Friday, November 30, 2012

CrashPlan Review: Recovering Data

This is sort of a backwards review.  Today I'm going to review CrashPlan, the online data backup software I use for backing up my home computer and personal data.  So, since this is a backwards review, I'm not going to spend a lot of time reviewing why I chose to use CrashPlan (it's inexpensive), or how to get it set up ( I'm going to talk about recovering data that has been backed up with CrashPlan onto a reformatted/new computer.  I'm not a CrashPlan expert, just a computer enthusiast trying to figure things out.

Here's the background info:  I've been using CrashPlan+ to backup my data for the last year and a half.  I backup my computer to CrashPlan Central (the cloud) and to an external hard drive at my house--2 total copies of my data. CrashPlan offers a couple of ways to access my data:  I can get it online through my account or I can look at it via the CrashPlan software on my computer.  I had, in the past tried to recover data and found it to be quite simple.  Restoring your data from the web via the CrashPlan website is intended as a quick fix (say I'm away from my home computer and need a file), I can easily download (500 MB limit per day) it to the computer I am using without having to use any CrashPlan software.  To recover/restore all my data to a new computer, I'd need to install the CrashPlan software.  Even though I have all my data backed up on my external hard drive, I can not access it because it has been encrypted (this is a good thing), so I have to have the CrashPlan software on my new/reformatted computer in order to access it.  Makes sense.

Restoring CrashPlan Data to a New or Reformatted Computer

1. Adopt new/reformatted comptuer:  The first thing you should do before recovering your data, which I didn't do and many don't do, is go to the CrashPlan website and get directions for how to do it.   For me, because I had just reformatted my computer, which is like having a new computer with none of your personal files on it, I needed to go here for directions:

Let's say you are like me and think, This has got to be pretty easy.  I'll just download the software and then get my data.  And some point during my attempt to get my data, I didn't know that I needed to tell Crashplan to "Adopt" my computer.  So, instead of adopting, CrashPlan thinks I have two computers to backup and since I named them both the same thing, it's impossible for me to know which one is which.  So,  I have to call customer service.  And, silly me, I thought I'd actually get some technical support, but I didn't.  The service rep. took me email address, asked me what my problem was, and told me that she'd send me an email with links to answer my problem.  Grrr.  I don't call for help unless I've already Googled myself silly.  So, I decided to try emailing customer service.  This was a much better option.  I got a reply within a couple of hours that was helpful.  So, say you are like me and didn't "adopt" your new computer so you have a mess.  Here's the directions from the email I received from custsomer support to fix it.:
If the Adopt dialogue box goes away during the restore, we just need to log out of CrashPlan and log back in. To get it back, double-click the green house in the upper right-hand corner of your CrashPlan client. In the command line that comes up, type:
guid new
This will cause the "Adopt" dialogue to reappear. 
This guidanced helped me solve my problem and restore my data.  But, it was still a very stressful process for me because I couldn't see with my eyes where data was going.  I was freaked out that my new computer's data would somehow be written over my backed up data.  As a result, I experienced a minor panic attack when I watched the "adoption process" happen on my computer.  IMHO, I think CrashPlan can make a more user-friendly restore process and interface on their software. 
2.  Restore Files:  Alas, all was well and I was able to restore my data after the "adoption process" was finalized. :)  Since CrashPlan has provided decent documentation on restoring data ( I won't talk about it, because it worked just fine. I really like how I can select what files I want restored from what date. 

Conclusion: I am very glad I have been backing up my computer.  The money is worth the peace of mind, and after going through this process, I think that CrashPlan is still a good backup option. Though I wasn't impressed with customer service over the phone, the email support is pretty good.  However, if it were an emergency and I wanted prompt service with an actual person who could help me, I don't think it would be possible. And realistically speaking, costumer over-the-phone is really becoming a lost art.

The fine print that I made big and bold:  Because CrashPlan encrypts your backups, you must have the software in order to restore files.  The only exception to this when one uses the web restore option.  In that case, you HAVE to know your login information. 

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