It’s time to start thinking about those new year’s resolutions. One resolution that many computer users have is to get serious about backing up their files.
It’s inevitable that storage media will fail. It might not happen today, tomorrow, or in many years, but there may come a day where your reliable hard drive doesn’t play so nice anymore. And Murphy’s Law says that day will be the day before the deadline on your major commissioned orchestra piece, or the day of your recording session.
Even in the era of solid-state drives, it’s clear that they can fail, too, albeit in different ways than older-style spinning platter hard drives.
So why not act on that resolution early and make a backup plan? The first step, of course, is to make a local backup, like with Apple’s Time Machine, included in the Mac OS, or the Backup and Restore tools in Windows.
But a key element of any modern backup strategy is a good cloud backup service. There are several out there, but the one I’ve used and trusted my files to since 2014 is Backblaze. For $70/year, it will back up all — yes, all — the files on your computer, including those precious Sibelius, Dorico, Finale, or Musescore files, along with documents, photos, music and movies, without restrictions on the number of files, other than operating system, applications, or temporary files. It will also back up any external drives connected to your computer.
Backblaze, a service for both Mac and PC users, is incredibly simple. You install it and it backs up your files continuously. That’s it, unless you tell it otherwise (you can optionally set it to backup once per day or manually). The first backup will take a while — perhaps several days if you have lots of files to back up. If you’re going to be away from your computer for the holidays, you could have Backblaze do its first backup while you’re away, so that you return to a freshly-backed up computer.
After the initial backup, incremental backups will be fast.
You just use your computer normally, and Backblaze will automatically back up files on an ongoing basis. It will detect when your network connection is idle and make the most of that time to back up, and will throttle itself to tack a back seat while your network usage is heavy, so that you’re not delayed when actively uploading and downloading files.
You can always see your status via a menu bar or your system preferences.
It’s important to note that Backblaze is not designed as an online storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive — those services are intended largely as way to sync active files among many computers or devices, and to share and collaborate on them easily. In contrast, Backblaze is a true “set it and forget it” service. You hope that you never need it, but it’s there in case you do.
Even so, there is a modest versioning feature, which can be very helpful: Backblaze will keep versions of a file that changes for up to 30 days. Just remember, Backblaze is not designed as an additional storage system when you run out of space; it’s intended to mirror whatever is on your drive. If you delete your data, it will be deleted from Backblaze after 30 days; you can pay an additional $2/month to keep a version history for 1 year, and another additional $2/month plus data storage fees to keep your data forever.
OK, so what happens if that fateful day arrives and you need to restore your files?
Say you’ve got a fairly recent local backup of your drive and only need a few files, or you’re away from your computer and need to access a file that you don’t have in a Dropbox or similar sharing service. You can easily log in to Backblaze either from a computer or from a mobile device and request the file(s) you need. Once you do so, you’ll get an e-mail notifying you that your files will be available to download. I’ve used this option many times and it works very well.
If you have a lot of files you need to restore, and they can fit onto a 256 GB USB flash drive, Backblaze will send you the drive for $99. If you have up to 8 TB of data you need, you’ll get a USB hard drive for $189. You can keep the drive or return it. If you decide to return it, Backblaze will refund the charge, less shipping costs. I’ve thankfully never needed this service, but I sleep better knowing it exists. (You can also save your archive in a zip format in Backblaze’s B2 cloud storage service, an additional service where you can store up to 10GB of data for free, with up to 1 GB of download bandwidth free per day — even if you’ve deleted that data from your computer.)
Encryption is built into Backblaze at every level when you select a private key to secure your data. If you want an additional level of privacy, you can select a passphrase that is known only to you. If you lose or forget the passphrase, no one, including Backblaze, can recover it for you.
Backblaze’s approach to cloud backup might not suit everyone out there, but its combination of simplicity, unlimited storage, and low cost have made me a very satisfied user.
That low cost gets even lower if you sign up by clicking on this link, or on any of the others in this post. That’s because if you’re a new Backblaze customer and you purchase a Personal backup license before January 31, 2022, you’ll get three months credit applied to your Backblaze account: one month as a free trial, and two more after you purchase a license.
Now, my reasons for writing this post aren’t entirely altruistic, because as much as I want you to have a reliable cloud backup solution and get three months of it of it free, if you sign up, I’ll also get three months of Backblaze free. Think of it as if we’re exchanging holiday gifts, or if you like, a way of getting a good deal and supporting this blog in the process.
In any case, whether you sign up for Backblaze or not, we spend an awful lot of time on this blog discussing ways to make our music creations as nice as possible. Those creations are stored as computer files — make sure you’ve been backing them up!