It has been a few years since a decision by a major tech company last turned me into a green rage monster, but it just happened again. Code42 Software has announced that it’s discontinuing its consumer backup product, CrashPlan for Home.
I’ve been using CrashPlan since 2007, shortly after its initial release, and I was so impressed by it from day one that I’ve been evangelizing it ever since. I wrote “Take Control of CrashPlan Backups” about it; I recommended it in numerous other books, including “Backing Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide”; and it was (until now) my top pick in a Wirecutter round-up of online backup services. In short, I have a significant personal and professional investment in CrashPlan, based on countless hours of research and testing — I’ve evaluated more than 100 backup apps! — and now, with a mixture of anger and disappointment, I have to tell you that it’s time to find something else.
Just the Facts, Mac — Let me set emotion aside for a moment and lay out the facts of Code42’s announcement.
According to Code42, the company has seen tremendous growth in revenue from its small business, education, and enterprise customers, but the needs of those customers have diverged sharply from the needs of consumers. So Code42 decided to put all its resources into serving its most profitable customers.
As a result, CrashPlan for Home will be discontinued entirely on 22 October 2018.
You may notice that date is 14 months from now. Here’s what will happen between now and then:
- If you have an existing CrashPlan for Home subscription, it will continue to work, and the company will continue providing technical support, until the end date. In fact, Code42 told me that it’s doubling its tech support staff to help deal with transition issues.
- All current subscriptions will be extended by 60 days (regardless of their current end date) for free. So if you subscribed this week, you can use the service for a full 14 months, and even if you subscribed a year ago, you have at least 2 months to move to a different service. However, Code42 is offering no refunds, even for people who subscribed (or renewed) the day before the announcement.
On 22 October 2018, the consumer version of the CrashPlan app will stop working entirely — that includes local and peer-to-peer backups. So, if you are backing up to CrashPlan Central (Code42’s cloud storage space for consumers), all your backed-up data will be deleted on the end date; but even if you aren’t, you won’t be able to keep using the CrashPlan app. Either way, any data you haven’t restored by that date will be gone forever. (On the other hand, users of the free CrashPlan app who were doing local or peer-to-peer backups will be able to take advantage of either of the same special discount offers available to CrashPlan Central subscribers, which I explain next.)
For home customers who want to transition to CrashPlan’s small business plan (available for any group with 1–199 computers to back up), Code42 offers free, instant migration of your data; the transfer of any time remaining on your consumer plan to the small business plan; and a 75 percent discount on the small business plan for your first year. (Its normal price is $10 per device per month — that’s twice the price of the single-user CrashPlan for Home, and up to eight times as much as the now-discontinued family plan.)
If you’re not a candidate for CrashPlan for Small Business, Code42 offers a discount on a Carbonite subscription, along with assistance in migrating to Carbonite. Carbonite normally charges $59.99 to $149.99 per year for home users ($269.99 to $1299.99 for business users), but CrashPlan for Home users will get a 50 percent discount for their first year, plus 20 percent off Storage Packs for Carbonite business accounts. (It appears, however, that only CrashPlan for Home users with individual accounts are offered discounts on the consumer version of Carbonite; if you have a family CrashPlan subscription, you’re offered a discount on a Carbonite business plan, which does not include unlimited storage.) Unfortunately, while Carbonite is not bad on Windows, I would not recommend it to Mac users, because the Mac version offers neither versioning nor the option to use a personal encryption key. Plus, my tests suggest that Carbonite artificially restricts upstream bandwidth, making it significantly slower than many competitors.
Code42 has a Consumer Information Page with complete details on the transition.
So Now What? If you’re a Mac user and, like me, find CrashPlan for Small Business to be too expensive and Carbonite to be inadequate, what’s your best bet for a CrashPlan replacement? Here are my thoughts:
- For easy online backups, switch to Backblaze. I like Backblaze, and everyone I know who has used it likes it too. It was the runner-up in my Wirecutter article, but now it will move into first place. Backblaze is fast, reliable, and secure, and it costs $5 per month per computer. It wasn’t my first choice because, unlike CrashPlan, it doesn’t offer peer-to-peer backups (that is, you back up to my computer while I back up to yours), local backups (where you keep an extra copy of your data on a nearby hard drive or RAID), or a multi-user discount for families; and because the process of restoring files requires more steps than with CrashPlan and most other competitors. In addition, Backblaze stores deleted files and older versions of files for only 30 days, whereas CrashPlan lets you keep them indefinitely. However, Backblaze has the killer feature of still being available, in light of which those shortcomings seem comparatively minor. (The company also posted a helpful article with detailed advice on migrating backups from CrashPlan.) I will be moving my family’s online backups to Backblaze.
You can also, of course, go with any of numerous other services if you like a different one better for any reason — again, refer to my round-up article for suggestions. Expect to see competitors offer special deals for people switching from CrashPlan — for example, iDrive announced a whopping 90 percent discount for the first year ($6.95 versus $69.50) for 2 TB of storage.
If saving money is your top priority (especially for multi-computer households) and you don’t mind a bit of fiddling, you might consider using an app like Arq, ChronoSync, or CloudBerry Backup, which you combine with inexpensive online storage space you buy separately — for example, Amazon Drive, Amazon S3, Backblaze B2, or Google Drive. That said, Glenn Fleishman found that roll-your-own solutions were extremely complex and not necessarily any cheaper, depending on the details (see “Investigating ChronoSync 4.7 for Cloud Backup,” 22 December 2016).
Regardless of whether or how you back up your data to the cloud, you should also have local backups stored on a hard drive — and not just versioned backups, such as those produced by Time Machine, but also a bootable duplicate (using, for example, Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper). With local backups, you’ll have complete control over security, retention of old backups, and other details — and as long as you don’t use an app like CrashPlan that requires you to log in to a cloud account (even for local backups), you won’t have to worry about cloud service outages or capricious corporate decisions.
Bear in mind that you need not make a decision immediately. You have at least 60 days, and possibly as much as 14 months, to decide on a new backup plan and move your data. So if you’re feeling some strong emotions, you can wait until they subside. Take your time, do whatever research you need to do, and make a sober, responsible decision.
Rage Redux — Now that I’ve delivered the facts, let me get back to being upset for just a bit. As angry as I am about this news, I’m livid about being misled.
Over the past few years, Code42 has made several moves that, in retrospect, were the proverbial writing on the wall. First, the company discontinued its popular multi-year discounts on subscriptions, which had made its already inexpensive service even more attractive. Then, in late 2015, it stopped offering seeding, where you jump-start the backup process by sending in a hard drive containing your first full backup. In early 2016, it canceled its Restore-to-Door service, which let you receive your backed-up files on a hard drive via overnight delivery for an extra fee. And, although the company — after years of promises — finally released a native (non-Java) backup app, that app worked only with its enterprise services, not with CrashPlan for Home (or CrashPlan for Small Business, for that matter).
Each time one of these things happened, I wrote to my contacts at Code42, who downplayed the significance of these changes and assured me, repeatedly, of their ongoing commitment to the consumer market. In fact, as recently as May 2017, a Code42 rep told me the company “remains committed to delivering peace of mind for our home consumer customers through a quality product that is easy to use and affordable.” But, as it turns out, all these moves were steps toward dropping consumer support, and it now looks like Code42 has been working toward this for at least a few years.
And that’s what really bugs me. Never mind the fact that consumers were largely responsible for Code42’s initial success, and that so many people have put their faith in this product and its creators. I understand that businesses need to make money, and sometimes the right decision for the business is something that will make a portion of your customers unhappy. I don’t fault a business for maximizing its profits, or for making difficult changes.
I do, however, fault Code42 for misleading me and others in the press into continuing to promote and recommend a product with no future, (apparently) years after that decision had been made. That’s not cool, guys. You’ve made me look foolish, and in so doing, you’ve lost my respect. (And yes, I have spoken directly to a senior executive at Code42 and expressed my feelings in no uncertain terms.)
If a business had asked me yesterday what I recommended for a corporate backup service, I might have recommended CrashPlan. Today? Not so much. What I perceive as a lack of honor in dealing with the press and its customers has, I’m afraid, turned me off to a company of which I was previously a huge fan.