Stephen Bay's Photography Blog

Crashplan Throttling and Switching to Backblaze

I have been a longtime user of Crashplan’s cloud backup service. I signed up in 2015, initially on the home program for $5/month and then switched to the small business plan for $10/month. It seemed to work well and at the start I had a only few TB of data. The upload wasn’t super speedy but it wasn’t terrible either. I don’t remember exactly how long it took me to upload everything but it was probably a month or two.

At the time there was no competitive alternative. Crashplan was unlimited and they would backup files on my external drives (where I keep my image library). Most importantly, they did not have any requirement that I keep my drives connected. Alternative providers, like Backblaze, required you to connect your external drive every 30 days or the backups would be deleted. This was a complete non-starter for me. Imagine you go on a three week trip and then come back home to find your drives gone due to theft. There’s no way to download the missing files in the remaining time before you hit the 30 day limit. So I chose Crashplan and stuck with it despite a rather clunky client that was a resource hog.

I recently moved my image library to a new set of drives (a thunderbolt RAID enclosure). With Crashplan you can move files to a new location without having to reupload everything. However, as I was redoing my setup, I fell a bit behind in my cloud backups. By the time I had everything organized and restarted backing up, I had about 160GB of new image files to upload.

After restarting the Crashplan backup, I began checking my progress and discovered it was proceeding very slowly. In fact, I would describe it as glacially slow and at times the client would report that it would be months before my backup completed:

Crashplan estimated time for backup to complete Estimated time for Crashplan backup to complete.

Given that my internet connection was very fast (uploads of 500+ Mbits/s), I double checked my Crashplan settings to make sure I didn’t have a setup error. But even playing with the settings I wasn’t getting any improvement. After looking through Crashplan help pages, I discovered they switched their policy to throttle users:

Crashplan help Crashplan explicitly states to expect no more than 10 GB/day of uploads. From the Crashplan website.

Crashplan states that a user can expect to upload 10 GB/day and only if you leave you computer on all day without letting it sleep. This is a ridiculously low limit and corresponds to about 1 Mbps (less than 1% of my upload bandwidth). Crashplan later states they do not throttle, but with the laughably slow upload speeds I simply do not believe their statement.

In October 2019 Backblaze expanded their service offering to keep old files for 1-year and forever (at increased cost). This removed my concern about traveling and not being able to connect my external drives every 30 days. Backblaze had good reviews but I’d always been hesitant to switch because of the hassle of uploading all my files again. But the slow uploads for Crashplan and the fact that I hated the poorly written client pushed me over the edge and I gave Backblaze a try.

It took me nine days to complete my backup of 7 TB. The first day I uploaded over a TB which is more than 100x what I could upload on Crashplan. The client didn’t suck and used only a few hundred MB of memory instead of several GB that Crashplan needed. I tracked my daily upload and plotted it in the chart below:

Backblaze upload speeds.

Around day 4 I noticed a drop in my upload speeds. I think this was my ISP (not Backblaze) throttling my connection but I am not 100% certain. In Backblaze you can set the number of threads (simultaneous uploads) to their servers. At the start I set it to the max of 30 but after day 4 I dropped it down to 10 threads and that seemed to help. On day 8, the transfer rate returned to around 1 TB/day. I’m not maxing out my connection but I consider this an excellent upload speed (1 TB/day is equivalent to 93 Mbps over 24 hours).

I’ll keep Crashplan for a month or two until I’m satisfied that Backblaze is stable and I’ve done a few restore tests. But at this point, I don’t see any reason to stay with Crashplan.

For those thinking about switching to Backblaze there are a few gotchas in terms of the service. Overall you have much less control over how the backup proceeds. Specifically, in Crashplan you can prioritize the files that are backed up first. So if you come back from a photo shoot, you can have those files at the top of the priority list. In contrast, Backblaze backups the smallest files first and you have no control over the order. If you just spent a few days editing a file and have a multi-layered PS file taking several GB, it will be one of the very last files uploaded.