Online Backup – First Impressions

When you do a lot of creative work on your computer, you need a solid backup solution. I never had to restore an entire system out of a backups, thank gods. But especially since I started to work on mobile computers, I always found myself holding the fruits of my entire creative life in my hands. It sometimes freaks me out having my stuff in such a fragile form.

I have been doing backups on an external drive for some time. It’s better than nothing but I was never satisfied with it. The external drive isn’t always attached so I can’t schedule regular backups. Instead I need to initiate backups manually and of course I always forget. On top of it, I’m generally suspicious of external drives. I had one of those completely fail on me once. It was completely out of the blue. Boom, one morning: all my data just gone. The drive I’m using right now is also sometimes getting weird errors.

So when I heard recently about the possibility of doing online backups I was intrigued. The idea is that you subscribe to a service, install a client and it will do the backup over the Internet. Of course, the initial backup will take a month or so to complete. But once your data is transferred once, the client will continue uploading only the files that have changed since the last time. Hopefully, it will be a manageable amount. That’s actually a good solution for me. I can keep the client running in the background even at my job where I have a quite good Internet connection. And I can have the backup company do the fancy RAID setups to keep the data safe and sound. Finally, in case of a robbery or a fire I know that I have a copy at a DIFFERENT place.

So I’m testing various provides now. Wikipedia has a list of all companies offering such services. It’s a bit daunting at first. Going through that list I realized that I could filter out a lot of them. For example, the list contains Dropbox which is awesome but it isn’t really what I’m looking for in this case. So far I tried 3 different provides. Here are my first impressions.

  • Backblaze
    I’m a visual person and the website struck me as quite attractive. It communicates the service quite clearly and elegantly. I liked that they especially point out different ways you can recover the data – even by letting Backblaze send you DVDs or Flashdrives. The service does have the flaw of having a limit of 11GB per file. That’s a limit I might hit with some video files I’m working on. I tried the client anyway. Sadly, I wasn’t blown away. The first time the installation took so long I thought it crashed. I canceled and tried it again later. It worked in the end. However the client interface turned out to be structured in a bit unfamiliar way. I had troubles selecting the files I wanted to backup. Also, it wasn’t quite evident when it was uploading and what it was uploading. Might give it another try later. Until then, I decided to move on.

  • Mozy
    A lot of people have recommended Mozy and I can tell why. The service has some good features, even if some of them get lost on the nosy website. The client installs flawlessly and the interface does it’s job. But then I tried to close the client. Turns out, that’s impossible. Even shutting down the process in the Task Manager doesn’t work. To top it off, the client rendered itself unresponsive a couple of times in my brief test. For some reason, the app wants to telephone home at every opportunity, even when you change the settings. When that fails, it doesn’t really seem deal with that and simply does nothing. It often ended up displaying frozen windows that I couldn’t even close. That’s quite the no-go in my book. To add insult to injury, I went to the official forums and found lots of complains about poor performance, not only in upload but also during restoring data. During my tests, the service was indeed quite slow, but I realized it only after I tried another provider.

  • Crash Plan
    Crash Plan seems to be new in the business but it received some favorable reviews. I was skeptical at first due to a bit inconvenient payment scheme. From what I understand you need to pay for a year in advance. You also need to pay extra if you want a client with some advanced features. On the other hand, compared to the other services it worked surprisingly well. So far I have no complains about the client. I was actually surprised when it started uploading my stuff right away. I was expecting it to make a fuzz like the other ones. It’s quite fast, too. I finished an initial test within a couple of hours. A backup of all my vital files (160GB) will take about 72 hours with the connection I have at work. I still want to do a couple of tests but at first sight, we might have a winner here.

So I’m testing Crash Plan right now. The backup will be finished next week. I’m curious to see if the internet connection is fast enough to keep up with the incremental backups. I also want to test the restoration of data.

But I know that there are still plenty of other services out there. So if you have a cool suggestion, do not hesitate to share it here!

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

2 responses to “Online Backup – First Impressions”

  1. sirleto

    can you in one of your next posts about that topic tell why you did not want to go with dropbox? because i actually love to backup only creation files (not data), so i can easily stay even below their free ~2gb amount and have a timely backup at hand that i can also easily share between my computers, my girlfriends computer, my and her android phones and also with friends that use dropbox (which can give something back to me) and last but not least the world via read-only http.

    so i’m interested what you think about dropbox / what is missing for you…

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Right now, my TRAUMA folder is already 70GB. Also, I have only one computer so I don’t need any sharing capabilities. On the contrary. I don’t want any interference with other devices I use to accidentally screw up my backup.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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