Thursday, November 8, 2012

Adventures in Cloud Backup Land


I have usually tried to keep my critical data down to a reasonable size, and with a reasonable level of redundancy. In what I suspect can be referred to as the old days in computer time, I used to backup to external hard drives – or more recently popularized and modernized as a NAS device. While this remains an almost as popular approach as no backup at all, we are living in a cloud backup era and it is a good idea to find a backup option in this domain – and I suppose a lot of us have; knowingly or not.

That said, I still like my local backup. So what does one do? Well, I did what I thought was sensible at the time. I when to my local backup supplier and found a cloud option – a no brainer one might think. It seemed to have all the bells and whistles to suit my somewhat skeptical mind. Well, my cloud experience with Acronis was short lived. For such a crucial player in the local backup and imaging marked, I have little positive feedback for their cloud service. Reminded me of when in-application internet updates came about and everyone wanted to include one – and more times than not it was obvious that this was not their core domain. I felt the same way with the Acronis Cloud Backup, it felt thrown in there and the user experience was horrible, the performance was horrible and when things stopped working, their customer support was horrible. Well, let us leave that a lone.

Therefore, I started digging around to find myself a new backup provider – finding that the web was polluted by marketing sites posing as review sites. Well, not much you can do about that. So, it was time to work my way through the stacks of online backup software. Obviously skipping anything built with Java or missing local encryption – which narrowed it down quite a bit. Then I removed the ones with horrible user reviews and the ones who seem that think unlimited storage is what they find reasonably unlimited while reserving to rights to close down anyone actually using more than they should.

The before mentioned reasonably sized private data suddenly grows quite a bit when you have a child and invest in moderately expensive digital SLR – even more so when you realize that JPEG images just won’t do it for you anymore. Keeping that in mind, one of my favorite backup architectures, the Amazon S3, suddenly became rather expensive for my price / performance scenario.

After a lot of back and forth, I ended up with Backblaze and I have been happy with it since. It is a bit tiresome to tune their configuration files that periodically replaced to make sure I backup what I want backed up, and not what they think is best. That said, they are never replaced unless I device to make some changed in the UI, so that is all fair. I guess I am trying to say that I would have preferred a more advanced configuration mode.

Even though Backblaze does a fine job, there is still the issue of bandwidth. It is a bit sad to see my fiber connection max out at around 400kb/s when it has so much more to give. Maybe that is the price I pay for not finding a suitable offering closer to my location. Amazon S3 would probably have been better, but it just isn’t optimized for backup and the price reflects that.

Then, Amazon Glacier was announced. The backup dialog I put to bed a few months ago suddenly kicks into high gear. It looks very promising, even though it is a bit new and the software support is lacking to say the least. The old S3 power player JungleDisk was sold to Rackspace, and has been quiet for months – even years, some might say. Also, even though the Glacier pricing was very tempting, it did lack some fine tuning to get it compatible with the typical backup scenario where one needs a lot of write access and a bit of read / write access. A hybrid of S3 and Glacier would make a lot of sense. So, either Amazon tweaks its offering a bit or some backup software can bridge the gap – or both. I realize there is little to do but wait. I am still on Backblaze, so I feel safe for now. My initial uploads are done, and the incremental uploads aren’t annoyingly time consuming.

Today I was looking at the Glacier prices again, and I feel something has changed – and I feel it is time to awaken this little side project again. Time to go software hunting…

6 comments:

  1. NAS not SAN ;-)

    Note that Glacier restore may cost you hundreds of dollars for your complete data set. So keep that NAS around.

    CloudBerry seems to be a good choice. No de-duplication but why store duplicated files in the first place?

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  2. NAS and SAN - So much for keeping your work and private life separate ;) Fixed.

    Amazon Glacier has some peak hour and quota concerns that need to be ironed out, and I will always keep a local backup around.

    Most likely, you will rarely need a full restore, but if something goes really wrong then it is a question about how much did you have on storage before the payout day – and are you willing to accept the risk.

    Regardless, the Glacier model is not straightforward – a deeper analysis is definitely needed.

    CloudBerry is looking promising – in trial mode as we speak. It is nice to be able to push data at max upload speeds! Time will tell – and until a definite decision is made Backblaze is keeping me safe. In addition, I like the ability to have both local and an array of cloud storage providers available. This flexible model does open a few doors with regards to increased redundancy of your most critical data.

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  3. "Obviously skipping anything built with Java "
    Well, gee, I guess "to each his own".... I like Waula (based in Switzerland) just because they have a Java based uploader for easy sync (and featuring data encryption) which is truly cross-platform...

    FC

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  4. Hi Nerd,

    My only issue with Java is the constant security issues, patches and rather annoying update strategy. For some it might work fine, but I'd rather my parents didn't have to deal with it. That said, I have no issues with running Java on a server platform - it is the client side I find risky. So, you will have to accept this scenario before you use a Java app, and I suspect most people don't understand the risks.


    However - Waula does seem interesting from a design perspective. A bit pricy for my 250GB target scenario though.

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