Tag Archives: backup

CrashPlan Saves The Day

I had a pretty big data disaster the other day.  It was totally my fault, but fortunately I’d put safety nets in place so that my carefree ways didn’t cause me too much pain.  Basically I lost an afternoon of time where I would otherwise have been able to play the last mission in Starcraft 2.  The short version is my RAID was corrupted, my Dropbox picked up stale changes and screwed up all my machines, my Windows gaming PC wouldn’t boot, my home server didn’t cooperate, but CrashPlan saved the day.

(I meant to post this back when it happened, around November 2, but I just got to doing it now.  The point is that CrashPlan has been promoted in my opinion to “indispensable”.)

Where Do You Keep Your Files?

Now that I’ve got the Synology NAS and drives on the way, what is my plan for keeping the family data safe?

Well, we’ve got a diverse environment.  Desktop Macs, MacBooks, desktop PCs, phones, perhaps mobile PCs at some point…

Heather and I both have photos, music, documents, etc.  We want some of these things to roam about between machines, some not to, and everything to be safe even if NYC sinks into the ocean.

So…  Among my plan’s prongs are such diverse elements as:

  1. Back up all Macs with Time Machine, either to a directly connected external drive, or to the NAS, depending on convenience.
  2. Back up all Windows PCs to Windows Home Server (which I’ll upgrade to WHS 2011).
  3. Store documents, etc. in Dropbox
  4. Sync photos and music to the NAS
  5. Store videos, DVDs, BluRays, etc. on the NAS.
  6. Back up all computers off site (to the cloud) using CrashPlan.
  7. Back up the NAS and WHS to the cloud via CrashPlan as well.

Basic Backups

Time Machine + WHS will solve 99% of the times I’d need a backup.  I get versioning, fast recovery, etc.  They’re each well integrated with their respective operating system and supported by Apple or Microsoft, respectively.  So that’s almost everything fixed right there.

Synology NAS supports Time Machine, so I can dedicate some space on there to back up our laptops and any stray Macs that don’t have external direct attached storage for Time Machine.  In general, for a primary computer, I prefer direct attached Time Machine, because it is much much faster than via the network, especially since our house doesn’t have CAT-5 (I’m using MOCA 1.0 right now to get packets around the house, but this isn’t cutting it for various reasons that I’ll discuss in another post).  But for a MacBook, obviously it’s much more convenient not to have something attached by USB and to just back up over the network to the Synology.

For PCs, Windows Home Server will handle backups.  For the Media Center PC, it will also back up recorded TV.


Dropbox is freaking awesome.  The things I store in Dropbox, I just don’t have to worry about.

These include most documents that aren’t photos, videos, or music.  I could store those, too, but I just use the free version of Dropbox, so I’ve only got about 3GB of available storage.  And I don’t really need anything more.

One of the coolest parts about Dropbox is that it works on the iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, etc.  It’s got a web site I can use to get to my files any time from anywhere.  Sweet.

Syncing Around the House


Heather and I would both like to have many / most of our photos on both of our computers.  We use iPhoto on our Macs to manage photos.  Normally, it would be a pain to get photos synced between our Macs.  But fortunately, there’s SyncPhotos, which is pretty great and handles it for us.  You can set it up to sync multi-directionally, either automatically or manually.

So that takes care of photos on Macs, but to get photos to my PCs, the home server, and the Synology NAS, I need to get them out of iPhoto’s proprietary database.  phoshare does this job.  It copies the photos out to a nice folder hierarchy, keeps tags, metadata, etc.  Then that can be synced around to the NAS, PCs, the media center, my Windows Phone, etc.  Optionally, it can even just use symlinks rather than copying the photos.  This works pretty well, too.  I’ll probably use this mode, then rsync or something like that to get the files over to the NAS and, from there, wherever else I want them.


Heather and I don’t share iTunes libraries, but we do want both of our libraries to be accessible via Sonos.  And I want my music to sync between work and home so I can listen anywhere.  I also want to get both Heather’s music and my music synced to the Media Center PC.  From researching online, it seems like MediaRover may be the way to go here, but I’m not 100% sure.  I’ll have to give it a shot to see for sure.  I’ll update later on this topic.

Offsite Backup

If NYC explodes or sinks or whatever (or even if I happen to find myself in a strange land and want access to my data), I’ll need an offsite backup.  I was intrigued by Backblaze, because they have some cool stuff on their blog, but in the end I think I’m going to go with CrashPlan.  There’s a few reasons for this:

  1. I’ve got a year or so left on a 3 year family subscription I made a couple years ago.
  2. It correctly restores files on the Mac according to this post.
  3. I’ve read reviews that their customer service is good.
  4. CrashPlan’s engine is written in Java and can run on the Synology NAS itself.  Backblaze can’t and won’t back things up on a NAS without jumping through symlink hoops.
  5. CrashPlan supports backing up to their servers as well as friends / family.  So I can install some storage in some other place at a friend’s house, say, and back up there, too, for some geo-redundant backup that I control.
  6. CrashPlan keeps deleted files forever, by default.  So if I delete something and then in 2 years realize I want it, it will still be there.
  7. CrashPlan will keep unlimited versions of files.
  8. You can seed your initial backup to CrashPlan via a hard disk & snail mail.  Somewhat non-obviously, this is pretty high bandwidth (ie: a 1.5TB hard disk overnighted to me, then overnighted back, gives an upload speed of nearly 50Mbps).  This is 10x faster than my connection.  So personally, I’d probably just use my relatively fast TimeWarner WideBand connection at 5Mbps, but for someone with only a 1Mbps up connection, or more data than I’ve got to send, this could make a huge difference.
  9. More importantly, you can recover your files via snail mail + hard disk.  This is even better, from a bandwidth perspective, since it’s 1 day rather than 3, for the one-way trip; i.e.: about 150Mbps. My download speed is only 50Mbps, so this, too, is a good feature to have in an emergency if I need to get running again ASAP.

So anyway, there you have it.  I’ll update if I run into any issues, once the drives for the Synology arrive.  But in the meantime, I may as well start running CrashPlan on more than just my PC, where it’s been running for more than a year without me really even noticing.