I use CrashPlan both personally and professionally as my backup choice.

CrashPlan will let you back up to a remote server,  for a small fee, just like any other online backup software. What makes CrashPlan so unique, is that you can back up to your friends, or your other computers, for free, regardless if they’re on your LAN or not. You can back up to multiple sources as well. For example, a PC in house, and a friends PC across town. You have the convenience of a local restore being quick, and the security that your data is off-site in case of a disaster or theft. Oh, yes, your data is encrypted. No need to worry about others seeing financial and other private information.

For personal use. It’s free. Though a bit limited. You can upgrade to CrashPlan+ to make use of some great additional features, like data de-duplication, real-time backups, heavier encryption, and file versioning. However, if you want it for free, it’s still the best choice out there.

At home, I have a portable drive attached to a PC at home that is always on. The PC itself backs up to the portable drive. My laptop, as well as some friends and family computers back up to it as well. There are about 10 PC’s backing up to me at any time. Bandwidth is not an issue, after the initial backup, as only new/changed data is backed up.

We went with CrashPlan at work, as well, after I had a chance to use it for awhile. It’s cheap. The server software is free, and the client software is $60 a server. You get real-time file monitoring, data de-duplication, and file versioning. We have many servers (IIS, SQL, Exchange, File, etc). We have CrashPlan on each server backing up to a remote server over a IPSEC vpn tunnel. Here’s something to keep in mind. Restoring becomes an issue for SQL and Exchange. CrashPlan will back up files, as it sees them change. During a restore you’ll find many copies of your database and log files, and not know which log file goes with which database file. CrashPlan does not have agents for these types of applications. It simply backs up files on the drive, as they change.

We overcame this limitation by scheduling NTBackup to back up the System State, and our database directories, for each server, every night. Then told CrashPlan to back up those backup files, and exclude the database directories. Upon a restore, you choose your most recent dump, then use NTBackup to restore the dump to the proper folder, mount your database, and you’re back online. Since CrashPlan de-duplicates data, only changed bits in the dumps get sent offsite. We may have a 40GB dump that builds every night, but only changed data is backed up.

Here’s another scenario I recently set up for a client. He has 4 PCs at his office, one at home, and two laptops. We installed CrashPlan on each PC. We designated one of the PCs at work as a backup server, and the PC at home as a backup server. Then configured every PC and laptop to back up to both servers. Think about that. The PCs at the office back up locally, then offsite. His laptops back up to both. In the event of a disaster, his data is safely stored offsite, either way. If he needs to restore files, he can restore them quickly from the LAN. The initial backup took quite a few days. Once the bulk of the data was backed up, very little bandwidth is needed to maintain those backup sets.

There is so much more that CrashPlan does. I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t before.

Please. Back up your computer. I hate having clients call me up, upset, because their 10 year old PC died, and they never made a backup. Most of the time they get lucky, and the data is recoverable. There have been times where the drive was too far gone.