Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Every RVer Needs a Crash Plan



Ok, lets be honest.  If a survey were taken today, I bet the number of people who backup their computers daily would be about the same number as those who floss…and, likely, the exact same individuals do both! Open-mouthed smile 

Most of us are the “sometimers” – we backup (and floss) when we think about it, or before/after a major event.  Those among us who also maintain off-site backups of their data are an even more elite crowd (the exceptional Eagle scouts among us who exemplify the motto “be prepared”).

Every year we hear those horror stories of RVers coming back from a day hike only to find their RV reduced to a smoldering pile of rubble. And, stories of RVs being burglarized while parked at a tourist attraction or shopping mall.  Lets face it—the risks of losing both your laptop and your external backup drive are greater in an RV than they are with a stationary house

So, offsite backup copies of your electronic data are absolutely critical for RVers!!! 

This is something that most full-time RVers continuously struggle with--  they can’t usually rely on “cloud-based” backup services due to internet bandwidth limitations (either via a capped cellular data plan or an over-crowded campground wifi network).  They also can’t easily rotate a spare backup drive for safe keeping to a friend or relative’s house every week (because they’re likely to be on the road to their next destination).

Chris Dunphy of Technomadia wrote an excellent article last year about backup strategies and online security for full-time RVers (his advice is solid for non-fulltimers as well!).  But, in the end, there were no easy solutions for maintaining offsite backups.

Until now!CrashPlan1Meet Crashplan.  This “next generation” backup software has been getting great reviews this past year.

Unlike early pioneers such as Mozy and Carbonite (that seemed to always want to sync your full hard drive to the cloud 100% of the time), Crashplan offers the user a number of features that align well to full-time RVer needs:

  • A free version of the software not only backs up to local external drives, but you can back up to friends or family’s computers as well.  All backup archives are fully encrypted (thus reducing the risk of Aunt Edna snooping through your old bank statements).
  • For a modest annual subscription fee ($33 for 10GB or $60 for unlimited storage, per computer per year), you can additionally backup to Crashplan’s cloud-based servers, and create multiple backup “sets” to fine-tune exactly what files get backed up, and how often. 

Still skeptical?  These added features might convince you:

  • One aspect of the robust backup settings is that you can define what specific networks the backup can and cannot use (for instance, excluding your cellular modem’s WiFi, while allowing the campground’s free WiFi instead).
  • With multiple backup sets, you could create a large data set for “cold storage” – those files that you are unlikely to change or delete (for instance, raw photo or video files, or scanned PDF documents), back that up to the cloud server initially and then keep future syncing turned off.   Meanwhile, you could create a much smaller second backup set of for more commonly-edited files (that you would back up regularly to your local external drive, and also to the cloud whenever you’re on a network that could support the bandwidth)..
  • To minimize the huge bandwidth and time demands of an initial full-computer backup (or a later full restore) to the cloud, Crashplan offers roundtrip shipping “seed” services that send you an encrypted hard drive to copy your files locally.  This service costs between $125-165, but when you consider it includes roundtrip FedEx shipping charges, the costs aren’t that unreasonable (especially compared to what Verizon would charge you to transfer 1 terabyte of data across their network….yikes!)

Still not comfortable with the idea of backing up to a cloud server?  Well, lets explore the “storing a spare drive at a friend’s house” approach further.

  • Without Crashplan, you’d probably just make a simple, unencrypted copy of your files to an external hard drive, take that to your friend’s house, and leave it there for months until you rolled thru town again to refresh the drive with updated data.
  • If your computer crashed in the meantime, you’d ask your friend to physically ship you the spare hard drive (hoping those un-encrypted files wouldn’t land into the wrong hands if the package got lost).
  • However, with Crashplan, you’d first backup your data to a local external hard drive (the archive would be automatically encrypted) and then give that drive to your friend.  Assuming they’d be willing to install the free Crashplan app on their computer, and periodically attach your drive to it for updates,  they would read you a short “key code” which you would enter into your copy of Crashplan (so the 2 apps could “find each other” over the internet). Your offsite drive would now be accessible to you wherever you happen to be in the world.
  • Even in the event  that you’d need the full hard drive shipped back to you for a full restore, chances are your backup archive would be more up-to-date (and certainly more secure via encryption) than if you were not using Crashplan.

Crashplan offers a free 30-day trial of their premium cloud-based services so you can fully “kick the tires” and try it out before buying a subscription.   So, give it a spin and let me know what you think!


If you’re interested in seeing my full list of favorite mobile technology solutions, I’ve just added a new link to the top of my blog called Mobile Tech Favs.

I’ve also moved my list of RV mods and upgrades to it’s own page (linked at the top of my blog as well) called RV Gadget Favs.



  1. Good info. You are prepared on all fronts. I love the additions to the top of your blog. It really makes it easy to find things. Hope you will be on the road soon. This winter has been a bear up north.

  2. Thank you so much for all this info. Getting ready to start full timing in April and we need to do this!

  3. Hey Everyone--
    Crashplan is running a deal right now-- 10% off their 2-year subscription plan (which comes out to just a tad over $50/yr). Here's the link to their promo page.


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