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Backblaze cloud backup review

Backblaze makes a virtue out of simplicity

Backblaze cloud backup review
(Image: © Backblaze)

Our Verdict

Backblaze is still the easiest and one of the cheapest and most reliable cloud backup services available.

For

  • Simple, affordable pricing
  • Unlimited storage
  • Excellent backup and restoration speeds
  • Minimal system impact
  • Supports true two-factor authentication

Against

  • Mobile experience remains weak
  • Lacks Linux support
  • Difficult to back up specific folders
Backblaze: Specs

Number of devices backed up per subscription: One
Storage limit: Unlimited
Backups of tethered external drives: Yes
Backups of network storage drives: No
Backups of mobile devices: No
Operating system/application backups: No
Backups to local drives: No
Two-factor authentication: Yes
Drive shipping: Restore only

Backblaze touts itself as "astonishingly easy and low-cost," and it's hard to argue with either point. The service has raised prices slightly in the past couple of years but remains the most affordable unlimited solution among the best cloud backup services.

Regarding the ease of use, you install the Backblaze desktop app and it starts backing up your files immediately. It doesn't get much easier than that.

Backblaze isn't perfect. It isn't the most feature-rich cloud-backup service that I tested, and the mobile experience leaves a lot to be desired. But I'll walk you through everything you need to know about Backblaze to see if this simple and relatively inexpensive option is the right one for you.

Read on for the rest of our Backblaze review.

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Backblaze: Cloud backup vs. cloud sync

Online-backup services, or cloud backup services, make online copies of every personal file on your computer. Some of these services also back up system files, applications, smartphones, tablets and external hard drives. Most offer unlimited (or at least a lot of) storage for a flat subscription fee, and many (but not Backblaze) can also make local backups to an external hard drive.

Online-syncing services like Dropbox or OneDrive serve a different purpose. They create copies of specific files and push them out to all your devices for immediate access. But it would cost too much and take too long to use an online-syncing service to back up all your files.

If you have thousands of photos, videos, or music files you want backed up to a safe location, a cloud-backup service is what you need.

Backblaze: Costs and what's covered

Backblaze has the most straightforward pricing in the consumer online-backup market. There is just one plan and it offers unlimited backups of a single computer and any connected external drives. 

The only price variation comes with how frequently you would like to pay; Backblaze costs $7 monthly, $70 if paid yearly (saving $14) and $130 if paid every two years (saving $38).

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Software support covers Windows 7 through Windows 10, and on the macOS side, all the way back to 10.9 (Mavericks). On the mobile side are apps supporting Android back to 7.0 (Nougat) and iOS 12.0 and up.

While Linux users have been asking for official support for years now, Backblaze doesn't seem interested in taking that on. You do have the option to use a 3rd party app that relies on Backblaze's B2 cloud-storage service, but the pricing structure is quite different there.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

With B2, you pay both to store and to download your data. For example, if you had 1TB of data to store, it would cost $5 a month. If you needed to download that 1TB, it would cost an additional $10.

Backblaze does offer up to 10GB of B2 cloud storage for free with a regular Backblaze cloud-backup plan, but once you go over that mark, you'll need to pay.

Backblaze: Performance

We tested each cloud-backup service using a Lenovo Yoga C940 14-inch with a 10th Gen Intel Core i7 running Windows 10 Home 64. Mobile apps were tested on a Google Pixel 3 with Android 10. Each service's software was uninstalled from both devices before another service's software was installed.

Our test set of files to back up consisted of 15.6GB of documents, photos, videos and music. We uploaded this data to each cloud-backup service and then restored a 1.4GB subset of these files to the Lenovo Yoga C940.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We used the GlassWire application to monitor upload and download speeds on Windows, and the built-in Resource Monitor to track CPU usage. 

We conducted our tests in Middleton, Wisconsin, using TDS Telecom Extreme300 Fiber home internet service, which theoretically provided up to 300 megabits per second (Mbps) down and 300 Mbps up. Real-world speeds were considerably lower during testing, typically closer to 50 Mbps down and 60 Mbps up, according to Speedtest.net.

Acronis True ImageBackblazeCarbonite SafeCrashPlan for Small BusinessIDrive Personal
Initial upload speed26.4 Mbps36.4 Mbps17 Mbps27 Mbps25.1 Mbps
File-restore speed13.1 Mbps27.5 Mbps21.1 Mbps34.4 Mbps12.4 Mbps
CPU usage during backup>1%2.5%3.3%7.3%1.2%
CPU usage otherwise>1%>1%>1%>1%>1%

Our initial upload of 15.6GB of files using Backblaze's standard settings took approximately 1 hour and 6 minutes. At an average transfer speed of 36.4 Mbps, this made Backblaze the fastest uploader among the services we tested. 

This was more than double the speed that Backblaze achieved the last time we tested it and more than 9 Mbps faster than the fastest option in our last round of tests.

Restoring 1.4GB of video files took approximately 7 minutes and 18 seconds, about 90 seconds slower than speed champion CrashPlan. According to speedtest.net, our connection provided 89-Mbps upload at the time, while Backblaze transferred the files at 27.5 Mbps. 

It's a solid improvement from our previous round of Backblaze testing and was more than two minutes faster than the third-place finisher, Carbonite.

The Backblaze software had a light impact on our computer's performance, using an average of 2.53 percent of our Mac's CPU cycles during backup. The CPU usage did range more than most, going from less than 1 percent to 12 percent throughout the backup. Backblaze's average CPU usage dropped below 1 percent following the initial backup.

An update to the Backblaze client software for Windows and Mac released in July 2021 (after this review was initially posted) promises to speed upload times by even more, as the software no longer makes a temporary copy of each file on the computer's hard drive before uploading it. We're looking forward to testing Backblaze again to see if that made a difference.

Backblaze: User interface

While the online-backup-service world isn't brimming with innovative software design, Backblaze retains the most rudimentary interface of them all. In its defense, the entire appeal of Backblaze is that you can set it up and never have to think about it again. 

I would love to see Backblaze make a few concessions to modern app design, but the aesthetic really doesn't matter after you are done with the setup process.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There are only three active buttons on the Backblaze control panel. One is to pause your backup, another is for your restore options, and finally the last is for the settings menu. Other than that, you just have some informational links and data on your backup status.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

When you download Backblaze, it immediately kicks you into the backup process. By default, it will choose to back up everything on your device that is not among its built-in exceptions, which means most system files and applications won't be backed up.

While this is problematic for my testing as I want a specific data set to be backed up, it is the right option for most users. It ensures that all your data remains safe, and because Backblaze gives you unlimited storage, there is no reason to be stingy with it.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you do want to restrict the files that are backed up, be aware that this is more difficult with Backblaze than with other online-backup services. You cannot simply choose a set of files to back up, or not back up, in a file-picker menu. You instead need to exclude everything you don't want to back up by file type, by file size, or by folder.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Your unlimited storage extends to any external drives that plug directly into your computer, but not to network-attached storage devices. It's a reasonable policy and given the size and affordability of external drives these days, it isn't a significant restriction.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

File restoration with Backblaze is handled through the Backblaze web app — the button on the control panel is just a hyperlink to that page. You can download your data for free over the web, save it as a zip file to B2 Cloud Storage (additional fees apply) or opt to receive a physical USB flash drive or hard drive containing your data. (We'll cover the physical-media options in the Extra Features section.)

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Once you've chosen how to receive your data, you can either choose to download everything at once, or go through a file-picker menu to choose specific files.

Backblaze: Mobile apps

The Backblaze mobile apps have been updated with a couple of new features since we last reviewed the service, but overall, the app experience on mobile remains underwhelming.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The app is a simple folder-based list view of your files (a search function is also available). Tapping on a file will download it to your smartphone or tablet. You can see the file name and size, but there is no preview on smartphones other than a thumbnail.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The filetype icons have a more modern look than they did a few years ago, but they don't match up properly with the filetype in some cases. If you are using an iPad or an Android tablet you do get a larger image preview, but IDrive, for example, offers previews for all images and videos on smartphones.

One nice change is that you can now download files up to 5GB from your Backblaze personal backup on a mobile device. This used to be limited to 30MB.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You can now also access your B2 Cloud Storage from the mobile app. It's remarkable that this wasn't available previously, but regardless, users of B2 storage now can download their files on their phones.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

On the security front, the apps now support biometric unlock, which should be standard for any app with access to sensitive files.

Backblaze: Extra features

Backblaze doesn't offer much in the way of extras, but there are a few features worth noting.

One is the "Locate My Computer" option, which can be found by logging into your account on the Backblaze website. It will display the last known location and IP address of any computers registered with your Backblaze account. It's easy to turn it off if you have other solutions in place for a lost device, but it's a nice feature to have.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Backblaze uses AES-128 bit encryption to keep your data safe. Notably, it is the only online-backup service we tested that doesn't have AES-256 encryption as an option, although it's debatable whether there's any practical difference in security between the two.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Typically, your email address and password are used to decrypt your files, but if you want an added layer of security you can create a Private Encryption Key from the settings menu. Your private key will then be required on top of your email address and password to decrypt your data. Just be aware that Backblaze cannot access this encryption key, so if you lose it, your data cannot be decrypted.

Backblaze is also one of the only online-backup services I tested that supports the use of time-based one-time-password (TOTP) two-factor authentication (2FA) for user accounts via an app like Google Authenticator or Authy. (CrashPlan for Small Business is the other.) TOTP 2FA apps are more secure than standard texted-code 2FA systems.

Backblaze review: Bottom line

Backblaze has always focused on delivering a simple and effective product with straightforward pricing and it continues to achieve on all of these counts. If you're buying an online-backup subscription to create an off-site backup of your entire hard drive (and attached external drives), then for $70 a year, Backblaze is easy to recommend.

Despite the $10 price bump since our last review, Backblaze remains one of the most affordable options on the market and has shown improvements in performance and to a lesser degree in the mobile experience.

If you are looking for a more extensive feature set, better mobile support or NAS backup, IDrive delivers on those fronts. It performed solidly in our upload testing (less so on the download), but you will need to be wary of IDrive's storage limits.