Sunday, January 03, 2010

CrashPlan (or JungleDisk) instead of Retrospect 8?

I've been hoping to retire my XP machine running Retrospect Professional and switch to Retrospect 8 for OS X.

Then I discovered EMC hasn't been able to produce a manual / user guide for Retrospect 8 in the year since it was first released.

I just can't get my head past that. How can I trust a company that can't put a manual together? I mean, I know manuals are hard work, but surely in the midst of the Great Recession EMC could have found some tech writers? The simplest explanation for the lack of a manual is that EMC didn't finish the software and has since abandoned the product.

So I'm looking for alternatives to Retrospect - in addition to Time Machine. (I believe in at least two, completely unrelated, fully automated, backup systems).

Two years ago I considered CrashPlan. Back then it was designed to backup to a friend's machine, but now they offer free local backup and an offsite service. Today we'd need the family plan, which costs $100 per year.

TidBITS is fond of CrashPlan, they all use it ...
The reviews are positive, but of course CrashPlan has the Cloud risk. If Code 42 dies, everyone's backups are toast. Since I will be doing local Time Machine backups this is less of a risk for me.

I'm persuaded to uninstall my trial version of Retrospect 8 and give CrashPlan a try. I'll report back on my test results starting with my new i5 (which has very little data on it so far).

Update 1/4/10: Through comments here and on Seek Nuance I'm hearing Mac geeks settling into a mixture of TimeMachine, SuperDuper (intermittent clone) and CrashPlan/JungleDisk. Seek Nuance also recommends a Sept 2009 MacWorld review.

JungleDisk is blocked by some corporate filters, perhaps because it can be used for file sharing as well as backup - it provides a standard WebDav interface and thus resembles MobileMe's costly backup service. JD can currently be used with Amazon's S3 storage service but was purchased by RackSpace - so it's unclear how long that will work well. Good JD references include:
The big thing we've lost with the demise of Retrospect/Mac is a Mac server hosted cross-platform SOHO backup solution. Not surprisingly, this turned out to be a very small market! The home side of the Retrospect market is made up of about 10 geeks like me. On the other hand small businesses with a mixture of Macs and Windows machines are overwhelmingly likely to use a cheap Windows backup server -- or to drop the Windows machines altogether. It's easy to see why EMC effectively gave up on Retrospect 8.

My gut sense is that CrashPlan is more of a consumer/geek business devoted to backup, whereas JungleDisk is a geek-only business providing general cloud storage and more options (some of them shady). JD is a one-stop alternative to CrashPlan + DropBox. The big kahuna would be a Google file/backup store, but that's been on the horizon for about 8 years. It may never come.

Update 1/4/10b: Glen Fleishman was using Retrospect 8 as recently as a few months ago - and he's a pretty reputable Mac geek. Glen recommends Joe Kissell's "Mac OS X Backups" eBook (TidBITS team). That lists at $15 with a 10% off coupon for CrashPlan (discount is for CrashPlan+ for business, not for the online backup service) -- so if you're planning to get CrashPlan (online) it's only $5. In fact, however, when I clicked order it was only $7.50 because of a mysterious "coupon". So if I do pay for CrashPlan it's essentially free.

I won't regurgitate Joe's eBook, but I will update this post with what I finally decide to do after having read it.

Update 1/25/2010: I'm still evaluating CrashPlan. I did buy Joe's book and it's a bargain! Highly recommended.
Update 2/4/2010: I reject CrashPlan in the Cloud because of the security risks of their password reset policy. I may still use the free version as a complement to Time Machine backups.

Update 2/21/2010: I was having lockups on startup with my MacBook. The Console showed several errors, but none clearly pointing to CrashPlan (lots of VMWare activity seen though -- and quite a few warnings about issues with OS X itself). Since CrashPlan does have deep OS hooks and is a recent install, and since I'd given up on its Cloud function, I uninstalled it. The uninstaller is a very user-unfriendly shell script.

I feel I gave CrashPlan a good test, and it failed. At the moment I'm entirely reliant on Time Machine, which is not a lovely feeling.

Update 2/24/2010: After uninstalling CrashPlan I found bits of it remaining. There are two empty folders in the System Library that require root privileges to delete. They're not causing any trouble, but I prefer to avoid software that installs in the system Library.

Update 4/26/10: I went to the CrashPlan site to completely remove my account information. Can't figure out who to do it. Nothing like this in the FAQ. More badness.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

SuperDuper is the first cloned backup I install, then I use Timemachine for incremental. I think Crashplan is a good option, but Jungle Disk gives you the option of RackSpace or Amazon S3 strorage (both large companies not likely to go out of business). Jungle disks can be configured for versions. Crashplan seems especially well suited for a large iPhoto or music backup as they allow you to send original info on their drive for a fee.
Julie K

John Gordon said...

Good note on "cloned backup". I may need to go to 2TB external drives this year, but it would be good to have a clone of each of my machines on a backup I rotate offsite. Even if I only refresh the clone every few months and use TM for incremental data backups.

I do have large iPhoto and iTunes libraries, so it does seem CrashPlan might fit me.

CrashPlan so far is more restrictive than I'd like, but perhaps that's all today's market can support. I do like having a mirrored onsite and offsite backup.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I forgot to mention you can alternate external drives and essentially have a couple of the cloned backups for a make shift/manual sort of incremental backup. SuperDuper is also an excellent backup to run before any software update. I don't backup my personal Macbook as often as I should (I am too lazy to plug it in) and sure wish I had before the latest iPhoto update. It works great on any desktop where the external drive can remain plugged in. I should use a time capsule with SuperDuper and eliminate the need to plug in.

I partition the external drive: one named Timemachine backup and the other named SuperDuper backup of x where x=mac HD name. Be sure to format the external drive properly to ensure you have a fully bootable backup, disk utility>option button, select GUID partition scheme with Intel Macs (Apple partition scheme on non-Intel).

Julie K

Stefan said...

You might like Arq. It backs up to S3, and it doesn't have the password-reset vulnerability because the password never leaves your computer. I'd love to get your feedback on it.

Anonymous said...

I really wanted to use Crashplan - I like the idea that I can both backup to friends, my other computers and online service too.
At first - all was good; I tested backup to Crashplan Central of 100+GB; performance was more than reasonable, and I did a full restore test of all my email; it all worked as expected.
At some point, just before signing up to the full deal, I realized my backup is stuck, and the numbers are not consistent on one of the mapped drive (I know it is not officially supported).

What broke the deal was their support. I started interacting with their support to figure out what's happening. I had to REMIND their support I have an open ticket, and ask again and again what's up. At some point - I uploaded log file, and again reminded them to get an answer; the answer was "the developer is looking at it". Another reminder was needed, but enough is enough.

Not professional. Nobody should nag support 4+ times.

I am off to iDrive; superb performance and support from my limited test.
Less features, more expensive for all of my data - but I need a backup and support I can trust.
I know iDrive does Mac too - but no idea how it works; it tested well for me on Win7 and Vista.

Martin said...

I second the recommendation for Arq.

The GUI still needs some improvements, however, the functionality is there and works flawlessly.