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Backblaze cloud backup review

Backblaze is cheap, simple, fast and easy to use. But you might want to shop around if you have multiple machines to back up.

Backblaze logo

Our Verdict

Backblaze is cheap, simple, fast and easy to use. But you might want to shop around if you have multiple machines to back up.

For

  • Inexpensive
  • Unlimited storage
  • Simple setup process
  • Rapid upload speeds
  • Very easy to use
  • Generous drive-shipping policy
  • Lost-computer tracker

Against

  • No multiple-computer plans
  • No support for network-attached storage drives
  • Weak mobile apps
  • Few extra features

Backblaze has been one of the top names in cloud backup for several years now. While plenty of competitors boast stronger feature sets, none come close to the ease and value proposition that Backblaze delivers. It's one of the best cloud backup services out there.

For users who just want to install an online-backup solution on a single computer and never think about it again, Backblaze's unlimited storage and automatic backup options are simply unrivaled in the market.

Backblaze may not be for everyone, however. Customers with multiple machines (and mobile devices) to back up may prefer the more fully featured IDrive, which is only a bit pricier than Backblaze but does have storage limits. Power users with big budgets should consider Acronis' complex but customizable True Image.

In March 2019, Backblaze raised its prices. Monthly subscriptions jumped from $5 to $6, yearly subscriptions from $50 to $60 and two-year subscription deals from $95 to $110. Despite the price hike, however, Backblaze is still a pretty good deal.

Read on for the rest of our Backblaze review.

Updated with addition of extended version history. This review was originally published May 15, 2018.

Cloud-backup services defined

Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive and the like are online-sycing services. They make copies of a specific set of files on your device, sync those files to all of your devices, and can share some files with your friends or colleagues. 

But it would cost too much to use an online-syncing service to back up all of your files. This is where a true online-backup service steps in.

Backblaze's unlimited storage and automatic backup options are simply unrivaled in the market.

Online-backup services back up all of the personal files on your computer, and sometimes cover system files and applications, smartphones, tablets, and external hard drives as well. 

If you have thousands of photos, videos, music or other files that you can't imagine losing forever, an online backup service is what you need. Most of these services offer unlimited (or lots of) storage for a reasonable flat subscription fee.

Much online-backup software can also do full-disk backups to a local, external hard drive (Backblaze is an exception), and Windows and macOS now come with built-in backup software. But backups to the cloud can't be lost to fire, flood, theft or eventual drive failure.

There are also cloud-storage services, such as Box, that let you move files you don't immediately need, such as PDFs of old bills or tax returns, to a cloud server. The difference here is that those files are deleted from on your computer's drive; with cloud syncing and cloud backup, the originals stay on your drive. 

Backblaze gives its consumer users 10GB of cloud storage with regular online-backup accounts, and also has a separate cloud-storage service called B2. (More on that in the next section.)

Backblaze: Costs and what's covered

Backblaze has the most straightforward cost structure of any of the six online-backup services we recently tested. There is just one consumer plan: $6 per month for unlimited backup of a single computer (including connected external drives). 

You can save $12 by paying annually ($60 total cost) and $34 if you pay every two years ($110 total cost). You can also give the software a whirl with a 15-day free trial.

Backblaze has software for Windows 7 through Windows 10 and Intel-based Macs running Mac OS X 10.8 and later. (Yup, there's support for macOS Mojave's Dark Mode.) Companion mobile apps run on Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich and iOS 8.1 and later.

There's no Linux backup software, but Backblaze invites Linux users to try its B2 cloud-storage service using a third-party backup application. (Watch it, though, because while storing data on B2 is dirt-cheap at $5 per month per terabyte, downloading that same terabyte will cost you $10.)

Backblaze's mobile apps are a definite weak point, offering limited functionality and stark user interfaces.

The mobile apps only let you find, access and share individual computer files backed up to Backblaze's servers. The apps don't actually back up the phones or tablets themselves. 

Some other cloud-backup services, such as IDrive, do back up mobile devices, but this may not be necessary, because Apple and Google already back up mobile devices for free.

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Nor does Backblaze back up applications or system files. The argument is that such files can be reinstalled from disks or app stores, so keep your product activation codes handy. (Some online-backup services do back up operating systems and applications, but few do by default.)

Backblaze: User interface

Backblaze has, without a doubt, the simplest desktop software of any of the online-backup services we tested. The main control panel displays the status of your backup and little else, save for a link to the web app you'd use to restore your data.

Backblaze does offer a few settings for users who want a little more control. You can schedule uploads, including the potentially massive initial upload, so you don't bog down your home network.

You can also use a private encryption key for added security on top of the AES-128 encryption that Backblaze uses by default. Just remember that opting to use the private key means that you are solely responsible for it and that you'll be unable to recover your data without it.

Backblaze has, without a doubt, the simplest desktop software of any of the online-backup services we tested.

By default, Backblaze begins by simply uploading everything on your device that doesn't fall into the service's built-in file exclusions, which eliminates mostly applications and system files. This setting should work well for most users. 

A feature introduced in January 2019 lets you pause backups if your computer connects to specific Wi-Fi networks, such as mobile hotspots with data caps or workplace networks.

Given that Backblaze offers unlimited storage, there's little reason to be selective with your backups, but it's worth noting that if you wish to back up only a specific set of files, the process will be somewhat difficult to manage with Backblaze.

This service doesn't really have a file-selection interface. You can create additional exclusions for specific folders, specific file types or files over a certain size, but you can't just highlight a given set of folders and say, "This is what I want to have backed up."

One additional option with Backblaze is backing up a connected external drive, but network-attached storage devices aren't allowed.

The restoration process for Backblaze is handled entirely through the service's web interface. You first have to choose whether to download your data or receive a physical USB flash drive or hard drive. (We'll cover the physical options in the Unique Features section below.)

You then get the option to either select your entire backup or use the tree menu to find the specific files and folders that you would like to restore.

In January 2019, Backblaze added the option to use your Google username and password to enroll or log into the service.

Backblaze: Mobile apps

Backblaze's mobile apps were a definite weak point, offering limited functionality and stark user interfaces. You can view your backed-up files and folders by navigating through a standard list view, or you can use the search bar to enter the name of a specific file. An upgrade in January 2019 promises to make the mobile apps much better; we'll examine these further in our next Backblaze review.

The only way to download a file is by tapping on its name. There is no preview available, regardless of file type, which makes tracking down a specific photo nearly impossible for most users. Individual downloads are also limited to files that are smaller than 30MB, so you won't be restoring many video files to your smartphone. (This cap was raised in January 2019.)

The mobile apps now support two-factor authentication via either SMS text message or authenticator apps like Google Authenticator, and you can log in with your fingerprint or face as well as with a password.

Backblaze: Extra features

One interesting feature in Backblaze is Locate My Computer, which performs an hourly check on your computer's location using any connected networks. You can then access this information via the Backblaze website to see the last-known ISP and IP address used, along with a map.

This isn't a feature we saw in other online-backup services, but it's not a complete departure from the backup-and-recovery focus of the app. It could certainly come in handy if your laptop is lost or stolen.

Backblaze lets you add an optional private encryption key when you create your account, preventing anyone else from decrypting your data. Just be aware that if you lose that key, not even Backblaze will be able to recover your data.

The Restore Return Refund program is a convenient service offered by Backblaze for customers who need to restore a large amount of data. You won't have to download the data over the internet, which can take hours or even days; instead, Backblaze will put the data on a storage drive and mail it to you.

You can request either a USB flash drive ($99), holding up to 256GB of data, or a USB hard drive ($189), holding up to 8TB of data. (These are double the sizes before January 2019.) If you return the drive within 30 days, you'll get a full refund and will have to pay only the return shipping cost. You can do this up to five times every year, after which point, you'll be permanently charged for the drive.

IDrive will also ship you a drive, although only once per year before you start paying. Carbonite offers a similar service on its pricier plans. However, you can also ship your initial backup to IDrive on a removable drive, which could spare you days or weeks of bandwidth-crushing uploads.

Backblaze archives older versions of changed backed-up files, but for only up to 30 days by default. As of September 2020, Backblaze also offers extended version history for a fee: up to one year for an extra $2 per month, or forever for an extra $0.005 per GB on top of that.

Some other services, such as Acronis, IDrive and SpiderOak, already keep older versions of files indefinitely, although the old versions will count against those services' storage limits. Backblaze has no such limits.

Backblaze: Performance

We tested each cloud-backup service using a 15-inch Macbook Pro 2017 running Windows 10 via Boot Camp. Mobile apps were tested on a Google Pixel XL 2. 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 16.8GB of documents, photos, videos and music. We uploaded this data to each cloud backup service and then restored a 1.12GB subset of these files to the Macbook Pro.

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 tests using TDS Telecom Extreme300 Fiber Internet home service (with potentially 300 Mbps down and 300 Mbps up) in Middleton, Wisconsin. Real-world speeds during testing were typically closer to 280 Mbps down and 120 Mbps up, according to speedtest.net.

Our initial upload of 16.8GB of files using Backblaze's standard settings took approximately 2 hours and 42 minutes. At an average transfer speed of 14.8 Mbps, this made Backblaze one of the fastest uploaders among the services we tested, although it was a distant second to the 26.1-Mbps average upload speed that IDrive achieved.

Restoring 1.12GB of photo and video files took approximately 10 minutes and 30 seconds, just a bit longer than Acronis True Image took, but far behind speed demon SpiderOak One, which restored the files in just under 2 minutes. (SpiderOak had the longest upload time, though.) According to speedtest.net, our connection provided 280-Mbps download at the time, while Backblaze transferred the files at 15.3 Mbps.

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The Backblaze software had a light impact on our computer's performance, using an average of 3 percent of our Mac's CPU cycles during backup and varying from 0 percent to 12 percent throughout the backup. Backblaze's average CPU usage dropped below 1 percent following the initial backup.

Backblaze review: Bottom line

Simplicity is Backblaze's biggest selling point. For users who want to just install cloud-backup software on a computer and not worry about it ever again, it's hard to beat Backblaze. And at $50 a year for unlimited storage, Backblaze is one of the cheapest options out there as well.

If you want more from your cloud-backup service — such as sharing options, the ability to back up multiple computers or smartphones, or online-syncing functionality — then IDrive is worth considering, even though it costs more than Backblaze and has storage caps.

  • mathmami
    I would absolutely NOT recommend Backblaze to anyone who expects service & professionalism. It has been a nightmare dealing with them.
    I recently bought a new MacPro & emailed Backblaze so I could restore the backed up data to my new computer. They sent me a USB hard drive which I found difficult to use ; I am not tech savvy. I had to unlock the drive. Then the drive backed up for a few seconds & stopped.
    At one point the support point person (who sometimes gave me an answer to my question or just repeated a previous email answer), gave me advice that would have deleted my backup. When I pointed this out , he said he mixed up my ticket with someone else’s ticket. THIS IS CLEARLY UNACCEPTABLE.
    I then left 3 voicemails for the lead support person & additionally I wrote an email to both the CEO & the head of the support team regarding this unacceptable scary mixup. As of today (easily 10 days out) I have not heard from anyone I‘ve contacted.
    Additionally I discovered that Backblaze had charged me twice so I pointed out this mistake to them.
    Fast forward, I finally had to pay Apple a $100 to transfer the data from my old computer to my new MacPRO. In summary I have paid twice: to Backblaze (with no reliable service) & to Apple.
    Reply
  • dorieu
    This all seems a little scary to someone who is not tech savvy and wants a home remedy to losing years of data. My husband and I also have a small home business and work to some degree with online businesses and at home business. So, I am wondering what my safest way to start it.
    Reply
  • yevp
    Yev from Backblaze here -> I apologize that you had this issue with our support team. We've since had training with our agents to make sure they are taking extra care with recommendation. Again, I'm sorry that you had this issue when reaching out to use in a time of need.
    21611983 said:
    I would absolutely NOT recommend Backblaze to anyone who expects service & professionalism. It has been a nightmare dealing with them.
    I recently bought a new MacPro & emailed Backblaze so I could restore the backed up data to my new computer. They sent me a USB hard drive which I found difficult to use ; I am not tech savvy. I had to unlock the drive. Then the drive backed up for a few seconds & stopped.
    At one point the support point person (who sometimes gave me an answer to my question or just repeated a previous email answer), gave me advice that would have deleted my backup. When I pointed this out , he said he mixed up my ticket with someone else’s ticket. THIS IS CLEARLY UNACCEPTABLE.
    I then left 3 voicemails for the lead support person & additionally I wrote an email to both the CEO & the head of the support team regarding this unacceptable scary mixup. As of today (easily 10 days out) I have not heard from anyone I‘ve contacted.
    Additionally I discovered that Backblaze had charged me twice so I pointed out this mistake to them.
    Fast forward, I finally had to pay Apple a $100 to transfer the data from my old computer to my new MacPRO. In summary I have paid twice: to Backblaze (with no reliable service) & to Apple.

    Reply