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Reviews and expert opinion Backblaze

Dawn Prevete Dawn Prevete Expert

Backblaze offers a reasonably priced, unlimited online backup service for individuals and small organizations. It’s uncomplicated and convenient, and easy to use on a PC or Mac. But there are tradeoffs – backups can be slow, and there are some other limitations you should know about before you make a final decision.

Overview

Backblaze Offers Affordable, Unlimited Online Backup Service  

Backblaze prides itself on offering home and small business users a reliable, low-cost online backup service. It’s among the most popular cloud backup companies, and it’s easy to understand why. It gives you unlimited, secure data backup in a simple and straightforward package, so it’s easy to set up, making it a great choice for novices.

But Backblaze has some drawbacks. Backups can be slow and may interfere with other online activities.

And while all the essentials are there, Backblaze lacks some of the customization features its competitors offer, like choosing the files you want to back up, backing up data from mobile devices, and backing up system and application files. Other features, like permanent cloud storage for files you delete from your computer, can only be added for a fee.

While Backblaze gives you unlimited storage and doesn’t limit the size of files you back up, a subscription covers just one computer. You can add more subscriptions for additional devices, but it’ll cost you. Some other cloud backup services cover unlimited devices, such as iDrive (but you don’t get unlimited storage with iDrive – there’s always a drawback somewhere!)

No single backup service is the right choice for everyone. I’ve thoroughly reviewed Backblaze, including its features, performance, security, and privacy policies, so you don’t have to. Keep reading to get all the details and decide if Backblaze is right for you.

Features

4.5

Essential Features for Fast, Easy Cloud Backup 

Data Server Locations Northern California, Arizona, Amsterdam
Backup and Restore Options Continuous/scheduled, backup from external drive, idle backups, backup status reports, offline restore option
Limits and Restrictions No limits on file size and type, no fair use limits, bandwidth throttling
Applications and Operating Systems Windows 7 and later, macOS X 10.8x and later, iOS and Android mobile apps
Encryption Keys Transfer encryption key (via AES 128 bit), optional private encryption key
File Access Via web and mobile apps
File Sharing

Backblaze has all the essential features that you need to make backups of your files – with a super-simple setup (which I’ll talk more about in the Ease of Use section below). It’s one of the few online backup services that offers unlimited storage (at incredibly affordable prices too) – but it is missing a few things.

One thing that Backblaze doesn’t do is create a full image or mirror backup. A mirror backup is a complete replica of everything on your computer’s hard drive, including the operating system files, applications, preferences, and settings.

In the event of a disaster, you can’t use Backblaze to restore your computer’s system, but you can be assured all your important files and data are safe and secure.

Seamless Automatic Backups in a Few Easy Steps

By default, Backblaze backs up all your computer data – documents, photos, music, and videos – plus all the data stored on attached external drives.

The default setting is for continuous backup. After your initial backup, when your computer is on and connected to Wi-Fi, Backblaze will automatically scan about once every hour, indexing, processing, and uploading new or changed documents. I found that this limited my ability to work online – see the Performance section for details.

Using the settings panel, you can schedule your backups for a specific time of day that’s convenient for you and won’t interfere with other online tasks. And you can always manually initiate a backup by clicking on the Backup Now button.

Backblaze can back up emails from accounts stored on your computer (like Outlook, Apple Mail, or Thunderbird), but not from an online server like Gmail, which is disappointing. Since Backblaze can’t back up a file or application when it’s in use, be sure to close your email at least once a day to back up any changes.

Backblaze stores deleted files and previous versions of files for only 30 days.

You can extend archived storage for up to a year for a monthly fee, or forever for a fee per GB, which makes the service more costly.

Backblaze version history account setting
One of Backblaze’s drawbacks is it doesn’t offer free archiving and unlimited versioning

Three Options to Restore Your Data

If you experience a system failure or loss, you have three ways to restore your data. Backblaze will download your data to a zip file and send it to you over an encrypted SSL connection at no charge. This is a good choice if your internet connection speed is fast and your stored data is limited, because Backblaze will only do this for 500GB of data per request.

If you’ve backed up a lot of data, you can have Backblaze put your restored files on either a flash drive or a USB hard drive for a fee. The drive will be shipped to you, and you can even have your data encrypted for an extra layer of security at no charge. Return the hard drive within 30 days for a full refund.

The third option to restore files applies if you have moved them to the B2 Cloud, Backblaze’s enterprise-grade object storage, where they are stored securely as a decrypted .zip snapshot.

Just select the files you want to restore, and you’ll get an estimate of cost. Up to 10GB of archived B2 storage is included in your account at no charge. Service charges vary based on how much data you store and bandwidth you use, and the number of your transactions. You can access B2 Cloud Storage from any computer using any operating system.

Strong Security Settings – But They Could Be Even Better

Unlike some of its competitors, Backblaze relies on Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 128-bit encryption. Cybersecurity experts generally recommend AES 256-bit encryption as the most secure. But Backblaze does take steps to address this weakness.

Files are encrypted on your computer and transferred over a secure SSL (https) connection to a Backblaze data center where they are stored, encrypted. Backblaze also offers two-factor authentication. Once enabled, each time you sign into your account a six-digit code will be sent to your phone. Enter it to log in securely.

Backblaze account security settings
Backblaze makes it easy to add two-factor authentication for additional account security

For the highest level of security, set up a private encryption key (PEK) for your account, a private password known only to you that Backblaze doesn’t store. Be sure to record your password and keep it in a secure place, because if you forget it you won’t be able to access your files.

See full list of features

Ease of use

4.8

Scheduling Backups and Accessing Stored Data Is Easy

Where Backblaze excels is in ease of use. It has what it calls a zero-configuration setup. As a result, you don’t have some customization options – but it makes up for that with a straightforward control panel that makes it easy to manage your account and get backups running.

Backblaze control panel
It’s easy to just let Backblaze get to work backing up all your data

All the essential features to quickly begin your backup are on the control panel’s menu bar. Click on Settings to set preferences, increase or decrease throttling, and set the amount of bandwidth the service can access.

But you don’t have the range of settings that some competitors offer, for example:

  • Scheduling backups for specific hours and days
  • Automatically pausing backups when you are streaming videos or making an online presentation
  • Modifying bandwidth settings on a specific schedule
Backblaze scheduling panel
I found Backblaze didn’t offer many choices to customize your backups

You have to manually exclude the files and folders you don’t want to back up, which can be a tedious process. For my initial backup there were more than 68,000 individual folders and files to configure. Many users will have even more.

I saved a lot of time by excluding by file type, such as PDF, JPEG, or XLSX. This approach doesn’t really solve the problem though. Choose not to back up JPEGs and you’ve excluded precious photos from your cloud storage backup, leaving them vulnerable to loss.

Backblaze preferences panel
If your computer crashes, you’re out of luck – system and program files can’t be backed up

While Backblaze’s service isn’t perfect, it has some unique features that I really liked.

View, Download, and Share Data across Multiple Devices with B2 Cloud

While Backblaze doesn’t support multi-device syncing, all personal and business backup accounts include 10GB of free file storage and sharing through the B2 Cloud, the company’s low-cost, enterprise-grade cloud storage.

Once you’ve enabled B2 in your account, you can get 1GB per day of free download bandwidth in addition to your 10GB of free file storage and sharing.

When you share a document, photo, or video it will be accessible to anyone with a direct link to the file.

An Updated Mobile App Makes It Easy to Access All Your Data on the Go

Backblaze recently updated its mobile app for iOS and Android. While you still can’t set up an account or back up data from your mobile device, the latest version of the app makes it easier to navigate, download, view, and share backed-up files from your Backblaze account.

The Backblaze mobile app
An improved Backblaze mobile app makes sharing easier, but it still lacks full functionality

You can share files via text or email or upload to your social media accounts. But some options are different for Android and iOS. For example, downloaded data is stored on your iPhone in the Backblaze domain space and is protected by iOS. On an Android phone it’s not – it’s stored with other data in the downloads folder.

You can access your Backblaze account from multiple Android and iOS mobile devices to view and share backed-up data as long as you log in with your username and password. Up to six family members can share the iOS app with Family Sharing enabled in the app.

There is a limit on the file size that can be downloaded on Android and iOS phones – it’s just 30MB.

It’s Easy to Locate Your Computer If It’s Lost or Stolen

One advantage Backblaze has over its competitors is its Locate My Computer feature, which can help you or the police find your laptop if it’s lost or stolen. To activate, you’ll need to allow mapping in your account. If having your location tracked feels intrusive, you can easily disable the mapping feature in the control panel.

Backblaze find my computer feature
Activate mapping to let Backblaze track location, current ISP, backup activity, and more

Setting Up an Account

Creating a Backblaze account is quick and easy. Just download the Backblaze software to your PC or Mac, run the installer, and follow the on-screen instructions.

As soon as installation is complete, your control panel opens and you either click Continue to launch an initial automatic backup of all your data or click Pause and then Settings for additional customization.

From the settings panel, you can schedule backups, choose which files you want to exclude from your backup, view security and privacy settings, and confirm the status of your most recent backup. Backblaze also lets you know how many days are left in your free trial.

Once you’ve installed the software, you can also manage your account through your online dashboard. Some features and preferences, like certain privacy settings, can only be accessed by logging into your online account.

Backblaze exclusion panel
I found it difficult to select the files I didn’t want Backblaze to back up

While it’s easy to upload all your data, it’s difficult to select just a few important files or folders. That’s because Backblaze is designed to back up everything on your computer except operating system files, applications files, empty folders, or temporary internet files.

With Backblaze you choose the files you want to exclude; other services require you to choose the files you want to back up. You’ll have to decide which approach is right for you.

Be aware that an initial backup of your computer may take hours or even days if you have a lot of data to back up. Your computer must be connected to Wi-Fi and awake (make sure you turn sleep mode off!) for your backup to be completed.

See if Backblaze is Right for You

Performance

4.0

Use Manual Controls to Optimize Performance

Ultimately the speed and performance of your backups depends on how fast and reliable your internet connection is and how close you are to one of Backblaze’s data centers, which are located in California, Arizona, and Amsterdam. I’m on the East Coast of the US, so I’m not particularly close to any of them.

Backblaze allows you to select your preferred data center when you first set up an online account. Pick whichever one is closest to you for the best performance. Just note that once you select your data center, it can’t be changed.

Using Backblaze’s preliminary speed test, I tested my download and upload speeds on a weekday morning, at noon, and again around 6 pm. I also checked my estimated weekend performance.

My fastest upload and download speeds were on weekdays at noon when upload speed was 1.12Mbps and download speed was 13.36Mbps. Early evening upload speed was just .97Mbps, and weekend transmission was even slower at .64Mbps.

After you install the Backblaze software, you’ll get a more accurate estimate of how long your initial backup will take. Backblaze estimated it would take four days to complete my initial backup because of my slow upload speed of .26Mbps (even slower than the speed test estimate!).

A backup service should run reliably in the background without taxing your internet services or using up too much bandwidth, but that wasn’t happening, so I contacted customer support.

They recommended I cancel continuous backup and schedule the initial backup for when my workday would be over. They also recommended that I increase the number of threads (simultaneous upload connections) to help speed up transmission.

Backblaze automatically sets throttling and threading for the most efficient use of your internet bandwidth and adjusts to changes in your connection speed to ensure backups are seamless.

But, depending on the speed of your internet connection, you may have to manually adjust settings, as I did, to speed the process up.

Backblaze threading and throttling settings
Adjusting threading and throttling may not fix Backblaze’s slow upload speeds

Once I completed the initial backup, I reset default automatic throttling and threading but continued to schedule my backups for off hours.

See if Backblaze is Right for You

Privacy

3.5

Privacy Policies Raise Concerns

Backblaze is headquartered in California, but since it has a data center in the Netherlands it adheres to both US privacy laws and EU data protection legislation, commonly known as the GDPR. The full details of its privacy terms are in its knowledge base, but I’ve outlined some of the important details you need to know.

  • Personal information. Backblaze collects personal information like your email address, phone number, and billing information.
  • Browsing activity. It also collects information from your browsing activity, like page visits, clicks, and other online interactions, which it may share in order to provide and improve its services.
  • Cookies and tracking. Backblaze uses cookies and similar tracking technology to collect personal information about you that may be shared with third parties to, for example, process your payments, send SMS notifications, or provide customer support and online chat services.

Unfortunately, Backblaze does not acknowledge Do Not Track settings on your browser – there’s no way to opt out, though you can set preferences in your account for marketing emails and third-party cookies.

To opt out of marketing emails, you need to go to the Preferences settings in your online dashboard. (You can’t do it in the web app’s control panel!) I was also able to use my browser settings to block third-party cookies that tried to load when I logged on to my Backblaze account, and you should do the same.

One thing you need to know is that Backblaze will disclose your personal information or share your data with third parties if required by judicial order, law enforcement, public authorities, or for purposes of national security. 

That’s why when you first set up your account online, you should take advantage of the option to choose your data center location. Choose Amsterdam if you want to avoid being subject to US national security legislation, like the Patriot Act.

And to further protect the privacy of your files and enhance security, I strongly recommend setting a PEK, which protects your files in the event that Backblaze is hacked.

Backblaze security panel-set a PEK
Given Backblaze’s privacy policies it’s important to set a PEK

If you don’t set up a PEK, your stored files are encrypted and unreadable, but the encryption key used to decrypt them is stored on the Backblaze server, making your data more vulnerable to a potential hack or privacy issue.

See Backblaze Privacy Features

Support

4.5

Three Support Options: Live Chat, Email, and Knowledge Base

Though Backblaze doesn’t have phone support, it does offer live chat (Monday-Friday, 9am-12pm and 1pm-5pm PST) and email support through Zendesk. A comprehensive knowledge base has tutorials and articles that will walk you through setup and help you resolve most issues, though I occasionally found some help answers were outdated.

When you contact customer support by email through the website portal, you’ll be asked to set up a separate support account for Zendesk, an extra step I didn’t like.

Backblaze support setup
Other backup services let you use your account password for email support

Once you’ve set up your Zendesk account, you can email your questions to customer support. I sent my first email on Friday and was impressed by the quick response – I heard back within three hours. I then sent a follow-up email on Saturday. While it took a bit longer, I still got a response within 24 hours, a timeframe Backblaze promises it will meet.

And even better: The support agent’s email answered all my questions.

Backblaze email support response
I was impressed by the quick response and helpful answers to my questions

I also reached out to live chat to discuss performance issues and got an agent within minutes. I found chat to be the most helpful support option because I could ask follow-up questions and get answers right away.

Backblaze live chat support
The best Backblaze support option for troubleshooting is live chat

For serious technical issues, I’d prefer phone support. But the rapid response time and helpful, professional service make Backblaze’s support options more than adequate. With live chat you even get a confirmation email with a link for further follow-up.

Pricing

4.5

Basic Plans for Online Backup and Cloud Storage

There’s one basic, affordable plan for personal online cloud backup service. You pay a flat fee for unlimited backup for one computer. You can choose to pay by the month or get a discount if you prepay for a full year – you’ll be charged for 10 months rather than 12. There’s an additional discount for a two-year commitment.

Backblaze offers a similarly uncomplicated plan for businesses with some additional features, such as the option to include multiple users on your account. Plan cost is based on the number of licenses and on whether B2 Cloud Storage for server(s)/network-attached storage (NAS) backup is included. As with a personal plan, each license covers one computer.

Some things to consider:

  • You can take advantage of the free 15-day trial to decide if Backblaze is the best cloud backup service for you. You don’t have to provide payment information during the trial period, and in fact, customer support told me that sharing payment details would immediately cancel the trial.
  • If you decide to subscribe, each month Backblaze will automatically bill your credit card or bank account, if you have authorized automatic electronic payments. Or you’ll be invoiced once for a one- or two-year plan. It accepts all major credit cards, but not PayPal, Bitcoin, or other payment methods.
  • No matter which billing schedule you choose, you can cancel at any time, but there is no refund for the months you’ve used the service.

I found it a bit complicated to cancel my subscription. I had to first delete all my backups and then remove licenses before I could delete my account on the My Settings page. If you have both a backup and a separate B2 cloud account, you have to cancel each individually.

Be sure to also delete the web app from your computer after you cancel your account.

Comparison

How does Backblaze match up to the competition?

AcronisCompare4.6Compare
IDriveCompare4.6Compare
BackblazeCompare4.5Compare
LivedriveCompare4.0Compare

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Backblaze REVIEW: BOTTOM LINE

For an unlimited cloud backup service that you can install and then forget, Backblaze is hard to beat. Setting up an account is easy and uncomplicated, and security is more than adequate.

There are performance issues and the mobile app is not fully functional, but these are minor flaws in an otherwise reliable service. Backblaze excels at what is most important – guaranteeing all your data is secure and can be easily restored if you experience a natural disaster, theft, fire, or computer crash.

If you want more features and control from your cloud backup service, like the ability to sync your devices or the option to back up system files and applications so you can reboot your computer in the event of a total crash, you may want to look at other options, such as iDrive, which has a neat “entire machine backup” feature.

On the other hand, if your priority is ease of use, an affordable price, and dependable service, I would definitely recommend Backblaze for personal and small business cloud backup.

FAQ

Is online backup and storage safe?Online backup services use complex algorithms to encrypt their customers’ data and keep it safe. Data is encrypted on a customer’s device, in transit, and at rest in cloud storage. The best online backup companies also have different safeguards in place to monitor, detect, and immediately respond to potential security breaches. So cloud storage is safer than your computer or network-attached storage (NAS), which is much more open to a cyber or ransomware attack.How is Backblaze better than iCloud or Google Drive?In head-to-head matchups, Backblaze can’t be beat. Backblaze is a cloud backup service that does one thing well – securely backup your important data so that in the event of a disaster, you can recover it. That’s not the case with either Google Drive or Apple iCloud, both of which have privacy issues and other vulnerabilities because they provide services in addition to cloud storage and use customer information for other business purposes.Is it smart to keep all your data in the cloud?It’s always a good idea to use more than one backup method to protect your data in the event of a natural disaster or hardware crash. An online backup service that stores your encrypted data in the cloud is an essential part of a smart data protection plan. You should pair it with local backup on an external hard drive.Can cloud storage be hacked?Nothing is 100% safe from today’s sophisticated cybercriminals, but a hack of a cloud storage data center is unlikely. Cloud storage services have many cybersecurity resources to protect their customers’ data. They use advanced data encryption, 24-hour monitoring, and other dedicated resources to maintain data security. Many well-publicized hacks, like the 2016 iCloud breach that exposed celebrities’ photos, are the result of the use of passwords easily identified by the hackers, not cloud-specific vulnerabilities.

Dawn Prevete Dawn Prevete
Dawn is a freelance writer and editor specializing in developing strategic content for businesses. A lover of philosophy and the arts, she brainstorms with cultural educators to ensure all students have access to enriching learning opportunities.

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