Backblaze for Photographers

Cloud Backup Backblaze

I’m a Backblaze user. I’ve used the program for the last 3 years after moving from Crashplan, another cloud storage solution that I was using since 2013. Backblaze works great, however it’s not perfect!

Recently, I’ve seen quite a few photographers posting about the fact that the only off-site backup they have is Backblaze! This worries me big time.

Why?

Backblaze takes time to upload your files. It’s not quick. Even on a fast connection it’s not quick. It’s getting better, if you live in a city with a fast upload speed, but for folk like me that live in a village in the countryside, with upload speeds of around 7Mbs, it’s slow….

Why does that matter?

Because you have no control over how much data is uploaded and in what order its uploaded, you have no way of knowing what has already been uploaded and what hasn’t. Even when complete, there is absolutely no way you can compare what you have on your drive to what Backblaze has on your backup. The best you can hope for is to count the number of files and cross your fingers. Not only that, but the files that it has copied over, how do you know they copied over correctly? There is no way of checking.

Compare this to copying files from your drive, to a local backup drive, using Chronosync. With that program, it has a setting where it can verify every single file it copies over. You can even run it twice (re-run it), to check again if the files were copied correctly. When copying over thousands of images files from a wedding shoot, I’ll often do this. I need to know every single file is correctly copied. Not knowing this fact is allowing yourself to rely on pure hope and prayer. Not fact.

But modern technology is great, Backblaze is reliable…..

Is it? How do you know. How many times have you restored a whole wedding folder of images to your computer? Most folk have tried a file or two, but very few try to restore large amounts of data. It takes too long.

I had to restore a whole wedding recently. It was around 6500 raw images. I hand’t actually lost them, I’d merely lost some ranking I’d made during a cull in PhotoMechanic and realised that Backblaze might have the ratings still on them. So tried to download them to save myself having to re-cull the wedding. The download took over an hour to prepare itself. It has to zip the files into one package. It then took around 48 hours to download to my computer, using the Backblaze Downloader app, which they say is “faster” than doing it through a browser window.

The results? Nearly ever image was there. But, not all of them. There were some raw files missing…..!

Why were they missing? Because Backblaze hadn’t gotten around to uploading them I presume. Now, if this had been my only copy of the files, I’d be shitting myself at this point. Luckily, it wasn’t. I have multiple copies of those raw files on local drives and off-site. But here’s the thing – if I was only relying on Backblaze for my off-site backup, I’d be totally stuffed. I’d have no way of checking if Backblaze had properly uploaded my files or not. There is no way of checking. Its for this reason that I’d only ever recommend using Backblaze as disaster recovery. I’d always suggest having a localised off-site backup system in place. Bare hard drives work great for this. Store them at a neighbours house or in an outbuilding or something. Anywhere away from your main office building. That way, you know 100% that your files are safe. Use Backblaze as a total disaster recovery for when you loose everything. The local and offsite backups. It won’t ever happen, but who knows. What if your whole house and off-site buildings got flooded or you had a really bad fire. Or got burgled, the house and the outbuildings. That’s when I’d want to rely on Backblaze – not at any other time.

Backblaze Website

Restoring from Backblaze

Once your data is on Backblaze – can you restore it? Something a lot of folk don’t think about is the practicality of the restore stage of any disaster recovery.

If you read the Backblaze website carefully, you’ll find that they offer a USB flash restore, but this can only hold 256Gb. Or a Hard Drive can be sent to you, this can only take 8Tb. My personal backup is well over 10Tb of data, so neither of these options would suit me, apart from the fact, that the backup would need to be restored by Backblaze, then shipped to me in the UK. It wouldn’t be a quick process I imagine. So I’d have a lot of downtime to contend with.

They do also offer a 10Tb service, direct to their B2 cloud servers. However, that isn’t a cheap option. Because you’re paying for all the data to be uploaded, then download to your computer. I doubt it would be that fast either.

Again, I cannot stress enough, that having a local off-site backup plan is a far more sensible approach.

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