I want to keep this as simple as the product: Backblaze is the easiest way yet to protect precious digital files. It's nearly effortless backup, and it's reasonably priced if you can adjust to paying a never-ending fee.
But $5 a month is cheap insurance for home PCs that hold irreplaceable memories. Years of digital photos, documents, and music can disappear with a crashed, stolen, or fire-damaged hard drive. And few people are regularly backing them up.
Two elements make Backblaze stand out. First, it's brain-dead easy. The software automatically finds everything that needs to be backed up. Second, it saves the files across the Web. You don't have to plug in an external drive, or worry that it will get stolen along with your PC.
Backblaze didn't start out so simple. The service originally tested a version that asked which files a user wanted backed up, says CEO Gleb Budman. Then it tried a version that asked which kinds of files users wanted to back up. "Users still had this constant panic that something's going to be missed," he says.
So Backblaze takes the responsibility itself. It immediately scans the PC for photos, music, videos, spreadsheets, and other file types we'd want saved. You can call up the list of what it has found and make adjustments, but I didn't see any that were necessary.
Backblaze does its thing in the background, particularly when the PC isn't being used. I've not noticed it slowing my other work.
The service has faults. For starters, even with the required broadband connection, it can take many weeks to upload a bulging hard drive. It only works with Windows XP or Vista, though it promises Mac support soon.
When restoring files, Backblaze limits each download to 1 gigabyte at a time. Or the company says it will overnight a DVD with 4 gigabytes for $100, or a USB hard drive with all the files for about twice that.
Finally, there is the question of corporate reliability. The failure of the Linkup made clear the risk of online backup—that the provider might lose files or simply go out of business. Budman says Backblaze's future looks bright; the monthly fee more than covers the cost of each added user. "We're not offering free storage and hoping to one day make it up in ad revenue," he says.
Still, I'd suggest also backing up to another destination, perhaps an external drive plugged into the PC.
No single backup destination is perfect. But for a perfectly simple way to add peace of mind, there's no beating Backblaze.
The service remains in beta testing but is accepting new paid and 15-day-trial accounts. Or for a limited time, going to backblaze.com/usnews might speed the process.