Tag Archives: backup online

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WHS 2011 Backup Add-Ins: Cloudberry & KeepVault

CloudberryConsoleAs part of my Windows Home Server 2011 evaluation I’ve been looking at two backup add-ins – Cloudberry Online Backup for Windows Home Server and KeepVault. I’ve been using KeepVault with my Windows Home Server v1 for just under a year. I’ve heard about Cloudberry off and on but never looked into it, probably turned off by the name.

Cloudberry was back on my mind as I heard they had a WHS 2011 add-in available in beta, and I already had the KeepVault for Windows 2011 beta. I found both can happily co-exist on the same server so I’ve been checking both out. Cloudberry has a 15-day full-feature trial which I’ve been using. KeepVault also has a trial period but I’m already a subscriber and use the basic plan. There are differences between the software and each has it’s strengths and weaknesses.

Backup Destinations

On area where there are significant difference are the backup destinations:

KeepVault:

  • KeepVault’s own cloud storage which I’ve been using
  • A local disk physically attached to the server

Cloudberry:

  • Amazon S3, including lower cost Reduced Redundancy Storage (RRS) which I use
  • Network share on the same network. I’ve backed up to my WHS v1 machine.
  • Local hard drive attached to the server
  • Additional cloud services: Microsoft Azure, Meszeo, Dunkel, and Walrus

My Pick: Hands down, Cloudberry is the winner for flexibility. I’ve been able to back up to my local WHS v1 over my local LAN with Cloudberry while KeepVault would require an attached drive for a backup. KeepVault would be limited to the size of the attached hard drive and would need a different job for each attached drive. Cloudberry has one job that backs up to the 10TB drive pool.

Pricing

This is where there are significant differences.

KeepVault:

  • Software & Storage: Subscription fee based on storage. There’s no per PC or software charge. Costs range for $46/yr for 40 GB on up and slightly less per GB as the storage increases. For example, 130 GB is $139/yr. The yearly cost is 10% off the monthly subscription and is what I used for my comparisons. So you can go month to month at a higher cost. For comparison purposes I’m considering $46/yr for 40 GB.

Cloudberry:

  • Software: Cloudberry only provides the software, the backup services (such as Amazon S3) are not provided by Cloudberry. Software is priced per PC or server. The WHS add-in is $30. They also use a subscription (aka maintenance) model for upgrades at a cost of $6 per year (20% of the software price). So every year I would pay $6 to get another year of upgrades.
  • Storage: I use Amazon S3 Reduced Redundancy Storage. RRS is a lower cost option which, as the name implies, isn’t as well protected. For example, regular S3 storage can survive the loss of 2 Amazon data centers, RRS can only survive the loss of 1. This is more than suitable for my backups since by nature they are already redundant. I used Amazon’s pricing calculator and came up with $8.27 the first month with 40GB transferred in and then $5.77 a month after that assuming only 2 GB of replacement data was sent and I stayed at 40GB.  But if I drop down to just 10 GB it is $2.98 for the first month with 10GB data transfer in and then $1.41/mth after that.

My Pick: Cloudberry as it will probably cost me less as I will be well under 40 GB, although it will probably be a push for the first year due to the software cost. Even if I go to 40GB the pricing is comparable as I was liberal in my data transfer estimates after the first month. But for those who want consistency and expect to be near the top of their subscription limit KeepVault may be a better choice. Whether the Amazon S3 “pay for what you use” pricing model is a strength or weakness depends on your usage. If you send a lot of data in a month the transfer charges can add up as shown by my first month costs.

Additional Features

KeepVault:

I looked at the KeepVault basic subscription. The considerably more expensive Pro subscription ($163/yr for 40GB) does include additional features although it’s unclear to me if the WHS add-in supports them all.

  • 128-bit encryption

Cloudberry:

  • Multiple encryption options and each job can have it’s own encryption key.
  • Multiple backup jobs (“plans” in Cloudberry speak), each with it’s own configuration options.
  • Files deleted on the PC can be deleted from the backup storage. This is optional and a time to wait before deletion is configurable. You’re also warned about upcoming deletes and can chose to save the files.
  • Can get granular with backups at the directory or even file level. You can also select backups at the disk level.
  • Backup selects or exclusions can be set by file type, folders can be skipped, file backups can be limited to files modified after a set date, and more

My Pick: Again another hands down choice for Cloudberry as the Swiss Army knife of Windows Home Server backup add-ins.

Summary

Looks like I’ll be switching my online backup over to Cloudberry and Amazon S3. With Cloudberry’s local backup abilities and lower or comparable costs it’s not really even a contest.

Backup Logo - Laptops connected to backup

Annual Backup Strategy Review

Backup Logo - Laptops connected to backupIt’s been over a year since I last reviewed my backup strategy. I’ve also rebuilt my PC twice in the last month so combined with some other changes it’s a good time to review my backup strategy and the tools I use.

My Backup Philosophy

I’ll start off my repeating my backup rules:

  1. A file doesn’t exist unless it exists in at least three places.  (Was two places last year)
  2. RAID (or RAID like technologies such as Drobo or Windows Home Server) does not mean the file exists in two places.
  3. To be truly protected, two of the three places must be geographically separated.
  4. The backup has to be automatic and unobtrusive. I’m lazy, if I have to manually initiate the backup it won’t happen.

Software Used

The following software provides backup services for me. I keep my files in a central location on my Windows Home Server, so PC backups are not so critical for me. In fact, with my two recent PC rebuilds, both planned, I rebuilt the OS from scratch because I wanted to make changes. While I did restore some application configuration files I don’t restore any data because there is none.

Windows Home Server

In addition to being where my files live, Windows Home Server provides the backup service for my Windows PCs. I’ve occasionally restored individual files or directories and it’s worked well.

I’m currently running both Windows Home Server Version 1 along with the Version 2 (Vail) beta. But because I’m now backing up to beta software I no longer consider these backups reliable, just nice to have.

I keep file duplication on for all shares. As I mentioned, this isn’t a backup, but it does provide redundancy to keep the files available should a drive fail so that I don’t need to go to the backup just to get the server running.

KeepVault for Windows Home Server

I’ve changed the way I’ve used KeepVault since my first review of KeepVault back in May, but I still use it and I suspect I will be buying even more storage. KeepVault backs up my files to the cloud, giving me offsite backup. It meets my requirement of allowing me to pick my own encryption key that they don’t have (assuming I believe them when they say they don’t have, it which I do). But some features of KeepVault keep it from being an all-around offsite solution for me.

  • There’s no archival history for files. If a file is changed it overwrites the previous backed up version.
  • Files are never deleted (unless done manually). Once a file is backed up it remains unless I go in and delete it. For directories where I add/delete/move a lot of files this would become a space problem.

So I’ve moved to using KeepVault for backing up files that don’t change a lot but take a lot of space. Such as Music, Software and some videos.

Jungle Disk

JungleDiskThis is my primary offsite backup software. I’ve been using Jungle Disk since it’s inception and because of that I have been grandfathered into a slightly lower monthly subscription fee than what’s currently available.

Jungle Disk backs up to either Amazon S3 (and the Amazon S3 charges apply) or Rackspace Cloudfiles (and Rackspace charges apply). I’ve moved over to Rackspace as I’ve found it to be reliable. I did stay with Amazon S3 long after Rackspace became available so they could work out the bugs.

I run Jungle Disk on my Windows PC but back up the shares on my Windows Home Server.

Chronosync

Chronosync is a Mac app that can be used to move files around, and as the name suggests, synchronize folders. I have a Drobo attached to my Mac Mini and I use Chronosync to make a copy of files on my Windows Home Server to the Drobo. This gives me my second local copy of these files.

DropBox

I pay for a 50GB DropBox account along with the “Packrat” option that saves deleted files and previous file versions. I mainly use this as a way to share files between my PCs, phone, iPad and to make files available via the web. But the offsite storage allows me to use it for some backups.

WinSCP

I use WinSCP to backup my web server using a script run as a scheduled task.

OS X Time Machine

I have even less true data on my Mac than I do on my PC. Almost everything is saved on the Windows Home Server or on the attached Drobo. If it’s on the Drobo it gets copied up to the Windows Home Server at night.

Still, I use Time Machine to get setting changes and to allow a quick rebuild if necessary.

How The Backups Happen

Purchased Music & Purchased Video

I have a share on my Windows Home Server called Archive. I have a ChronoSync job that copies purchased music and video from my Music library to the Archive share. From there KeepVault backs up any new files. Since I rarely delete these files the lack of KeepVault deletions is actually a benefit as an unnoticed accidental deletion from my library can be restored when it’s finally noticed.

I only do this for music and videos I’ve purchased online and downloaded.

Ripped Music and Video

This is by far my most problematic set of files since there are around 3 TB worth of files. For these I use Robocopy and some batch files to synchronize them with a set of hard drives I have. I keep these hard drives in the office so they are out of the house. They aren’t critical data so a delay in getting them may be annoying, but not a real problem.

My third copy of these files is the original physical media packed away in boxes. It would be annoying and time consuming to re-rip them. I’ve accumulated enough older hard drives I may be able to set up a second set of hard drives with a copy to keep in the house.

I have had to restore these files due to a past server failure and the robocopy strategy does work.

Web Server

I run a scheduled task that fires off a WinSCP script to download my website files to a folder in my DropBox. This gives me a local copy across PCs along with one in the cloud. The DropBox Packrat feature also keeps old file versions available should I need them.

Windows Home Server & Dropbox Data

I keep copies of software I purchase or use in a share on the WHS. If I received the software on CD/DVD I make an ISO file of the disc and save it to the server. These files get backed up to KeepVault. While I may eventually want to delete these files (something I need to do manually with KeepVault) I want to keep most software long after I stop using it, just in case.

Everything else gets backup up with Jungle Disk. I have a user share with my critical (mostly financial and records) data and that gets backed up to both Rackspace and Amazon S3. Both of these services use an encryption key I specify and only I know.

Since space is money I’ve changed the time to keep replaced/deleted files from the default 60 days down to 10 days. My main concern is accidental deletions and hopefully I’d notice within 10 days.

As for the second local copy of these files – the DropBox files duplicate themselves. I use ChronoSync to copy the remaining WHS files to my Drobo as a local backup.

Backup Logo - Laptops connected to backup

KeepVault Backup: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Backup Logo - Laptops connected to backupI’ve been using Jungle Disk as my offsite backup solution with the backup going to Rackspace Cloud Files (RCF). RCF is similar to Amazon S3 although ever so slightly cheaper. This has worked well and while it can be a low-cost solution for some it can become expensive over time as the amount of files being stored continues to grow. My bill had reached the $11/month level with about 75 GB  backed up. It was past due time to look for another solution and KeepVault popped up on the radar.

KeepVault backup caught my eye because it has a Windows Home Server add-in and a Windows Home Server  connector for PC backups. I can’t emphasize enough about how much I like this concept. My WHS is the hub of my network (from a data point of view) so being able to run the backup on the server itself is a huge benefit to me. I’ve been running KeepVault for a couple of weeks and have a favorable impression of it.

This article is an overview that concentrates on what I like and don’t like about KeepVault Backup. It’s the list I put together when deciding whether or not to subscribe for a year (I did). Future articles will include details about usage and how it specifically fits into my backup strategy.

There is a Windows client for backing up PCs, but I only looked at the Windows Home Server solution.  There also is a beta for Mac and USB based backups. I haven’t looked at either of these either. KeepVault Pro includes additional features, primarily designed for business, but at significantly higher cost so I didn’t consider it either.

The Good

  • It backs up the Windows Home Server shares through a Windows Home Server add-in! Did I mention how much I like this?
  • It works (well, generally, see what I say under ‘bad’). I did a backup, restore and compare without having a problem.
  • You pay for the storage used. If I decide to use the PC software I just download it and set it up. Assuming I have the space there’s no extra charge. If I have multiple PCs they can also use the same account. In my world all PCs save files and backup to the Windows Home Server so that the only computer I have backing up to KeepVault’s data center.
  • Storage can be added on a prorated basis. So you can start out low and add space as needed. It will be prorated for the time left in your subscription.picture of Clint Eastwood
  • You can use your own encryption key. This was another must have feature for me. While I need to have a certain level of trust (like they aren’t lying when they say they don’t have the encryption key) I prefer to trust no one. If the files are encrypted and only I have the key then I won’t be burned by some programming error, security breach or greedy employee.
  • The KeepVault Connector – when this is enabled a share is created on the Windows Home Server and set to be backed up. The KeepVault Connector can then be installed on a PC and configured to backup files to that share. This does seem to duplicate the WHS backup, but I’ve found a use for it and am using it.
  • There is the built in ability to do local backups on the WHS. If you have a disk attached and set to be backup storage (rather than in the data storage pool) KeepVault can be configured to back up to this drive. The configuration and usage is the same as backing up to KeepVault’s own storage. You can then either restore through KeepVault or take this drive to a PC, connect it and copy the files off it. I can see where this feature would be useful for many, although it’s not something I’ll use once my curiosity is satisfied.
  • Files being backed up can be compressed. This is on by default but can be turned off. This helped me a little as I have now backed up just over 81GB to my 80GB account and I have about 5GB still free.
  • This is probably more than I need, but it’s nice to be able to work on this article and save it along the way. The KeepVault Connector backs it up to the Windows Home Server (since the editor doesn’t lock the file open) and the WHS immediately sends it offsite. So if my PC crashes I’m not stuck with the regular backup that was done this morning. So I get continuous backups throughout the day for data on my PC.
  • It backs up the Windows Home Server through a Windows Home Server add-in. Did I mention how much I like this?

The Bad

  • Open files will not be backed up. So if you use Outlook (my sympathies) you’ll have to shut down to get the backup. Also, there’s no block level back up so if the files are large the entire file will be copied every time.
  • If you use your own encryption key and you forget it then your screwed, your data is not recoverable. OK, this shouldn’t really be bad since it’s the way it should work and not working this way would be bad. If you let the software generate a key for you then the key will be regenerated on re-install (I did not test this as I have no intention of ever using it.). The KeepVault people can reset your account so you can set a new key and start over with your backups.image of a burning hard drive
  • It’s difficult to know if a specific file was backed up. There’s a “protection history” dialog but there’s no search feature. Unless your file was backed up recently it will be difficult to find in the list. I have over 241, 000 files in the list. If I want to know what was backed up last night I can probably find the file. If I want to see what my initial backup did there’s no way I’m scrolling though that list. I generally went through the restore process to verify files but it’s not realistic to do this on a regular basis.
  • Some options are slow. Sometimes. This may be due more to the nature of the internet and how busy KeepVault is at the time. In one case it took several hours to think about deleting several thousand files. Another time it deleted a little over a thousand files in a couple of minutes.  It’s hard to be sure, but this appears to be related more to the number of files rather than the file size.
    Other times it been too long for even a message to appear when clicking the delete or restore options in the console. It appears to lock the console although I may just be impatient waiting for activity and if I was willing to wait I may have gotten a response. Backups were working during this time so the KeepVault itself was available.
  • Subscriptions are yearly (at least I didn’t see a monthly option). If you pay via PayPal the subscription will auto-renew (unless canceled in PayPal) and you’ll get a 15% discount over a manual credit card. I put this under bad because the cancellation policy is based upon actual usage and while I didn’t do perfect calculations a back of the envelope calculation indicates it would be a bit expensive if you actually used the service. In my case I’d be out of a refund in less than 5 months based on my current usage. (You can sign up for a trial before subscribing.) So if your usage declines drastically you can’t really drop to a lower subscription level until renewal time. Which is one reason I haven’t expanded my 80GB subscription even though it’s over 90% used.
  • Hidden files are not backed up. This is usually OK but if your hidden file contains configuration data you need then it will be a problem. I like that all my Thumbs.db files don’t get backed up, saves me from having to exclude them.

The Ugly

I had some problems. Most seemed to clear themselves up but since I never found the cause I’m still hesitant to use it as a “set it – forget it” backup. I’ll probably keep monitoring things closely for awhile.

  • KeepVault seemed to stop backing up some shares for no good reason. Files changed in one share wouldn’t be backed up, files changed in another share would be backed up. This was resolved by toggling the “protection” setting of the share. I told it not to back up the share, then immediately told it to backup the share. At this point it backed up the newer files. This is one of the problems that just seemed to go away. Maybe KeepVault needed to sort out my initial backups since these problems all occurred in the days right after my initial backups where I was sending data for a few days straight.
  • When trying to delete files in from KeepVault storage I would get errors on some files and they wouldn’t be deleted. This would be repeated. I waited a day and I then successfully deleted the file. It’s probably coincidence, but those problem files were all files that had been copied to my Windows Home Server from my Mac and were file packages. It wasn’t that every Mac file had the problem, but the ones that did were Mac files copied to the WHS. (There is no Mac Connector, I simply run the files from the WHS or copy them there as a backup.) This is another problem that seems to have gone away and all the problems were with files that went up in those initial backups. I should mention that I restored those problem files and a file compare showed they matched the ones on my Windows Home Server, so the files themselves were fine.

picture of a purple convertible junk car in the desert

  • There’s a setting to send alerts via SMS and/or email when there’s an error. I kept losing these settings. I put in the settings, send a successful test and then go back an hour later to verify the settings were still there and they were. But later there was and error I didn’t get an alert. I checked the settings and they were empty. This was consistent and the alerts never went out when errors actually happened. I’ve yet to take the time to contact support on this.
  • I have the KeepVault Connector installed on my 64-bit Windows 7 PC. (It is 32 bit software). There have been times where the KeepVault Connector UI will not open on my PC. The Connector is running and files are backed up, but the UI won’t open. I need to stop the connector (select ‘exit’ from the systray icon) and restart it. At that point the UI displays fine.
  • You’ll be backing up over the internet and will be at the mercy of your ISP’s upload speeds and policies. Some ISP’s may throttle your traffic after it reaches a certain level which will make that initial backup take even longer. Upload speeds are typically lower than the download speeds that are so prominent in ISP advertising so the upload may take awhile.

The Morally Ambivalent

Image of an angel and a devilThere are some features or quirks of KeepVault that are either good or bad, it just depends on your point of view.

  • There’s no archival history or versioning. If you change a file it gets backed up and replaces the previous backup copy. If you want this you’ll need to look elsewhere.
  • Files are never deleted from KeepVault storage. Delete it on your WHS and it stays in the backup storage. In general this is good since backup is usually instantaneous (it can be scheduled). But if you do any large scale file reorganization or cleanup those files will still be using space in the KeepVault and you’ll need to go in a delete them manually.
    At first I didn’t like this but I’ve grown into it. While a simple one-click cleanup would be nice I’ve found that deleting a directory tree from the KeepVault after it’s been cleaned up allows the remaining files to be backed up again without a problem.
  • While the files are encrypted, the file names are not.
  • KeepVault is offsite backup at an extremely reasonable price. But because of this features are limited and things like open file backup or versioning will probably only appear in the more expensive pro version. I would expect this to remain the case for the foreseeable future so don’t get the base level of KeepVault because it’s cheaper than Jungle Disk (or anything similar) and expect it to grow into the same feature set as Jungle Disk (or Mozy, etc…).
  • Minimal configuration. You can pick shares to back up You can enable/disable encryption. You can enable/disable compression. You can set backup times or keep it as continuous. That’s it. You can’t exclude files or directories. There is a Kludge I saw that uses the fact that KeepVault doesn’t back up hidden files. Apparently once KeepVault sees a directory has hidden it excludes it even after it’s unhidden. I didn’t test this. On the KeepVault Connector side of things you pick directories to backup. Every file and sub-directory then gets backed up but since you can pick the directories you can get detailed in your selections. Sure, I’d like more configuration options but I can make this work, and the previous bullet point about low price applies.

The Conclusion

After going through lists I decided to sign up for a year of KeepVault Backup. I had been backing up just under 80GB to Jungle Disk so I signed up for the 80GB plan. At $89 for the year this will save me about 1/3 of what Jungle Disk would be costing me for the year.

I was also able to clean up some of the files being backed up and cleaned up enough space so that I could back up my iTunes, Amazon and other music purchases, along with music ripped from my CDs. Previously I relied on local backups and it was a hole in my backup strategy that I needed to plug.

The lack of versioning and deletions is still a concern I have for a very small number of my files so I’m still backing those up through Jungle Disk. At least in the short term. They also happen to be my most critical documents so I don’t mind having them two places.

This article has already topped 2,000 words so it’s time to stop. After I’ve lived with KeepVault for several more days I’ll post information about how I’m specifically using it.

Picture of a black umbrella

Reviewing My Backup Strategy

Picture of a black umbrellaThe days of using a few floppy disks to backup important files are long gone. In going through my website I realized that the information about my backup strategy was a bit dated and didn’t reflect how I do things. Going through everything in order to write this article would also help me be sure I had a bulletproof backup strategy. The goal is to have a solid backup solution so I never have to use a file recovery tool like Data Rescue II. So here goes…

My Backup Philosophy

My backup philosophy still hasn’t changed:

  1. A file doesn’t exist unless it exists in at least two places
  2. RAID (or RAID like technologies such as Drobo or Windows Home Server) does not mean the file exists in two places.
  3. To be truly protected, the two places must be geographically separated.
  4. The backup has to be automatic and unobtrusive. I’m lazy, if I have to manually initiate the backup it won’t happen.

That third and fourth points can be a problem for large groups of files such as my music and video libraries which total over 5TB of data. But I’ll deal with that later.

I also like to have two copies of the file locally (including the “live” copy) to allow quick restores, although this isn’t possible for my large video library.

Backup Software (and Services) Used

I make use of the following software and services in my backup strategy:

Jungle Disk (with files saved to Amazon S3) – This is my primary offsite backup software. I like it because it’s cross platform (Windows, OS X, Linux). Since pricing is based on usage it costs me a bit more than $5/mth which is typical of many other backup plans. But it’s been reliable so I consider it money well spent.

Windows Home Server – I have file duplication enabled for all files on the server. The WHS software includes backing up PCs and this is my primary in-house backup for my Windows PCs.

Jungle disk and Windows Home Server are my primary backups tools but the following software also helps out.

Drop Box – Another free service (for 2GB of space). Drop Box allows files to be synced between PCs. I primarily use it to sync settings between computers along with some files but in addition to putting the files on multiple PCs copies are also save on the web so it counts as offsite backup. As an added bonus it saves archives of deleted and changed files for 30 days.

I use ChronoSync this to sync files to my Windows Home Server. I use it to move files between my Mac and Windows Home Server as a way of having local backups. On the Windows side I use Microsoft’s SyncToy to sync between my Windows PCs and my WHS.

MozyHome Free – I use the free version of Mozy to backup some Windows files. I used to use the paid version on my Mac but after some serious problems with Mac Mozy I dropped the subscription. I use the free service for three reasons: It’s been reliable on Windows, it’s free, and it keeps historical copied of changed/deleted files for 30 days. It’s that last item that’s important. There are a few files that I want to keep historical copies of for awhile. With Jungle Disk I’d be charged for the space these historical copies use and I’d have to set up a separate backup in order to treat the files differently. The reality is I’ll probably never restore archive copies from my offsite backup, after all I have Windows Home Server. But Mozy’s free and unobtrusive so I’ve kept it.

I also use Apple Time Machine and SuperDuper! (I hate that exclamation mark and will drop if from this point on) on my Macs.

Jungle Disk and Mozy share a security feature I want in my offsite backup. I supply my own encryption key and the files are encrypted on my local computer before being sent to the “cloud”. Neither Jungle Disk or Mozy have copies of my encryption key so if anyone gets access to my files they still can’t decrypt them.

The offsite backups exist for those cases I really hope never happen – from natural disasters and fires to someone breaking in and taking my computer and nearby drives. Except for those cases I’ll be counting on the local backups.

iMac Backup

My iMac (running Snow Leopard) has my iTunes music library and an iPhoto library although both are on a external Drobo drive connected to the iMac. While providing RAID like protection, as point 2 states above, it’s not a backup. Other data files are either synced via Drop Box or saved on my Windows Home Server. I really don’t save miscellaneous data to my iMac anymore, they get saved directly to the server. But any miscellaneous files would be saved to my documents folder which Time Machine would catch.

I use Time Machine to back up my iMac’s system drive. There’s not much that changes, mainly settings, so I created a 500 GB partition on my Drobo. This will limit Time Machine to 500 GB as a maximum but because of the way Drobo works with multiple partitions it only uses the space actually needed by the files. At this point that well under 100 GB.

Every night SuperDuper clones my system drive to a second partition on the Drobo. This is really a holdover from the days when it was cloned to an external drive that I could boot off of in an emergency. It did come in handy during my recent iMac rebuilds, making it easy to find and restore an apps settings one at a time. If disk space was an issue or I didn’t already have it I wouldn’t be doing this backup anymore.

As for my offsite backups, which are done using Jungle Disk, I just back up:

  • Documents folder (which has very few files)
  • A software archive folder which has copies of any Mac software I paid for or is critical even if it’s a free download.
  • My Preferences folder
  • My Application Support folder since some applications may put data in these folders

All of this totals about 2.5 GB, most of which is the software.

As for my music and photo libraries which are on my Drobo drive – ChronoSync runs every night and syncs the libraries up to a drive on my Windows Home Server so they’re duplicated. ChronoSync takes care of any adds/deletes/changes automatically.

None of this requires me to do anything beyond the occasional check to make sure this are still working, which is perfect.

Windows 7 Machine Backup

Back when my iMac issues started my Windows 7 PC became my primary PC so that I’d have time to rebuild and test my iMac. I’ve come to really like Windows 7 so my home-build Windows 7 machine has become a daily worker.

The PC is backed up daily using Windows Home Server backup. I have it set to keep the last 10 daily backups, the last 52 weekly backups and the last 12 monthly backups. Yea, there’s a lot of overlap there but since Windows Home Server is efficient about disk space usage it’s not a huge disk hog. I do exclude one directory that I use for temporary storage of large files that I don’t need backed up (such as DVD images). Windows Home Server backup keeps just one copy of the file and the other backup sets just point to the original. So while my backup may be 84 GB it’s not 84 GB for each of my 74 saved backups (10 + 52 + 12).

Restores are straight-forward through the explorer like interface. I’ve never done a full restore using a WHS backup since I’ve always wanted a fresh OS install but I’ve never had a problem restoring from the WHS backup.

I use Jungle Disk to backup important files on this PC along with network files that are important. These get saved on Amazon’s S3 service. I don’t have Jungle Disk set to save archive copies of changed/deleted files, that’s what WHS is for. One backup job is set to backup local files from the PC, another job is set to backup files from my Windows Home Server (via shares). Since I save most data (and anything important) to my WHS the network backup is by far the largest of my Jungle Disk backups and is currently about 20GB. This offsite backup includes my photos but doesn’t include music or videos.

There are backup solutions for Windows Home Server but I prefer to do it via share using my existing backup solution. I can manage backups from my PC and it takes the processing load off the server. The only issue I have with Jungle Disk is that every time I reboot my Windows PC I have to go into Jungle Disk and “test” the network connection, otherwise the backup won’t connect to the shares. It’s frustrating since I don’t actually have to change anything, just click the test button for one share and it fixes the problem for all shares.

I have Jungle Disk send me a daily status email with the backup results so if any backups are missing or show errors I can fix them.

Website Backups

In the past I had used Transmit to synchronize the files from the server to my iMac using SFTP. When my iMac went bad I switched to using WinSCP on my Windows 7 PC. The theory is the same on Windows as it is on my Mac, just different software. I already wrote about how I schedule the WordPress database backups on the server so the database gets backed up to my local PC too.

WinSCP syncs the files down to my Windows 7 PC. From there SyncToy is used to make a local copy to a Windows Home Server share. The Windows Home Server backup also backs them up as a part of the regular PC backup. This regular backup also keeps a years worth of archive copies.

Jungle Disk also includes the web files when it backs up the files from the PC, this gives me my offsite backup (although considering the web server itself is offsite this may be redundant – but I’m paranoid).

The Big Backup

My music and video libraries are just too big (over 6 TB) to backup over the Internet. So to back those up and keep them offsite I copy the files to older hard drives and keep them at the office.

I have a eSata docking bay attached to my Windows PC. I plug the bar SATA drives into this toaster like dock and use robocopy to copy files to the drives. Once a video is added to my iTunes library it doesn’t change when I watch it so these files only show as modified if I change the meta data or re-encode the video. I just created batch files that used robocopy to copy files within a date range that would fit on the drive. I have one batch file per drive so when it comes time to refresh the backup I just rerun the file. An example robocopy command line is (all one line):

robocopy \servervideos f: *.* /S /COPY:DAT /MINAGE:20081129 /MAXAGE:20080908 /PURGE /XA:H

This copies all files from my video share to the drive plugged into the dock. The /S copies subdirectories. The /COPY:DAT says to copy data, attributes and timestamps which are supposed to be the defaults but I had some issues in testing so I specify them. /MINAGE says not to copy files with this date or newer (so in the example, files dated Nov 29, 2008 are not copied). /MAXAGE says not to copy files older than this date (so in this example, files dated Sept 8, 2008 are copied). /PURGE will delete any files within the date range that are no longer on the server. The /XA:H switch says to exclude files with the hidden attribute, such as the Thumbs.db file Windows likes to create since I put DVD art in the directories.

One thing I need to keep in mind is I need to spin up the disks a couple times a year at least. I started off with 500 GB drives being used for the backups since that’s mostly what I had as spares or had the best price per GB at the time I bought them. After removing the drive I start the backup process over again and backup to all the drives again which spins them up and rewrites the data. I put the new drive at the beginning of the backup so a drive isn’t overwritten until it’s files were already backed up.

This process can take a couple of days. While the file copies do take a lot of time most of the delay is because the current drive never seems to finish when I’m around to swap it quickly. So there’s usually a few days when my backups are in the same location as the originals but there’s only so much I can do on a budget.

I keep the latest drive in the dock and backup new videos to it. At this point they aren’t offsite but I figure the risk is minor.

My music library gets backed up in a similar manner although since it easily fits on a 500 GB disk, and I now have two  of them available, I just keep swapping the drives between home and the office every month or so. More often if I’ve added a lot of new music.

Due to the size of my video library I only have one copy of the files locally, but that’s on my Windows Home Server with file duplication enabled. I’ve considered turning off file duplication and moving some of the drives to a different computer so I could have a true backup. But I’d need to build a second server (or have multiple locations) to handle 6 TB and a restore would take a long time. I’d rather have file duplication on so as to handle a bad drive, rather than have to do a file restore when a drive goes bad. Especially since I couldn’t be sure what files were on that bad drive. If the entire server craters the delay needed to get the files from the office is small compared to the amount of time to rebuild and restore. I’ve already had one bad drive which had minimal impact thanks to file duplication.

Misc Backups

My MSI Wind netbook runs Windows 7 and gets backed up using the Windows Home Server backup. I really don’t save files locally on the Netbook but if I do they get saved to my Drop Box folder so get synced to other PCs and saved in the Drop Box “cloud”.

Summary

Windows Home Server is the main component of my Backup Strategy. It handles the daily backups along with weekly and monthly archives. Although earlier versions were buggy the current version has never given me trouble when it’s time to restore a file. Jungle Disk handles my offsite backup needs.

I do have one hole in my backup strategy, namely I have no backup for my email which is through Google. At one time I simply copied information I needed and lost email meant nothing. Eventually I’ll have to plug that.

No Longer A Mozy User

I’ve been a Mozy fan and user for a couple of years and had a paid subscription, at least until I recently cancelled it. At some point my backups stopped working. My tech support experience didn’t go well. While working on the issue I was backing things up to Amazon S3 (via Jungle Disk). After all the files were backed up to S3 and the Mozy issue remained unresolved so I cancelled the subscription.

I will admit I didn’t dedicate a great deal of time to the problem although I did run through all the steps requested by Mozy support. Backups need to be unobtrusive, simple and not time consuming. This had become neither.

I new things were bad when the tech support e-mail said the problem was my Mac was going to sleep during the backup and I should just keep restarting the backup. The logs I sent proved this wasn’t the case (my Mac is set to never sleep) and the error occurred as soon as Mozy attempted to send the first file to the server. I’d already done most of the steps in the e-mail (such as uninstalling/re-installing).

The final step was to change the backup to try backing up just one file. I saved this for last since if it worked it would remove all my other files (although the historical copies should remain for 30 days). This was a bit weird. It did delete about 80% of the files although 10GB or so remained up there. This indicated to me that something was out of sync. Also, the one file selected for backup wasn’t backed up and I received the error.

For laughs I installed Mozy one last time and used by free account. The backup worked fine.

I want a backup I can trust and I’d lost confidence in Mozy so the path of least resistance and greatest confidence was to move on. Amazon S3 is more expensive (the break even point with Mozy is around 30GB although since there are charges beyond space used the exact amount varies.)

So far no other backup has the features I want for the low cost of Mozy so for now I’ll be sticking with Amazon S3 and spending a bit more. In future posts I’ll write about Jungle Disk and the other backup solutions I looked at.  But since I’ve been so pro Mozy in the past I wanted to get on record that I now longer had a subscription.