Backblaze review

A flaming good SaaS service

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Our Verdict

Backblaze delivers a simple to use tool that secures all the critical files on a computer irrespective of how many there are, and can restore them easily should the worst happen.

For

  • Unlimited backup
  • Low cost
  • Restore options

Against

  • 30-day versioning
  • No mobile support
  • Private key issues

Most cloud storage businesses mention how many users they have and how many files they keep safe, but Backblaze easily wins many of those bragging rights.

With 600 petabytes stored and close to 35 billion files recovered, 

Backblaze is part of an elite selection of cloud storage suppliers who walk-the-walk of unlimited storage and yet do so at a highly affordable price.

Is this product more about the unquestionable economics than how clever its software is?

Features

Features

The position that those developing Backblaze have taken is that you don’t need to know the details of your backup plan, just that it is occurring.

So when you launch the client application for the first time it doesn’t ask what it is you’d like securing, it just grabs all the files and folders it considered important and starts transferring them to Backblaze cloud storage.

By default, Backblaze copies everything that isn’t an ISO, DMG (Mac disk image), a virtual drive, system files or executables. You can exclude other file types if you wish, but unless exclusively told to ignore them all other file types will be included.

In this respect, it is more of a sledgehammer than a surgical instrument.

Files that are secured using Backblaze and deleted from the client system will be removed from the online storage 30 days, giving you a reasonable time to restore them in the event of a mistake.

Our only concern about this is that after 30 days without connection to the service all files secured from a computer would be purged, surely?

More positively, files stored on external hard drives can be secured, but Backblaze won’t backup network drives we concluded.

Backups can be continuous, once a day or initiated only when requested. Some extra variance on those timescales would be nice, but we expect the majority of users will leave it set to continuous backup mode.

Settings

Interface

Everything about Backblaze is minimalist. The client application is basic and only allows you to see what is happening and configure when it happens.

Conversely, the web interface is also cut down to the bare minimum required to review those files that are secured and restore them if required.

There is also a mechanism for sharing stored files to others that are exclusive to the web interface.

What Backblaze don’t offer is any form of general off-line storage, as all the files shared must exist elsewhere on a computer.

In the advent of a system failure or loss files can be downloaded in a zip file for free, or Backblaze will put them on a Flash drive or physical USB hard drive for an extra fee and send them to you.

The USB drive is a maximum of 128GB in size and costs $99 (£75.95) if you keep it, or free if you return it. USB hard drives can be 4TB and cost $189 (£144.99) if you keep them, or again nothing if you send them back within the agreed 30 days.

Considering that Backblaze is absorbing the cost of maintaining these drives, shipping them to you and writing all the data to them, it’s hard to fault this facility.

Security

Security

Files stored at Backblaze are AES 128-bit encrypted, and they’re transferred to and from that location using an SSL connection to avoid interception as they pass over the internet.  

Backblaze is also one of the few cloud storage operations that offer the use of a private encryption key, known only to the account holder. With this control on, Backblaze can’t help you if you forget the key, but any data stored on the system using it will be entirely secure without it.

The only catch with this is that if you use the recovery service, you must provide Backblaze with that private encryption key, so they can be unencrypted before placing into a zip file to download or onto a storage device to send to you.

Perhaps it would be better if they put encrypted data on the drives and in the zips, and created a utility to allow you to unencrypt it locally.

If you don’t wish to go that far as using a private key, you can improve the standard security by activating two-factor authentication using a mobile phone number.

Pricing

With some providers not offering monthly contracts, it was refreshing to find that Backblaze not only embraces them but also doesn’t heavily penalise you for not paying yearly.

The Backblaze personal backup facility costs $5 (£3.84) per month or just $50 (£38.36) for a year, and that cost is reduced further if you sign up for two years.

Did we mention how much space you get for that? Amazingly, there is no limit.

There also isn’t any limit on file size or backup up external drives, and a private encryption key option is available without paying extra for the privilege.

For business users, a very similar $50 (£38.36) per user facility is available, but with admin controls included and the ability to secure NAS servers 

Server pricing is calculated based on how much extra data is stored each month, and how much is downloaded back to the client. Depending on the exact circumstances this can undercut the likes of Google Cloud, Amazon S3 or Microsoft Azure by some considerable amount.

Final verdict

The key weaknesses of the Backblaze offering are the lack of support for any mobile devices. And, the basic service covers only one computer, negating the possibility of using it to sync multiple systems.

The private key that you must give up to restore also isn’t ideal, and we hope that Backblaze come up with a better methodology than merely promising to forget it after use.

It might not look very exciting or have the subtle controls that some other solutions offer, but Backblaze does a decent job a minimal cost.