FOUND: Advanced Mac Help for Online Backup -- addresses specifically the Spotlight issue and how to force Backblaze to rescan for external drives.
One thing that's always annoyed me, though, is how long it takes Backblaze to recognize an external drive. This morning, it was nearly instantaneous; last night, the drive sat hooked up but didn't start backing up. No idea why. Plugging and unplugging the drive didn't work. Restarting didn't work. Nothing I did made Backblaze recognize the drive.
I decided to consult their support page on external drives this morning. It had the following outstanding gem (emphasis added):
When an external drive is plugged back in, it may take Backblaze a minute or two hours to schedule the files on the external drive to be backed up online.
A minute or TWO HOURS?
My other complaint is with how external drives are handled for people who travel. Again, from the same page above:
If the drive is detached for more than 30 days, Backblaze interprets this as data that has been permanently deleted and securely deletes the copy from the Backblaze datacenter. The 30 day countdown is only for drives that have been unplugged.
If you are going on vacation for a long time, you can shut down your computer with the external drive attached. Backblaze does not detect that the external drive has been unplugged and won't start the 30-day countdown. You can then leave your computer off and unplug your external drive for six months, and Backblaze will still keep all your files backed up including those on your external drive. When you come back from vacation, make sure to plug your external drive back in 30 days from after you turn your computer on.
I travel a fair amount for my doctoral research -- and increasingly to India, Nepal, and Guatemala. On occasion, I'm gone for well over a month. My options, seemingly, are to lose my online backup (of all my photos, video, and data) or leave my computer off while gone. Neither are satisfactory.
I can understand the decisions they have made -- they don't want to host terabytes of people's data without need; they're not additional storage capacity for people -- but, for me, this makes things difficult and annoying. My primary machine is a 2011 MacBook Air. It is simply not possible to take all my files with me; I've got a few hundred gigabytes of photography and documentary work backed up to multiple locations in my apartment, but I'd love to have them somewhere offsite and presumably safer. I could purchase a small portable drive and take it everywhere, but that seems unnecessary and no more secure (could lose the drive, drop the drive, etc).
A final niggle -- MDSworker and MDS go nuts on the /Library/Backblaze directory. It needs to be manually added to the "Prevent Spotlight from searching these locations" pane in System Preferences. Seems like this could be automated during the install / first run process.
I'm not switching services -- I don't think there's a better alternative (and yes, I've tried Crashplan -- it caused Java to kick my MBA fans into overdrive all the time, which drove me nuts, and was less reliable). I love Backblaze's native app. Their tech support has been helpful and responsive. Their web interface is snappy, their storage boxes are amazing, and they seem committed to offering a great experience.
All that said, I think the three issues above could be fixed. Two are seemingly related to their software. The final one could be resolved with a tiered pay plan with an additional option that costs more -- but is a bit more flexible and doesn't delete external volumes after 30 days of inactivity.