Crashplan: Updated Review

Back in March I wrote about choosing a cloud-based backup service for Mac. The resounding winner for my needs was CrashPlan, albeit with a few reservations. So six months later, how is it faring?

You might remember CrashPlan ticked nearly all the boxes for me (unlimited data, reasonable pricing, NAS support), but failed on one major count – its horrible Java-based Mac app.

Unfortunately – despite a promising start – the app has proved to be a huge resource hog. Although most of the day-to-day legwork is done by a smaller Menu Bar app, it still regularly uses over 500MB of memory. Having a Mac with only 4GB of RAM in total, that’s quite a significant chunk.

The bad news doesn’t stop there. With any change to your backup settings – and also at some seemingly random intervals – CrashPlan rescans / synchronises your entire backup library, a process which takes several hours.

Frustratingly, there’s also a distinct lack of information or clarity about exactly what the app is doing at any given time. On more than one occasion I’ve had the status bar jump from nearly 100% to less than 30% for no logical reason.

There are settings that are supposed to allow you to control memory and bandwidth usage, but they never seem that effective. It’s a regular occurrence that both my Internet connection and OS X grind to a halt when CrashPlan is running. I’ve now even had to take the annoying step of removing it from my Startup items and only running the backup when I’m away from the Mac.

For me this is almost a deal-breaker. CrashPlan customers have been asking for a native app for years now. A recent Tweet did mentioned that the staff had seen version 4.0, but nothing concrete was given.

Software users have been here before – Coda 2 for Mac and Tweetbot 3 for iPad spring to mind – where version updates take literally years, with very little clear information from the developers about their progress. Indeed Code 42 recently sent out its quarterly email with no mention of the native app at all.

Of course it’s not nice for either party; it must be as frustrating for the developer as the customers. When CrashPlan recently Tweeted about a minor update for Yosemite compatibility virtually every other response was asking about the native app.

However – unlike Tapbots or Panic whose apps are one-time costs – Code 42 are taking a regular subscription fee from their customers without providing a fully comprehensive service.

This for me, above anything, leaves me still unsure about CrashPlan – to the point where I’m paying a more expensive monthly fee rather than committing to a year’s subscription.

There’s no doubt CrashPlan is probably the best cloud backup service for my needs, but after six months it still falls way short of expectations. Hopefully a native Mac app will change that, but when that might be is anyone’s guess.