Backblaze Cloud Backup Review: Simple, Cheap and Fast

Backblaze has been one of the top names in online 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.

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 caps. Power users with big budgets should consider Acronis' complex but customizable True Image.

Cloud Backup Services Defined

Online-syncing services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud and OneDrive 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 include 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.

Cost 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: $5 per month for unlimited backup of a single computer (including connected external drives). You can save $10 by paying annually ($50 total cost) and $25 if you pay every two years ($95 total cost).

Backblaze has software for Windows XP through Windows 10 and Intel-based Macs running Mac OS X 10.6 and later. Companion mobile apps run on Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich and iOS 8.1 and later.

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 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.)

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.

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.

Mobile Apps

Backblaze's mobile apps are 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.

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.

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 128GB of data, or a USB hard drive ($189), holding up to 4TB of data. 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. Some other services, such as Acronis, IDrive and SpiderOak, keep older versions indefinitely, which could come in handy.

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.

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.

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