How to set up Backblaze to back up your Mac, and why you should do it now

Posted:
in General Discussion
You know those backup drives will fail someday -- but online backup services won't. Every minute of every day, your work can be preserved offsite -- and AppleInsider will show you how to start.




You can do everything right, and still lose data. For instance, we have three external drives hooked up to the iMac that this story was written on, and still we lost work.

That's because you need more than just some drives plugged in, you need a solid plan with contingencies. You need to think about it and then you need to do it. Have a plan for exactly how your data is backed up to external drives and precisely to where.

What we've done on this Mac is have two of those drives as just extra storage space. Only one of them was being used for backing up, and while we did have a plan, the plan wasn't good enough.

The plan didn't survive our hitting a problem and needing to reconfigure everything. We assumed it was all still working as it had been and that's why we lost data.

To be fair, it's not the greatest amount of data in the world ever. It's a FileMaker Pro database and we've lost maybe seven entries in it. Then to be even fairer, the solution to preventing this loss really should be using and properly configuring a service like Backblaze.

So, let's talk about it. And, how it's not enough just to subscribe -- you've got to put some work into it.

Perfect storm

What's happened is that we're in the middle of moving to an external drive so that we can boot our iMac without using its creaking internal one. That's just a case of using Carbon Copy Cloner and we've done that yet somehow we've convinced Backblaze.com that we're starting anew. It appears to be backing up all 3TB of data from our external drive even though 99 percent of it is the same as the internal one was.




It's not supposed to do that and we are having an email discussion with Backblaze about what's gone wrong -- but you noticed that 99 percent figure. That's not quite the same as 100 percent.

Last Friday, a FileMaker Pro database crashed on us -- blame an elderly iMac -- and we didn't notice at the time that it lost some data. Not much at all was lost, but enough that we turned to Backblaze to retrieve the latest version of it. Except Backblaze hadn't gotten to that database yet.

So we're out these seven entries in a database and we can't get them back.

Don't do it to yourself

In the short term, we're hoping that the Backblaze company will figure out the problem with our cloned drive setup. But, that's the part that's on us, and the lack of work we put into solving the problem in the first place.

We're hoping that it will recognize that the new external drive has the same data, or mostly so, as the old internal one. It won't get back this lost data but it will mean everything from now on is fine.

If they sort this out, then every thing we create on this iMac from then on will be backed up to their online service. We've been doing this for the last four or five years and on the odd occasion we've needed to restore a file, it's been quick and easy.

If they don't sort it out, then we won't be safely backed up until it completes uploading the 3TB. With this AppleInsider location's poor internet speed, that's a long time. Seriously. Right now it's saying we'll have everything backed up in 1,117 days time.




Even the Backblaze support page that calculates this starts its message with the words "Freak out."

There are options in Backblaze to speed it up a little but really it's down to that poor internet connection of ours. While we hope yours is faster, it's still the case that your very first backup is going to take a while. Possibly a long while.

Not three years, mind, that's just ridiculous. This is when we realize this iMac is so far from the internet that we would be quicker describing the data over the phone.

Start now

What happens with any online backup service is that first it copies up absolutely everything to its own servers. You can tell it to exclude certain files and it won't bother with macOS or your applications. Otherwise then, by default, if it's on a drive connected to your Mac, it gets uploaded.

Once that's done, Backblaze works continually to backup everything you do, pretty much as you do it. That file you created this morning? Backed up.




It is a very good feeling to know that this is happening. Trust us, we had that very good feeling until about ten days ago. We want it back. We'll get it back: we will feel good again when we know everything is backed up and every single thing we ever do is being backed up as we do it.

Get this feeling for yourself. Maybe you shouldn't ditch your external drives just yet, even if we're currently contemplating throwing one of them out of a window. Just also get yourself an online backup service and do it right now.

You won't be safe until all of your data is backed up on it, but no matter how long that takes, it's quickest if you start now. Immediately.

Seriously. This is how serious we are. While it is galling that we've lost these seven little database entries, we have to compare that to many years of reliable backups and -- what's more -- reliable restoring of deleted files too. Consequently, we recommend Backblaze highly.

Excuse us while we just choke a bit on that. This problem will pass. And if they haven't solved the problem yet, Backblaze's online support people have been working on it. We've no complaints about the attention we've been getting.

"I'm fine with Dropbox"

Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud, Google Drive, they are all superb at meaning your work is with you wherever you go. Whichever device you use, whenever you need something you've saved, it's right there.

They are working drives. It's online storage versus online backup. With Dropbox and the rest you're saving work there that you intend to use, to change, to update. With Backblaze and some alternatives, you're saving your work to a backup in case of problems.




So we have Dropbox and iCloud and all the rest but the files we save in them on our Macs or on our external drives are also being backed up to Backblaze.

The aim with this is that after we set it up right, we don't have to keep checking. We don't have to think about it, don't need do anything about more it, and we just know it's all being backed up. When disaster strikes, then we can just grab back a file.

If you save all of your work, all of your documents, absolutely everything that is important to you, into Dropbox, then you could be okay. Dropbox automatically keeps copies of files up to 30 days after deletion and if you're a business user paying more, you get longer.

You just also have to pay for all that space.




Dropbox gives you 2GB of space for free. It's quite a leap from 2GB to the next tier, a paid-for one called Dropbox Plus that gives you 1TB for $9.99 per month. Then there's Dropbox Professional which is $19.99 per month for 2TB.

You'll notice that's still not the 3TB we'd need for our little local difficulty. To get 3TB you're into Dropbox Business and the company negotiates a cost for that depending on the number of users you have.

Even if we just needed 2TB, though, that works out to $239.88 per year. By comparison, online backup services are both cheaper and give you more space. CrashPlan for Business is $120 per year for a single Mac, for instance. Carbonite is $72 per year.

Backblaze, the one we use and usually swear by instead of at, is $50 per year.

What's more, though, is that as this is passive storage rather than working files, you get more space. Backblaze is typical in how it doesn't limit how much data you backup. Right now we have this 3TB internal iMac hard drive and a clone of it in an external but we also have two other drives plugged in.

Backblaze backs up the lot.

Restoration comedy

It's when you need to restore a file that you see the difference between working drives like Dropbox or iCloud and backup storage like Backblaze.




This is like the difference between the files on your Mac and the files on the external drive that you store at your mother's. You know it's safe away from your house so it won't get stolen along with your Mac. You trust your mother not to look at it all. It just takes a while longer to get the files back if there's a problem.

Not much longer, though. To restore a single file or a handful of them takes us a few minutes and then they're downloaded right to our Mac.

Compare that to iCloud which offers a similar way of downloading deleted files. You have to log on to icloud.com, then go into Settings and scroll down for Advanced and then choose Restore Files.




Then iCloud is slow to list all the possible files to restore and it's slower still for you to find what you need. You just get a straight list of files that have recently been deleted: this is exactly the same idea as Photos on your iPhone. Items you delete on iCloud get moved into a Deleted Items section and left for up to 30 days.

It will save you for the odd file, it's no use for more than that. Online backups keep copies of everything and you can go back to yesterday's data, the day before or two weeks from last Tuesday.

This is very much like Apple's Time Machine, except not as visual or friendly, and also not on a drive in your house.

If you need more than one file, if you need your entire hard drive restored, then it's true that it would take longer to download it all from an online service than from Time Machine. However, Time Machine isn't fast -- and you can pay online services to send you a physical copy.

Backblaze quotes $99 for them to send you up to 128GB of data on a USB drive, for example, or $189 for a hard drive up to 4TB. We'd call that a bargain on its own for getting all your data sent to you with a variant of the old "sneakernet" or "station wagon full of tapes" method from back in the day. But online services typically do one thing more: they'll refund your money when you send them back the USB stick or hard drive.

Belt and braces

You've spotted that we recommend online backup services, we've been pretty clear about that. We've been only slightly less clear that we also recommend working drives like Dropbox and iCloud. What we've been substantially less clear about because of our current problem is that, yes, we do also recommend backing up to external drives.

While we continue to talk with Backblaze about our specific problem, though, we are also taking steps to protect this particular database. From now on it will be cloned to an external drive and back again, it will be backed up online. We're just also going to tell Hazel to make a copy of it onto both Dropbox and iCloud every day.

All that because we lost seven tiny entries in a database. Imagine how you'll feel when you lose something bigger.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,078member
    Ahem, you recommend online backup services, but you lost information using such a service?
    Did you check Time Machine? It backs up your information, even if you disconnect your Time Machine drives ...
    I would advice a big Time Machine solid state drive. Ultra fast recovery (a million times faster than your internet connection, and no discussion with possibly unreliable internet backup providers), ultra safe storage (will survive a fire even) and no monthly fee!
    arthurba
  • Reply 2 of 30
    I started using CrashPlan after my cat took out my USB Time Machine drive. But it just backs up the current state of my machine. I would prefer an online backup of my Time Machine since it contains versioning.
    arthurba
  • Reply 3 of 30
    stevenozstevenoz Posts: 211member
    I'm skeptical about online backup. I should put ALL my data on another man's drive? If LifeLock, Experian, Equifax and the Pentagon (among many other high-security sites) can get hacked and digital records stolen, Backblaze can be hacked and your data stolen too. My advice: get two large external drives for two sets of backup. Partition them, one for a clone and one for Time Machine backup. Get SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner and clone/mirror your boot drive on one partition. Point Time Machine to do its on-going backups on the other. Then repeat with the second drive. Clone at least every two weeks. If possible, keep one external drive safely off-site when not being periodically used.
    edited August 6 randominternetpersondavgreg
  • Reply 4 of 30
    No SLA. Why would you store your data on a service with no SLA?  Ok - yes they have an SLA -but only for service uptime.  All data storage can fail (even redundant storage) - and they are making NO PROMISES that your data will ever be available to restore, no SLA. If their SLA said 90 days or 30 days then would you be ok with that (ie: what you stored 30 days ago will be restored in the event of catastrophic data failure)?  Well BackBlaze promise less - they promise nothing.  This is no unrealistic- Amazon recently lost several customers S3 data going back weeks - and their SLA is relatively good. But the customers only had a single region so when several rows in the data centre went up in smoke so did their data.  Cloud storage/backup has its place - but if it’s reliable (with a decent SLA) its incredibly expensive and if it’s not reliable then it’s only useful as a 3rd or 4th rung backup. 
    https://www.backblaze.com/company/sla.html
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 5 of 30
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,701administrator
    knowitall said:
    Ahem, you recommend online backup services, but you lost information using such a service?
    Did you check Time Machine? It backs up your information, even if you disconnect your Time Machine drives ...
    I would advice a big Time Machine solid state drive. Ultra fast recovery (a million times faster than your internet connection, and no discussion with possibly unreliable internet backup providers), ultra safe storage (will survive a fire even) and no monthly fee!
    The hows and the whys of how this happened -- and how to avoid it -- is addressed in the piece.
    edited August 6
  • Reply 6 of 30
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 6,021member
    Been backing up my machines and drives w/ BB for years, it's a great service. Love being able to retrieve documents on the fly from the mobile app when I'm out and about.
  • Reply 7 of 30
    Brad PuettBrad Puett Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I missed the part where you tell us "How to set up Backblaze to backup your Mac" ??
  • Reply 8 of 30
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,701administrator
    I missed the part where you tell us "How to set up Backblaze to backup your Mac" ??
    "Start Now"
  • Reply 9 of 30
    sumergosumergo Posts: 183member
    I missed the part where you tell us "How to set up Backblaze to backup your Mac" ??
    "Start Now"
    stevenoz said:
    I'm skeptical about online backup. I should put ALL my data on another man's drive? If LifeLock, Experian, Equifax and the Pentagon (among many other high-security sites) can get hacked and digital records stolen, Backblaze can be hacked and your data stolen too. My advice: get two large external drives for two sets of backup. Partition them, one for a clone and one for Time Machine backup. Get SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner and clone/mirror your boot drive on one partition. Point Time Machine to do its on-going backups on the other. Then repeat with the second drive. Clone at least every two weeks. If possible, keep one external drive safely off-site when not being periodically used.
    arthurba said:
    No SLA. Why would you store your data on a service with no SLA?  Ok - yes they have an SLA -but only for service uptime.  All data storage can fail (even redundant storage) - and they are making NO PROMISES that your data will ever be available to restore, no SLA. If their SLA said 90 days or 30 days then would you be ok with that (ie: what you stored 30 days ago will be restored in the event of catastrophic data failure)?  Well BackBlaze promise less - they promise nothing.  This is no unrealistic- Amazon recently lost several customers S3 data going back weeks - and their SLA is relatively good. But the customers only had a single region so when several rows in the data centre went up in smoke so did their data.  Cloud storage/backup has its place - but if it’s reliable (with a decent SLA) its incredibly expensive and if it’s not reliable then it’s only useful as a 3rd or 4th rung backup. 
    https://www.backblaze.com/company/sla.html
    Hey Mike.  After recommending "the cloud" for all one's most treasured data - any comments on the stevenoz and arthurba posts?

    Hey Mike.  Any comments?
    edited August 6
  • Reply 10 of 30
    While CrashPlan was shuttering its Home product we inspected several alternatives - BackBlaze among them. It looked to be the best except for one crucial fact. They purposefully do not back up any metadata for Mac files. Given all the time we've spend tagging and commenting our graphics files that proved to be a show-stopper. Yes, we could put all our files into sparse bundles and then have BackBlaze incrementally back up the bundles, but we thought that sounded like tempting the fates too much.

    Currently we have the bulk of our files backed up to an 8TB RAID1 TimeMachine for quick recovery of deletes, and everything other than the four Macs' System files backed up to CrashPlan Small Business.

    We had successfully recovered a failed 2TB drive from CrashPlan a couple of years ago. It took three weeks, but all the files and their metadata came back safely.
  • Reply 11 of 30
    My big issue with these services, and admittedly it’s got nothing to do with the services themselves - Xfinity. We get 1tb of data transfer per month. We typically come within about 50gb of that. Other than paying to upgrade to their unlimited tier, there’s simply no way to back up any significant amount of my data to the cloud.
  • Reply 12 of 30
    Important note and the reason I switched from Carbonite to Backblaze a couple of years ago and have never looked back: Carbonite did not offer any external drive backup option *for Macs*.  It looks like they've only recently started supporting this (just checked Carbonite support) and you have to pay more to backup more external drives.  
  • Reply 13 of 30
    While CrashPlan was shuttering its Home product we inspected several alternatives - BackBlaze among them. It looked to be the best except for one crucial fact. They purposefully do not back up any metadata for Mac files. Given all the time we've spend tagging and commenting our graphics files that proved to be a show-stopper. Yes, we could put all our files into sparse bundles and then have BackBlaze incrementally back up the bundles, but we thought that sounded like tempting the fates too much.

    Currently we have the bulk of our files backed up to an 8TB RAID1 TimeMachine for quick recovery of deletes, and everything other than the four Macs' System files backed up to CrashPlan Small Business.

    We had successfully recovered a failed 2TB drive from CrashPlan a couple of years ago. It took three weeks, but all the files and their metadata came back safely.
    "Aperture and iPhoto store photos and the associated metadata in a package file, which will appear as a folder through the Backblaze View/Restore Files page. To restore your iPhoto or Aperture library, the entire folder must be selected. Since meta data (such as edits, ratings, albums, slideshows, and faces) are stored in separate files that are linked to the original image, the entire Library must restored if you wish to retain the meta data. While it is possible to restore just the original image files, all other metadata will be lost without the entire Library. By default, iPhoto or Aperture Libraries are stored in the Users > *Your_Username* > Pictures directory, but this is configurable in iPhoto.
    '

  • Reply 14 of 30
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,701administrator
    sumergo said:
    I missed the part where you tell us "How to set up Backblaze to backup your Mac" ??
    "Start Now"
    stevenoz said:
    I'm skeptical about online backup. I should put ALL my data on another man's drive? If LifeLock, Experian, Equifax and the Pentagon (among many other high-security sites) can get hacked and digital records stolen, Backblaze can be hacked and your data stolen too. My advice: get two large external drives for two sets of backup. Partition them, one for a clone and one for Time Machine backup. Get SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner and clone/mirror your boot drive on one partition. Point Time Machine to do its on-going backups on the other. Then repeat with the second drive. Clone at least every two weeks. If possible, keep one external drive safely off-site when not being periodically used.
    arthurba said:
    No SLA. Why would you store your data on a service with no SLA?  Ok - yes they have an SLA -but only for service uptime.  All data storage can fail (even redundant storage) - and they are making NO PROMISES that your data will ever be available to restore, no SLA. If their SLA said 90 days or 30 days then would you be ok with that (ie: what you stored 30 days ago will be restored in the event of catastrophic data failure)?  Well BackBlaze promise less - they promise nothing.  This is no unrealistic- Amazon recently lost several customers S3 data going back weeks - and their SLA is relatively good. But the customers only had a single region so when several rows in the data centre went up in smoke so did their data.  Cloud storage/backup has its place - but if it’s reliable (with a decent SLA) its incredibly expensive and if it’s not reliable then it’s only useful as a 3rd or 4th rung backup. 
    https://www.backblaze.com/company/sla.html
    Hey Mike.  After recommending "the cloud" for all one's most treasured data - any comments on the stevenoz and arthurba posts?

    Hey Mike.  Any comments?
    Backup is a very personal topic. For the vast majority of users, we recommend at the very least a Time Machine backup, and an off-site one of some sort.

    Whether that off-site one be a drive you've hauled over to somebody's house, an online backup service, a drive in a safety deposit box, a NAS at a buddy's house or what have you, is really up to the user. Each has tradeoffs for convenience, data access speed, and security.

    Regarding the SLA: how important that is, depends on the user. If you've got that Time Machine backup, and the Backblaze backup is gone, then you still have your data. Thus, our recommendation for a local and off-site backup.

    Regarding "If LifeLock, Experian, Equifax and the Pentagon (among many other high-security sites) can get hacked and digital records stolen, Backblaze can be hacked and your data stolen too." Of course this is a possibility. Also, that drive you've got off site can be stolen, or you can get malware on your computer compromising your own data locally.

    In short, AppleInsider's position is make as many backups of your data as sanity, security, cost, and convenience allow. I wouldn't trust Joe's Storage Shack with an old-school "under construction" logo blinking away for my data, for instance.
    edited August 6 douglas baileyarthurba
  • Reply 15 of 30
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,334member
    stevenoz said:
    I'm skeptical about online backup. I should put ALL my data on another man's drive? If LifeLock, Experian, Equifax and the Pentagon (among many other high-security sites) can get hacked and digital records stolen, Backblaze can be hacked and your data stolen too. My advice: get two large external drives for two sets of backup. Partition them, one for a clone and one for Time Machine backup. Get SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner and clone/mirror your boot drive on one partition. Point Time Machine to do its on-going backups on the other. Then repeat with the second drive. Clone at least every two weeks. If possible, keep one external drive safely off-site when not being periodically used.
    I tend to agree, I'm not big fan of putting my data out on the internet so I back up at home and I have 3 copies of everything and I us time machine to do a quick recovery and I delete something or file gets corrupted. My thoughts are the guy breaking into the house are stupid and they are not going to smart enough to get to my personal data, but people hacking internet business are smart and they will get to your data.

    However, with that said, hackers are not going to target a back up service, since the data is not organize like financial data on the one you named, hackers would have to work really hard to get usable data from back up services, everyone organize their information differently.

    The hacker risk is low on backup services since the risk and reward is very low.
  • Reply 16 of 30
    duervoduervo Posts: 69member
    FWIW, B2 can also be used with Synology Cloud Sync to backup a Synology NAS. If you use a Synology NAS as a Time Machine backup destination, then your TM backups can also be part of that Cloud Sync to B2.
    edited August 6
  • Reply 17 of 30
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,588member
    I use iCloud as well as Time machine. I also duplicated my MBP onto a 1TB SSD which I plug into the family iMac and use as a start-up disk once in a while at which point ist synchronizes everything. This is completely effortless and I have copies of all files on my mbp, the external drive and in the cloud, as well as on a TimeMachine drive. Works well for me.
    edited August 6
  • Reply 18 of 30
    netroxnetrox Posts: 681member
    I would advise that people STOP backing up *all* their data in the cloud. It takes WAY too much bandwidth and it hogs the public airwaves and is not advisable for those with data caps. Even 1 Gbps services do have caps on how much you can transmit data, usually in the range of low end of terabytes. And why the hell do I want to back up my system when my local backup is on a magnitude of a hundred times faster at restoring data? Time machine is the most reliable way to backup the entire system - it works every time and the only data that I also back up are documents into iCloud. That's it. No images or videos. And you can easily duplicate the time machine by simply backing up again with a new drive and be put in safe area. Please in the name of sanity, do NOT ever promote the idea of cloud backup. It's bad. It's not productive. It's too slow. It takes too much bandwidth.
    stevenoz
  • Reply 19 of 30
    I moved to Backblaze when I was forced off Crashplan and I've been nothing but disappointed at almost every step of the way. Don't assume everything is backed up correctly, and don't assume it will be quick or easy to recover in the event that something goes wrong. The restore process is painfully atrocious and makes it almost impossible to find the correct version of a file to restore and before you can even restore you sometimes have to create snapshots, produce zip files and then download and if you need any urgent recovery just forget it. I am using the Backblaze app on Macs and within Virtual Machines (Parallels) and its slow and sometimes really heavy CPU and is always behind the actual state of files so if you have a serious crash don't expect to have the latest version of all files. I am not saying this hypothetically - its all based on a laptop which had intermittent issues before dying and corrupting my VM. It does not do an offsite backup of Time Machine, in fact I actually had my local Time Machine on an external drive as well as my NAS corrupted from having Backblaze attempt to back it up to B2. I had much more confidence in Crashplan, and it saved me a couple of times. 

    Now I'm moving everything across to Arq which I had used in the past but because cost prohibitive due to data costs, but now can get unlimited data with Google so its great.
    Rayz2016
  • Reply 20 of 30
    darinbdarinb Posts: 4member
    If you find the answer to BackBlaze re-backing up your drives please post. I've have the same problem, upgraded my drives and BB said that they wouldn't need re-backed up--but its been backing them up again for months now, with several months paying the evil Comcast their penalty for going over 1TB each month....

    --Darin
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