Backup followup

 

Backing up computers and data is hard. It shouldn't be but it is. Mainly because either software is crap or pricing is too weird and not sensible for your usecase. I used crashplan for my machines, but they decided to fsck off out of the consumer backup market and left the rest of us hanging. They were the only real set and forget Linux backup solution. 

So I wrote about my options a while back so I thought I'd mention where I had gotten to.

1) I retired a bunch of machines I don't care about, my partners mac-book, moved my working data between my laptop dual boot partitions to a SD card which both partition could access but only one backs up (my Linux partition because that is the one I care about).

2) I used back-blaze consumer thingy for my partners backup because that's exactly the backup that makes sense for all backup, just back it all up.

3) GET MAD AT B2, SHOUT A LOT, MOAN A LOT, and then decide to set up my own solution because B2 + the shitty none backblaze software is crap.

4) So right now I'm still using crashplan to backup my 30GB of stuff on my laptop to my NAS. This is the only real bit that needs regular backup, just like backblaze. There is no way I'm paying backblaze for this or pissing around with the 3rd party software that supports B2. THIS IS THE BIT I'M MAD ABOUT.

5) In order to back up my NAS I enlisted my friend Mike and we now we both have 12TB HP microservers which sync, encrypting on the machine before transmitting. 

NOTE TO BACKBLAZE!!!! Linux people are users too!!! We don't always want to be a fscking SysAdmin when we want to back up my LinuX laptop.

So I now just need a set and forget backup solution for my Linux laptop which only has 30GB free space on the disk (the SSD is a 180GB disk dual boot with Windows and Linux). This should be trivial like crashplan but backblaze are making a real hash of it.

Adopting a cat the hard way.

 

So I have a cat. My friends know this because 90% of my tweets or Facebook posts are about the damned cat. The thing is he isn't really my cat, he's my partners cat. It's actually because of the cat that we met as the cat was involved in a road traffic accident with a parked car (I think this will probably be another post at some point) and due to the vets bills my partner had to take a second job at my local watering hole to pay for it.

I've always been a cat person. Ben was probably around 4 or 5 when I was born. When he was very old I had to take him to the top of the garden every day so that he'd have to walk back to the house in order for him to get some exercise. He was so proud that if you overtook him he'd stop and wait for you to walk behind him.

Perry (we didn't name him) was the other cat in our lives when I was a kid. Perry was a brilliant white cat with bright blue eyes who was bred as a show cat for stud....however he was afraid of other cats, especially female cats. So he entered our family, a prawn loving, smart clothes ruining, puking ball of fluff. 

This brings us to Rexham (seriously who names these cats?!?!). I've learned a few things the hard way with this one, especially since my partner has over the last couple of years spent prolonged periods of time away from home due to her work and now university masters degree so I am the primary food provider of this one.

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  • The cat only tolerates me. If he sits on me it's because he's cold, not because he likes me. He only likes my partner.
  • Every holiday or weekend away I've had in the last 5 years has involved having to find someone or group of people to come to the house and look after him. This has often been such a faff that it negates the point of going.
  • Whenever someone visits, within five mins he will have a s**t.
  • He's killed almost every plant in the house. This has either been by destroying it or eating them, making himself so ill that it costs a fortune and I then have to throw them out.
  • If you have crucial work to do, such as rebooting a couple of hundred thousand pounds worth of computing equipment remotely after a power-failure, he will want attention and the feel of laptop keys on his belly. If there is ever a compelling case for sudo this is it.
  • Creating anything to entertain him leads to disappointment. What entertains him is annoying me.
  • In order to facilitate getting his breakfast, he will shepherd me down the stairs, stopping one step in front of me every other step all the way down the stairs. Either that or he's trying to trip me so that I break my neck.
  • If I stop him doing what he wants to do, like attacking the elderly blind neighbour cat, he will just rip my leg apart. He actually did this, I have lots of scars!!

But after all of that, he's my cat and I suppose our dysfunctional relationship will continue.  

Teachers

 

Today I found out that one of my secondary school teachers has died. Ironically he was one of my Biology teachers, a subject I left at GSCE level. Little did I know that 15 years later I'd end up working in biology research. It got me thinking about how much the teachers and the way that subjects were taught has influenced my life and career.

I've been taught by so many teachers, lecturers, tutors and demonstrators over the last thirty-odd years that I've probably forgotten most of them but I will just note a few that particularly influenced me.

During my GCSEs I enjoyed history so much that despite applying for Computer Science courses at for undergraduate I chose History (along with Maths and Physics as my sixth form college didn't offer computing) at A-Level. I did this simply because of the teachers who made the subject fascinating. I still have the printout of Louis XIV that one of the teachers printed for me on an early colour bubblejet printer because he was my favourite French monarch.

University had some fantastic lecturers and tutors, such as the lecturer (who later was one of my PhD examiners) that taught the History of Computing module which we used to call story time, or the lecturer that taught logic who would terrorise any latecomers with answers to truth tables as they'd try to sneak in unseen. It was here that I did my dissertation with my future PhD supervisor. He suggested a particular masters degree, helped me apply for a scholarship and later I went to work with him in Wales for my PhD.

My time in London when working towards my masters degree I met some amazing lecturers and tutors. Some were inspirational but not so much practical like the climate scientist who stormed into the lecturer room, windswept and interesting, with boxes of printed overhead projector slides for all of us....an inch thick each, not printed in order. The first satellite he was principle investigator on blew up on the launchpad a few years earlier but he had raised more funds to build another one which is still now in orbit and has been operating for 7 years.

I certainly would not be doing what I am now without the people who have taught me and I have always enjoyed teaching. I've taught several small courses during my time in Aberystwyth and even did a PGCTHE qualification. It's a shame that teaching at all levels isn't re-guarded as highly as it should. Teachers are underpaid and over worked, lecturers often have high teaching loads and are expected to compete on research and funding, not to mention those in higher education who teach in poor conditions while completing their own studies like my friend Sam who has lost the will;

 

Anyway, it's Friday evening and I will drink a toast to those who have taught me, cheers.

Getting my head around a new backup system

 

Warning .... this is just a brain dump really while I wade through the crap that is BackBlaze's confusing product + thirdparty software you need, the aftermath of crashplan and trying to narrow down what it is I need backing up where.

Crash plan is dead.... thank God for that. Despite the software being very good, very useful, sensibly thought out for normal people who have normal household backup needs, the cloud service sucked. The way they exited the consumer market too, it just shows how cloud services in general should not be 100% relied upon. ALWAYS HAVE A CLOUD EXIT STRATEGY.

Anyway, in the midst of everyone moaning about Cloudflare, BackBlaze, the only other real cost effective competitor, went on a gloating spree to say how good they are happy to accept new customers. So let's dive into my backup needs, what is available and what it costs.

My Backup responsibilities

Machines to backup (some needless detail too cos I'm a geek);

  • Laptop (My Lenovo X250 180GB SSD) dual boot Win10 (100GB) and Linux (80GB)
  • Laptop (Girlfriends MacBook Pro 80GB HDD) MacOS
  • Laptop (Girlfriends Lenovo T450 180GB SSD) Win10
  • Desktop (AMD A10 6800k 250GB SSD) Win10
  • NAS (HP N40L Microserver w/12TB Storage) Ubuntu LTS

Requirement

I want program that I can install on each machine/partition which backs up to both my NAS and a cloud service.

  • If I don't backup my girlfriends machines, they won't get backed up, so it needs to be done without her intervention
  • It shouldn't have to cost more than the family backup plan with CrashPlan ($150 per year total)

Previous Setup

We had a CrashPlan family plan and was installed on all the laptops (and partitions) and Desktop computer. CrashPlan was also installed in headless mode on the NAS. So all of the laptops and desktop backed up to both CrashPlan Cloud and my NAS.

The NAS itself has a more powerful twin (A N54L at my Dads house). The NAS has about 500GB of important data which I was backing up to the CrashPlan cloud (photos, emails, documents, previous work that kind of stuff) and the rest is stuff that I can re-download, re-encode or reprocess (sure it'd be a pain but it's not the end of the world, hence why I have the N54L twin).

So in all I have three operating systems, six instances that will have around 1TB max of data total to backup to the cloud, five instances (the laptops and desktop) which will back up to my NAS for local backup. 

The BackBlaze Offering

BackBlaze personal is $5 per month per PC or Mac for Unlimited backup.

Clearly this is very strict and they are trying to protect themselves against going the way of Crashplan. I understand this.

However for the following reasons, BackBlaze personal isn't an option;

  • To backup only the Windows and Mac instances, it'd be $20 per month to back up
  • I want to be able to sort all the backups in one account (like a family plan!)
  • I'd need a secondary piece of software on each machine to backup to my NAS
  • I'd need another solution Linux Laptop partition and however I deal with the important data on my NAS

To use BackBlaze with Linux use B2

Okay, so this isn't an unlimited plan, but since it's less that 1TB I'm trying to backup here then the cost shouldn't be so bad and I really do understand why BackBlaze are being an arse about this. However, here are the points here;

  • Simple pricing
    • Storage - $0.005/GB/Month
    • Download - $0.02/GB
    • Class "A" transactions – Free
    • Class "B" transactions - $0.004 per 10,000 with 2,500 free per day.
    • Class "C" transactions - $0.004 per 1,000 with 2,500 free per day.

Simple right, oh, here is the simple API Calls chart with all the transaction limits and what the transaction actually is that you need to be aware of https://www.backblaze.com/b2/b2-transactions-price.html .... Just as an aside, as much as I enjoy IT work, SysAdmin etc. when I get home I don't really want to have to do the same cloud costing bulls&*t that I have had to do at work.

So using the B2 Cost Calculator it looks like backing up 500GB with a monthly churn of say 30GB and no downloads (I assume this means recovery and not some sort of sync cost?) then it's looking at around $40 per year. This looks really reasonable, however in the estimator it doesn't not mention anything about "transactions", let's assume that I won't go over the daily limit, because nothing ever goes wrong when you assume you understand a pricing plan right? 

Pricing aside, how do you actually backup to B2?

Well, you need some software from somewhere else as BackBlaze only provide the storage and API to this. 

This is where I get quite annoyed with BackBlaze claiming to be a viable alternative to Crashplan. B2 is simply NOT a set once and forget backup solution. This is clearly designed as a cloud storage solution to rival S3 and in that it succeeds. But as an actual backup solution, this is 100% dependent on a now 3rd party in this backup solution.

I suppose we should look at some software

  • ArqBackup - $49 one-time fee per machine user (+$29.99 per licence for lifetime upgrade), Mac and Win only.
    • It can backup locally to SFTP so that's a plus
    • Looks very nice, well supported and easy to use
    • Two licences will cost me $196 $99.98 + ($59.98 for lifetime upgrades) + the backup cost
      • CORRECTION 11-09-2017 Licence improvement URL
      • Micheal Bennett kindly contacted me to let me know that ArqBackup now provide the licence per user rather than per machine. This greatly decreases this cost.
    • I still need a solution for the Linux part
  • duplicati duplicati.com - Free! - Linux, Mac, Win
    • This looks at the moment to be my best bet
    • Still in Beta, I've tried the Linux version and it seems okay for NAS backup so far
    • B2 support is quite new
    • If the Windows/Mac version is okay I may do this and donate the difference between the Crashplan family plan and the BackBlaze storage to the Duplicati developers
  • CyberDuck
    • Not a backup utility, it's a file transfer program like WinSCP
    • As a file browser though, this is awesome, just not for my needs today.
  • GoodSync $29.99 per computer
    • Quite cheap, no yearly cost
    • Might be okay for me but certainly not automated and invisible enough for my girlfriends needs
    • If I'm going to use something as complex as this, I may as well use duplicati
  • qBackup $29.99 per computer - $99.99 for a linux licence!!! WTF!?!
    • After seeing the Linux price, I stopped downloading. What a cheek!
    • So from the manual, it looks similar to GoodSync
    • The website doesn't look like it's been updated in a while, I don't trust it.
  • Cloudberry - $29.99 per computer
    • AGAIN! WTF!? They limit you to 1TB storage.... but they don't offer storage. What kind of crap is this!?
    • Sure I'm not using 1TB but why should the 3rd party vendor dictate how much I store when they're not even storing it?!
  • duplicacy.com - $20 per computer + $5 per year per computer
    • Not as much as Arq but adds a yearly cost per machine
    • Doesn't look as feature rich as Arq, but that could just be the lack of info on the website
      • I must admit that if I'm looking to pay for a backup solution, first appearances of the website really seem to matter to me
    • I may try this out but probably only if duplicati isn't suitable which I suspect won't be the case

 

Other sensible solutions?

Office 365?

This one isn't quite for me, but it maybe in the future. I'm an academic so I get a work copy of MS Office via 365. However my girlfriend doesn't have this. So, for £59.99 per year (£5 per month), you can get a personal Office 365 account giving you all the products as well as 1TB oneDrive storage, way more than needed.

This can be further extended to £79.99 per year for a family version and you can have up to 5 users each with 1TB storage on oneDrive.

This could be coupled with any of the same pieces of software you have to have for B2.

 

Conclusions?

I will finish this when I have some conclusions. In the mean time, I hate the cloud!

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