Protecting your Digital Assets, Guide to Backup - The Efficient Dad

Protecting Your Digital Assets, a Guide to Backup – Part 3

We have already covered how to best organize your information and make a local backup in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, so you are off to a great start. In this installment, I’ll look at the vast array of cloud backup options to make sure you’ll be protected if something happens to all of your local information.

Online (cloud) backups

Now that we’ve thoroughly discussed local backups, it is time to look at where you’ll put the third copy of your data. The cloud can be scary. Remember, when someone says “cloud” they really just mean some computers sitting in some room that you happen to be able to contact over the internet. You need to trust the company that is housing your data, especially if you have anything you deem to be sensitive. Do your homework, read reviews.

Something else to consider is your Internet Service Provider (ISP) connection’s limits. Do you have a bandwidth cap each month? Do you pay per gigabyte? Is your upload speed at least 2Mb/s? These are things you’ll want to consider when doing online backup. The initial seed (where all of your data is uploaded) can take a very long time and consume a lot of data, depending on how much you’re backing up. The great news is that after that, only changes are backed up, so in the future the data requirements are much smaller. Even with a decent upload speed, if you’re going to upload 1TB+, be prepared to wait a couple of weeks for it to seed.

Backblaze, Crashplan, Carbonite, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Dropbox, and many other companies offer some form of online sync or backup. I’m going to focus on those that I have direct experience with, though I will touch on some of the others as well.


Backblaze has been the cornerstone of my backup strategy for years now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I always recommend Backblaze to friends and family because the setup is incredibly easy. You create an account, download the small program, log in, and that’s it. Backblaze hangs out on your computer (PC or Mac) and figures out what it needs to back up. By default, it will backup everything on your computer, except for operating system files, application files, and a few other things that probably won’t matter to you. However, if you are more of a power user, you can open up the Backblaze control panel and tell it exactly what you what you want to exclude, set the speed at which it will upload, and even restrict it to a certain time of day when you know your network won’t be busy. Maybe for you, it is best to let it upload at full speed from 1:00 am to 6:00 am each day. If that’s what you want, it will do it.

They have a mobile app that lets you view and download your information. It is compatible with iOS and Android, and lets you open the downloaded files in an app of your choice. Want to email them? Simply open the downloaded file in your email client and send it on its way.

You can (and should!) also setup a secondary encryption key (password) to ensure that even Backblaze employees will not have access to your data. They make it easy to do so, but be very, very, aware that if you lose this key, you won’t be able to restore your files and Backblaze won’t be able to help you. Don’t just write it down and leave it in your house. If you have a fire or disaster and lose that paper, you’re out of luck. Instead, consider both a password manager and keeping a copy off-site.

Backblaze will backup connected drives, such as external USB hard drives, but it won’t backup network shares or NAS devices with their standard product. They do have a “B2” product that will work on your Synology to back that up if you’re interested. There is no limit to the backup size, so backup everything you have!

Restoring from Backblaze is simple. You can download your data in 500GB chunks (up to five at a time) for free. If you are in a hurry or need it on disk due to download limitations, $99 will buy you a 128GB flash drive filled with your data. If that isn’t large enough, $189 will buy you up to a 4TB hard drive with your data. A great option and well worth it if you lose that much information. Plus, in the end, you can keep the device they ship to you, or you have the option to return the drive for a refund.

Currently, Backblaze charges $5/month, $50/year, or $95/2 years per computer. That’s a heck of a deal and as I said before, I don’t hesitate to recommend their service.

If you decide to sign up with Backblaze, use this link! You’ll get a month free, and so will I.


Crashplan offers very similar features to Backblaze and if you have multiple machines, their family pricing may be very tempting. In my experience, which is echoed by many others, Crashplan works well enough with small data sets, but once you get into larger amounts of data, it has a hard time. Their application takes more resources than other options and the upload speeds are not always incredible.

Some of the issues aside, they do have a unique offering. The Crashplan software will not only let you use their cloud backup service, but it will also facilitate local backup creation and has the ability to let you backup elsewhere on a network as well. For those with some technical knowledge it could be used over a VPN to backup to a friend’s house, but I’ve found that most people will have other ways to do so that would be much more efficient. Still, it is definitely a feature worth mentioning.

Crashplan has a full-featured mobile app that allows access to your files from anywhere you have a data connection. They also offer an advanced security option that allows you to set a custom encryption key. As mentioned above, use this with caution, but USE IT!

Like Backblaze, Crashplan will backup your external drives and it cleanly handles drive disconnections, waiting to back them up until it sees the drive again.

Crashplan versions your files, like Windows Backup or Time Machine, letting you peek back in time to view previous versions of files. It will also save your deleted files forever, unless you tell it not to. This could be a neat feature, but you’ll have to remember that nothing is truly deleted if you use it. Deleting a file on your local computer means that it still lives on in the Crashplan ecosystem.

Crashplan is only a bit more expensive than Backblaze for a single computer. $6/month or $60/year gets you an individual plan, but to backup 2-10 computers, you pay just $14/month or $150/year. Great deal if you have lots of machines.


Carbonite can be a good option for some, and although their service works fairly well, I feel like it isn’t as simple to set up. Really though, this comes down to personal preference and skill levels. I prefer backup services with few signup options, such as Backblaze. You either buy it or you don’t. Carbonite, however, has several options to sift through when you sign up. They all provide unlimited backup, but with a few catches.

To begin, you’ll need to choose between a Basic, Plus, or Prime account with varying pricing. The basic plan is approximately in the same price as Backblaze and Crashplan, but it has some serious caveats. Does it backup large files? Yes, but you have to manually add them to the backup. Videos? Same deal. Backup your external drives? You’ll have to upgrade plans for that. Offline restore? Nope, not on the basic plan. So what do you need?

Maybe the Plus plan is a better fit then. It, along with the Prime plan, will backup your entire computer, including operating system files to an external hard drive that you provide. It will also automatically backup your video files. However, if you need an offline restore, you’re still out of luck with this plan. This one is almost $100/year.

We then graduate to the Prime plan. For $150/year, you finally can get a courier-delivered hard drive with your data in case of a loss. This plan also includes all of the features of the lower plans, including automatic video backup, system image backup to an external drive, etc.

Carbonite does not backup all file types by default, so occasionally you’ll find that you think you’re protecting a directory with it, only to realize that some of the files within aren’t whitelisted. You’ll need to go into the settings to change what this program will back up before you start using it, just to be sure you are truly safe.

Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Dropbox

I’m not going to go into great detail here, but each of these companies offer some sort of syncing program that will allow you to sync some or all of your files to their services. I’ve been a Google Drive user for many years, and Google Photos has some really interesting features, but for the purposes of backing up all of your data, I feel that you are better off with Backblaze or Crashplan.

Setting up syncing isn’t difficult, but since these programs don’t scan your entire computer for files and then back them up, it is possible to accidentally leave some very important files unprotected. I’d recommend these options for more advanced users only, as care has to be taken to make actual “backups” and not just sync your data.

Mobile backup

You’ll need to find a strategy to backup your mobile devices as well. If you lose a phone, having a physical backup is nice, but modern phones make it super easy to restore from cloud backup when you get a new one or replace them.


If you are an iPhone user, you’re in luck. iCloud backup (Apple’s online cloud backup service) is really solid and will automatically back up your phone each day when it is sleeping and plugged in. The costs are reasonable and chances are you can back up the largest iPhone models, completely full, for only a couple of dollars per month. Plus, if you lose or even just upgrade your phone, when you setup the next phone you can restore directly from iCloud and have all of your important information transferred without putting much thought into it.

Hint: Make sure this feature is turned on! The current software release for iOS is 10.3.1 and the settings panel slightly changed in 10.3. Go to settings, then tap your Apple ID (click your name at the top of the settings screen), then “iCloud”, and lastly “iCloud Backup”. Make sure it is turned on here. After that, back out one step and choose the items to backup. If you’re using the iCloud Photo Library, you’re backing up to the cloud already!

Android Phones

Android users will have a couple of steps to take to make sure their data is fully protected but it isn’t difficult at all. Just like iOS, Android OS is simple to backup with a couple of clicks.

You’ll want to go to your settings app, then “Personal”, followed by “Backup & Reset”. Make sure the backup service is turned on here. That will take care of your device and app data, but you’ll want to open your Google Photos app as well, then click the menu, followed by “Settings”. At this point, choose “Back up & Sync” to setup your backup options. Again, this is a low cost, efficient way to back up your mobile data to the cloud.

Now that your data is safe…

Though no backup strategy is perfect, there could still be an unfortunate series of events that makes you lose your data. By following a solid plan, the chances of losing your precious information are very slim. Remember to always test your backups. In your mind, they shouldn’t exist until you’ve verified that they work.

Don’t forget the importance of strong password management to go along with your data backups.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through this series and as always, I’d love to hear your input on the topic. Have these ideas worked for you? What are some of your data loss stories? Feel free to share – I look forward to hearing from you.

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