CrashPlan Pro vs. Retrospect 8.1

UPDATE 7/27/09: Since writing this post, I’ve made additional discoveries and corrected a misunderstanding about CrashPlan’s operation. Rather than changing this one, I wrote another post about CrashPlan.


I bought Retrospect 8 in March. It’s been a disaster. We customers are doing the QA that EMC should have done. The two support forums contain complaints and bug reports that almost defy belief.

Out of past loyalty to the Retrospect product line, not wanting to again evaluate backup applications, and simple laziness inertia, I’ve stayed with it. Each Retrospect 8 update since March has fixed bugs, and although it cumulatively hasn’t been enough, I’ve hoped that the bugfix pace would pick up and/or reach a usability critical mass.

For reasons I won’t go into, I reached my limit today. I’ve hoped EMC would do the right thing by its unpaid volunteer QA department customers, and release a big update that fixed the serious Epic Fails. Yet it still hasn’t done so, four months after initial release. So I’ve decided to find another backup solution.

Commenter “Daniel” recommended CrashPlan Pro as an alternative. I gave it a try.

My snap review of CrashPlan

“CrashPlan”, made by Code 42 Software, comes in two editions. I tried both CrashPlan (their “consumer” edition) and CrashPlan Pro (their “business” edition), both for the Mac. (Hey, Code 42: The consumer edition’s name needs a little work. CrashPlan the product vs. CrashPlan the edition is confusing.)

Because the consumer edition doesn’t support NAS, I wound up needing the business edition. Like my first review of the released Retrospect 8.0, I’ll cut to the chase here.

CrashPlan Pro works great. It’s much better than EMC Retrospect.

CrashPlan Pro is far more expensive than Retrospect. Minimum price is $350 for five seats, while Retrospect 8’s minimum is $129 for three seats. Ouch!

The UX/UI is more intuitive and usable than Retrospect’s. I easily found my way around it without resorting to the user manual. I’m still poking around in the corners, but SFSG.

The consumer edition doesn’t support NAS. It’s not extremely clear from the documentation, but it’s the reality. This rather sucks, because the consumer edition is free if you don’t want to backup to their online storage.

The business edition supports NAS, and works great except for a possible network burp in my configuration. But it costs $.

CrashPlan has user documentation. Saints be praised! Four months after release, Retrospect 8 still doesn’t have any user documentation beyond a “getting started” file.

One network oddity happened during installation. CrashPlan Pro has a client-server design that’s inverted from Retrospect 8’s: Clients register with & initiate operations with the server, rather than the reverse. I had to drop my server’s firewall in order to register a client, even though the server application (“PROServer”) had “allow incoming connections” in OS X’s Security preferences. After that, I raised the firewall and things worked normally. Since then, I’m still unsure if backups will continue to run without dropping the firewall, because I had a backup problem that might (or might not) have been PEBKAC. I’m still looking into it, and an odd firewall interaction might still be lurking in my network configuration.

CrashPlan Pro’s scripting is simpler than Retrospect 8’s. OTOH, many aspects of Retrospect 8 scripting flat-out don’t work. I’d rather have a simpler backup solution I that can trust than a complex one that I can’t.

CrashPlan restore operations look reasonable, but I haven’t fully played with all of its knobs and dials.


I like CrashPlan Pro quite a bit. But I’ll have to think long and hard about shelling out $350 for backup software. If its price were the same as Retrospect 8’s for my configuration, it would not be a contest.

If you’re still suffering with Retrospect, I recommend you take a look at CrashPlan Pro. Your network configuration might have a very different cost comparison.

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6 thoughts on “CrashPlan Pro vs. Retrospect 8.1

  1. Just a comment from fellow backup administrator – I know this is an old post, but I found it through Google for some reason and someone else might, too…

    If you read this and go Ackkkppffthh! when seeing the price, stop for a second. If the data you are backing up isn’t worth $70/user/year, why are you bothering to back it up in the first place?

    What comes to the price diff with the two applications: Also consider the total cost of ownership – TCO is your friend. Or your enemy. If you charge $50/hr and spend 4 hours installing Retrospect and 2-3h/week supporting it from that point on and CrashPlan is same installation time, and zero support – how long will it take for the CrashPlan to actually be cheaper for the company?

    Yes, if you’re external consultant you’ll make more money selling crappy applications that require constant nurturing, but is that what you really want out of life? Sadly, for most the answer is “yes”. I don’t agree. If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

  2. Crashplan does support NAS backups on the consumer edition, it’s not officially supported but it can be done, there’s several user guides on doing it, and a Crashplan support doc for it, just google it.

    The method is essentially creating a batch file with ‘net use’ or whatever to connect to your NAS drive share at your server startup or service startup process.

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