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14987 posts

Uber Geek


# 214351 8-May-2017 09:43
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Thinking out loud. Comments welcome.




My annual CrashPlan subscription is coming up for renewal. It costs something like NZ$70 for unlimited storage, which seems like a good deal, especially coupled with my unlimited broadband. CrashPlan also lets you backup to local disks. Support is good, it's reliable, doesn't seem to slow my PC, and they have a data center in Australia so it's pretty quick.


The client gives you quite fine grained control of versioning. For example you can keep versions every 2 hours for a week, then after the version is a week drop to daily, after a month take it to weekly, etc. That keeps key information but minimises disk space required.


Cloud Storage Pricing


It occurred to me that I store around 100GB of data in online backups, maybe rising 50GB per year (family photos and video). 200GB storage in AWS Glacier in the cheaper US regions is US$0.83/month, which is US$10 per year or about NZ$12/year. 1TB/year costs about the same as Crashplan. AWS Sydney costs about 20% more than the USA regions. In AWS three copies of the data are stored, it's checked for consistency, and bad blocks replaced. It's reliable. Getting data there is the main issue.


Backup Integrity / Trust in Tools


One of my main backup tools is Cobian Backup. I like that Cobian copies whole files that you can access directly in the backup file system, so restores are trivially easy. You don't get compression, and incremental backups just make another copy of the file, wasting space. It's also pretty long in the tooth, with no active development and no releases since 2012.


Also, I have terabytes of files, images and videos, and incremental backups are essential to protect against viruses and crytoware. A small defect in one file in the chain could potentially mean you can't restore your backups. I guess you have hope your tool can tolerate small errors, and ideally use a reliable file system.


Backup Tools


Duplicati and CloudBerry Backup both backup to Amazon S3 easily, and can backup to a huge variety of targets (AWS Glacier, RackSpace, FTP, etc).  


You can of course store data directly in S3 or Glacier, but the user interface isn't so good.






Duplicati doesn't have direct support to backup to Glacier - you can fudge it using Lifecycle rules and some settings, but it's not ideal. So with Duplicati you need to use S3 infrequently access storage class, which costs 3X what Glacier costs, but gives you instant access to your files.


I had a play with Duplicati 2.0 experimental yesterday before I realised it didn't support Glacier directly, backing up to both S3 and local disks. It seems like a nice tool, and runs on multiple platforms, and gives you fine grained file / folder selection. It's also under active development, unlike one of the backup tools I use, Cobian Backup. 




CloudBerry Backup
This seems like a nice piece of software. It can back up to just about anything - S3, Glacier, Azure, Google Cloud, FTP, local disk, etc. It's commerical with a free tier for home use, so problems may be fixed more promptly than open source systems. It supports file versioning with plenty of options, though not quite as many as CrashPlan. It runs as a service, so it can backup when you're not logged in.


With CloudBerry to get compression you need to pay the $30 license fee (comparison chart), but the free version backs up without compression. Given most large files are compressed (mp4/jpg/RAW files) compression doesn't seem essential.


If you use AWS S3 as your backup target you can choose to have compressed, incremental backups in large archives or individual files stored in S3 so you can easily access them directly. Individual files is more convenient, but in an archive reduces costs through compression and fewer requests. You could backup some files to Glacier, some to S3, depending on whether you need to access the files from multiple locations.




Rolling Your Own Cloud Backups


With current data volumes, I could save some money moving to AWS Glacier, with some files in S3 cheaper tier (IA). However it would take some time to set up, test, and maintain. If I wanted to save $50 a year, then I think CloudBerry backup with AWS Glacier would be a good way to go.


CrashPlan at $70 with unlimited data storage and versioned backups is probably good value, taking into account setup and maintenance time.




Local Backups


I think I might give CloudBerry a try for my local backups, which I store both onsite and offsite. It seems like a nice tool.






What's your favorite software to do backups to local disks? Incremental backups are essential IMHO, to protect against viruses and cryptoware. Mirrors aren't a backup.

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14987 posts

Uber Geek


  # 1793746 2-Jun-2017 14:36
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I've come to what I think is a conclusion and my final position for backups. I'll evaluate for a few months then probably get rid of CrashPlan - which I switched from annual to monthly payment as my annual subscription was up.


I've spent a LOT of time thinking about backups and experimenting with back software and online backup providers - probably 40 hours. I've written a fairly thorough review of some backup products for my blog. If anyone wants to read it PM me, I don't tend link from GZ to my websites.




Backup Requirements


My general requirements for backup software are:


  • I want primary one tool that is capable of meeting almost all of my backup needs. Simplicity is a good thing. I'll actually use a different tool for Glacier, to spread my risk.
  • Software should backup to a range of destinations. That includes cloud backups, connected disk backups, and backups to external disks.
  • The features must include incremental backups or block based backups with a version history, encryption, compression, scheduled backups. Ideally it should include de-duplication and a range of options to purge old versions.
  • Client side encryption is important to have.
  • Should have sufficient options for a range of backup jobs. This could include include/exclude masks, the option not to back up subfolders, flexibility on when to purge old versions, etc.
  • The tool should be well documented. Ideally there should be blog posts and / or a user community to help with issues.
  • The tool should be reasonably quick to run backups. I don’t sit there watching them run, and many backups are scheduled, but faster is generally better than slower.
  • If something goes wrong I want there to be help available, either paid or community.
  • The tool should be reasonably easy to use, with a sensible interface. For example backups should be able to be either queued or run in parallel.



Why I chose CloudBerry


I've decided CloudBerry backup the best tool for me to meet those requirements. The key reasons are:


  • CB backs up to pretty much any destination, quickly and efficiently. It can run multiple backups in parallel, scheduled or manual.
  • CB is backed by a company, not a person. Arq is a one man band.
  • CB provides support and has MASSES of documentation. Arq is basically undocumented.
  • CB has a simple, clear user interface that's easy to use.
  • CB is significantly faster than Arq to backup. It's miles faster than CrashPlan when you're talking about external disks, because it doesn't validate them every time you connect a disk.
  • CB deduplication is really quite poor compared with Arq or Duplicati, but I don't tend to have duplicate data, and large files very rarely change. Overall CloudBerry is "ok" technically, I think it's reliable but not completely optimised yet.



Why I also chose Glacier


CloudBerry backs data up to S3, which is more expensive than Glacier. I have a lot of static data, like old photos and family videos, so they can go into a cheaper archiving solution rather than more expensive "hot" storage like S3.




Why I ruled others out


I ruled Duplicati out because restores failed, but I think in 1-2 years it will be awesome. I ruled CrashPlan out because it's very slow with external disks and is theoretically vulnerable to being completed wiped by a virus. I may actually do a proof of concept on that if I ever have free time. Arq was almost my choice, but the poor UI, one man band, and really poor documentation ruled it out.






So far it's going fine. Backups to internal and external disks work fine. Backups to S3 and BackBlaze B2 are both fast. B2 gives you 10GB free and seems nice, much easier to use than S3 for a beginner. My home based external disk backups are fine. I'm about to delete the Duplicati backups from my main external backup and replace them with CrashPlan this weekend.


I'm storing 60GB of data in AWS Glacier. That's all my documents, 2000 pixel wide copies of all my photos, and 720p versions of all my videos, everything, with PAR2 files for some redundancy. Glacier costs me US$0.29 per month, around NZ$5 per year. I used free software to upload it, FastGlacier and / or CloudBerry Explorer. I have the Glacier backup set up using a different AWS IAM user from S3 so if credentials are leaked I can't easily lose S3 and Glacier backups.


I have all my documents, jpeg versions of all my photos, and the last couple of months RAW files in S3. Once my data is backed up to external disk and glacier I'll remove the raw files from S3 to reduce cost.  I have 9.5GB of data in S3 Infrequently Access class storage, which is costing US$0.12 per month, around NZ$2 per year I guess. I could significantly increase what I store there for very little money.


I think it'll end up costing me less than NZ$10 per year for my backup storage. It'll take more of my time than CrashPlan did though, to maintain and check.




Security, Encryption and Versions


When I set up CloudBerry backups I have everything encrypted on the PC before it's sent to Amazon S3. This is more secure, but means any bugs in CloudBerry or if the software stops working I may lose access to my data. It also means you have to install CloudBerry Backup to restore files.


S3 provides server side encryption with AWS managed keys, which is secure enough for fortune 500 companies and government. S3 also provides versioning. CloudBerry will let you simply sync your data to S3.


I may change my backups so that nothing is encrypted on the client, but it's encrypted on S3 by AWS. This reduces my risk of CloudBerry problems, and only slightly increases my risk given S3 is enterprise grade.






Disclaimer: I discovered after choosing CloudBerry Backup that I could get a free copy of a CloudBerry product because I wrote a review on my blog. I'd have paid for it myself if I didn't get a free copy. I also got a free copy of CloudBerry Explorer for S3 / Glacier as they give a license to anyone AWS Pro certified.

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