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Test driving Backblaze online backup for Mac

by Philip Sellers

I have been testing various online backup solutions for home.  I really like the peer to peer backup solution , though I’ve yet to take up my buddy’s offer to host my backup drive at his house…  Speaking of, I guess I need a larger backup drive.  So, in the meantime, I’ve been looking at new options that come online.  Backblaze is one of those solutions which has been around for the PC world for a while now, but they have a new Mac client.  (Sorry PowerPC folks – Intel only).  I downloaded and setup a trial account today.

The trial period is only 15 days, but you get the full experience of Backblaze for those 15 days.  It is a true trial as opposed to a solution like Mozy which offers free accounts for up to 2G of data. 

The installation was very simple.  The client integrates with your system preferences, just like Time Machine, and the options are very straight forward to configure.  Out of the box (err, disk image), the software automatically eliminates some of the common areas and attempts to backup just your data.  Folders on the Mac HD like System and some of the hidden OS folders are auto-magically excluded from backup.  You can manually go in and configure additional locations – like your movie library in iTunes which would take forever to backup.

Also out of the box, Backblaze sets the schedule for backup to be contiuous.  That is a nice feature that many higher-end softwares include, but few inteded for home-use include.  Backblaze also included bandwidth allocation so that you can throttle the backup traffic so you don’t saturate your upstream.

Privacy is always a big concern and Backblaze takes that into account with their private encryption key.  The private encryption key is used backup the files with AES (“military grade”) encryption before transmitting the files over SSL.  Backblaze also includes a web front-end to restore files.  When you login to the restore portal, you also have to supply the private encryption key to view the files available for restore.

And speaking of restore, there is one key differentiator for Backblaze versus Mozy.  Backblaze offers users 3 options for restoration.  Users can zip and download their files as option 1, they can request that their files be burned to a DVD and shipped as option 2 or finally they can request their files be delievered on a 500GB external hard drive.  The second two options come at a premium price, but this is a service that a business or a home office professional must have.  Many cannot afford to be without their files for several days while they download from the restoration portal.

Even though the Mac verison of the sofware is still considered beta software, so far, it is working well.  The only gotcha that I have encountered involved conflicting agendas between my Norton Antivirus and Backblaze.  Backblaze was driving Norton’s AutoProtect crazy.  It has locked up my dual-core Intel MacBook Pro several times before I figured out that AutoProtect was maxing out the CPU trying to scan the files being transmitted.

Oh, and one more thing – pricing.  As of right now, you can get a year’s worth of unlimited backup for $50 per computer  if you pay annually.  That’s not a bad deal.  Otherwise, I believe they are offering it for just $5 per month per computer.

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