Information, Technology & Consulting

Dartmouth Faculty Rely on CrashPlan Data Backup

Academic Tech Consultant installs CrashPlan

Academic Technology Consultant Barbara Mellert installs CrashPlan on a faculty member’s desktop. The setup process takes fewer than 15 minutes.

CrashPlan app maine window

The CrashPlan application's main window: By default, users’ profiles (account contents) are backed up, but users can choose to include or exclude any files they wish. 

A Tale of Two Professors

A few years ago, a new Dartmouth faculty member stored her entire dissertation on a USB flash drive. She did not save the file in any other manner. The disk became damaged; the data, lost. In order to retrieve her information, the professor took the memory stick to a company that charged $3,000, even though it only found part of the dissertation.

Watch Academic Technology Consultant Barbara Mellert explain why it pays to have CrashPlan.

Compare the above incident to one that happened more recently to another faculty member: This time, the professor’s computer suffered a catastrophic hard drive failure. Again, in this case, no data could be retrieved. The professor thought he had lost everything from lecture notes to family photos. Fortunately, just a few days earlier, he met with an Academic Technology Consultant to have CrashPlan installed on his computer. The professor recovered nearly every one of his files.


How CrashPlan works and how to get it

CrashPlan, a cloud service from software provider Code42, runs invisibly on your computer, backing up data as long as a network connection exists. ITS offers the service, free, to all active Arts and Sciences faculty as part of the “Towards a Secure Dartmouth” initiative. The initiative aims to improve the security of Dartmouth’s data, as well as the systems that protect that data. Academic Technology Consultants install CrashPlan on Dartmouth-owned desktops and laptops in a process that takes fewer than 15 minutes.

Faculty, to set up an appointment, email the Help Desk


The Teams behind Crash Plan

“When we were looking at tools that would really make a difference, CrashPlan was in a league of its own,” says Alan Cattier, Associate CIO for Information Technology Services, on why Dartmouth pursued the service.“It worked transparently, it backed up what you wanted when you wanted, and if anything ever happened to your computer, everything that you had intended to save was available to restore. It was an easy decision to make it available to Dartmouth faculty.”

In fall 2014, ITS launched a pilot project to test CrashPlan for faculty and staff in the College of Arts and Sciences. In addition to assessing the data backup and recovery service, the pilot addressed legal and security considerations. Systems Administrator Rob Ream provided an external server for the program’s pilot until CrashPlan became official. Staff across ITS collaborated in testing the service. By November of that year, 10 faculty members were invited to “live with” CrashPlan for 30-60 days and provide feedback of their impressions of the service’s backup and restore features, usability, and overall performance.

The timing, just before the December interim, proved ideal since it provided insight into how well CrashPlan performs when users are away from campus. Faculty provided excellent feedback on their experiences, which led to the pilot team’s improved understanding of how the client software and master server would need to be configured for CrashPlan’s production use. Once ITS rolled out CrashPlan, Application Administrator Matthew Brabazon worked with Code42 to set up the master server.


A Proven Solution

Manager of Academic Consulting Nicole Hamilton consults for the Department of Biology. She coordinated the CrashPlan pilot, with several of the faculty she works with involved in the testing.

“It was a true collaborative effort to go through the pilot and work with various perspectives: to look at the product from the outside in and determine whether it provided the service we needed,” Nicole says.  “From a user’s perspective, CrashPlan excelled in being transparent when the user wanted backup to just “happen,” yet, at the same time, it was really easy to access when data recovery became necessary.” She adds that even as ITS teams worked on the pilot, it became evident that CrashPlan would serve faculty well because of the high level of data protection it provides.

ITS rolled out CrashPlan in September 2015.  Hundreds of Dartmouth faculty currently use the service.

“Now, even as our faculty travel,” Nicole says, “as long as there’s a decent network connection, they’re going to be able to back up and, if necessary, restore data. So far, so great.”


Information, Technology & Consulting