Proud to be paranoid -- a backup strategy for the lazy and forgetful

From assela Pathirana
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Frankly speaking when it comes to computers I like to get my hands dirty. Command-line tools, scripts and programs appeal me more than ready to use software. However, this is one place where I make an exception. From my rsync-based backup scripts, I've moved to a free tool (not open source just free as in beer) known as [1]. It was just the backup tool I was looking for.

What Crash-plan Does

CrashPlan is more than a backup software, its namesake company runs an online paid backup service known as CrashPlan Central. However, my usage of the CrashPlan software does not involve this paid service.

First you install the CrashPlan software in a number of computers that you use/have access to. Then in each computer select the directories that have important data and ask crash plan to backup these to other computers. For example, if there are three computers A, B and C, let A backup to B and C, B to A and C and C to A and B. The rest is fully automatic. First CrashPlan will make a full backup of the directories you have selected to the destination computers. The first backup can take some time. Thereafter it copies only what have changed from the last backup. These consequent backups are usually very fast. You can set it and forget it! If any of the computers were not able to backup themselves for a few days, you'll get an e-mail stating that!

The Advantages

  • CrashPlan is rather easy to setup. Just download the software and install it in minimum of two computers, create a free crashplan account (This is needed so that there is a central inventory of the computers in your system -- your data does not go there!) Then tell it what computer should be backed-up to what and it will do the rest. this page lists how to get going for windows.
  • It works on Windows, Linux and OS-X and computers with different operating systems can backup to each other.
  • Its a robust system that is very stable. In an environment where computers are not continuously kept switched on and frequently shut-down, it works flawlessly. If the computer was shutdown while crashplan was halfway through a backup, it will continue immediately upon next power-on.
  • After the first backup, CrashPlan backs up only the parts of files that have been changed. This is one major advantage over my rsync based system. If I add a few kilobites to a several GB sized file, crashplan has to backup only that extra portion while my old system had to backup the whole file! It seems to use a very lean and efficient binary protocol to transfer data between computers that seems to be quite fast too.\