There’s a new sheriff in town when it comes to my online backups, and that’s Arq Backup. For several years, I’ve been using Crashplan for all the Macs in my house. It was hard to beat the price of the Crashplan family plan, but my subscription expires in the next few months, and it doesn’t look like I’ll be renewing it. Instead, I’m switching to a combination of Arq Backup and Amazon Cloud Drive.

First, a disclaimer: I was provided free review copy of Arq Backup. The app, though, is something I’ve had my eye on for a couple of years. The review copy was enough to push me over the edge, and give it a try. The end result is that I liked it enough to not only commit to it for my purposes, but to also purchase a license for my wife to use on her Mac.

OVERVIEW

Arq is not an online backup service. Instead, it’s an app available for Windows and Mac that lets you leverage other storage options for your backup. You can point the app to services such as Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and Amazon Glacier. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, the pricing of Amazon Cloud Drive is hard to beat – $59.99 per year.

I’ve been running Arq for about two months now on a few Macs, and I also have a Synology NAS that backups to Amazon Cloud Drive. Between them, I’ve uploaded over a terabyte of data.

FEATURES

Let’s face it – backup isn’t exciting. It’s essential, though, and Arq has some nice features:

  • a native Mac app (and a Windows app, too). I was reasonably happy with Crashplan, but the app was Java-based and slow, and I grew tired of waiting for a native Mac app;
  • encryption before your data leaves your machine. That means Amazon only holds encrypted data in my Cloud Drive account;
  • an open format. With any backup service, you’re somewhat at the mercy of the provider, but in addition to its app, Arq has published an open-source command-line utility so you can see your backups and directly restore your files from cloud storage;
  • backup what you want – Arq won’t skip videos, for example, like some other services will;
  • backup external and network drives;
  • no auto-deletion of old backups, like some services;
  • you can exclude items from backup via name or path, via filters;
  • if you don’t have unlimited storage, you can set a maximum storage budget;
  • you can throttle your backups if you want, to limit the impact on your network;
  • Arq provides for versioned backups.

I also should make a quick comment about Arq’s support. I had heard good things about the developer’s dedication to the app, and got to experience that first hand. I emailed the developer with a question early in my use of the app, without mentioning that I was reviewing the app. I received an answer from him within 24 hours.

SETUP

When you first set up Arq, you choose your backup location, and choose the items on you Mac to backup. From there, Arq runs in the background, with a menu bar icon present that lets you check in on your backups.

The left column of the app shows your backup destinations, allowing you to configure your backups and restore files. The right column of the app shows your various files.

WISH LIST

I’m fully on board with Arq, although I’d like to see some additional features (it’s possible some of the features are already present, and I just haven’t found them yet):

  • I’d like to be able to exclude backing up files over a certain size. You can exclude files based on name attributes, and you can limit the total size of your backup, but I haven’t been able to locate a way to exclude files based on file size;
  • Although you can throttle speeds from within the app, it would also be nice to see a speed toggle in the menu bar, or have the ability to set up bandwidth rules depending on the network you’re on;
  • The app lets you set up email notifications for certain events, by inputting an email address into the app’s settings. The app then sends notifications from that address. I found that these notification don’t work with Gmail accounts, so I had to set them up with another account;
  • In a perfect world, someone would create an iPad app that lets you access your backups. Before I switched to Arq, I occasionally accessed files out of my Crashplan backup from iPad.

These aren’t major nit picks, though, and certainly weren’t enough to turn me off to Arq. My only really worry with the app would be if Amazon drastically changed its Cloud Drive pricing or terms of service. I’d then have to evaluate other storage options, to see which ones made sense for my situation.

If you’re not happy with your current backup solution, or are an Amazon Prime member and have multiple computers to backup, Arq is worth a look.