instead I opted for a partial restore. Selecting a folder with 253MB of files, I tried the restore process again. When nothing appeared after another hour and a half, I aborted the partial restore. Would the third time around be the charm? I picked one 25MB file and started both a restore and the stopwatch.
A 25MB file is not large. It’s the size of a modest Word document. However, it took Backblaze more than six hours to create a 28.56MB zip file from a file that was only 25MB in size for starters.
Just for sake of comparison, a complete image backup of the hard drive in the laptop being tested here took three hours and 32 minutes using Acronis True Image HD and a USB 2.0 Seagate portable hard disk. Restoring the entire image took two hours and 12 minutes.
When Backblaze finally managed to produce the 28.56MB Zip file, I was able to download it in only a few seconds, and to unzip it and move it to the folder it belonged in within another five seconds.
To be fair, cloud-based backup and restore can be very slow, anyway. Moreover, many users have complained online about a range of problems with competing cloud services, including lengthy restoral processes, installation headaches, exclusion of certain file types from backup, and even loss of data.
Other users might have better luck with Backblaze. However, based on my own experience, I found Backblaze’s performance in restoring files to be simply unacceptable. in contrast to my positive experiences with Carbonite and Mozy.
That’s a shame, because I very much like other aspects of Backblaze, such as its very understandable menus and its ability to back up multiple hard drives attached to the same computer.
Given the current state of the technology, and its dependence on Internet bandwidth and availability, I don’t think that trusting any company’s cloud-based backup as your only backup method makes sense. Yet even as a backup to local backup methods, the restore problems I underwent with Backblaze prevent me from recommending Backblaze at this time.
- Good user interface
- Intuitive backups
- Restore problems
- No support for mobile devices