I recently had an interesting chat with my wife about prized belongings. If there was a fire in our house and we could only grab one (materialistic) thing as we ran for the door, what would it be? The answer surprised me: “your server thingy”.
As with most geek homes, we have a computer that acts as a central file server (among other things). On there we have music, movies, books, photos and our own home directories that contain a multitude of random things. The idea is that we should be able to pick up any device in the house (PC, laptop, iPad, iPhone) and get access to our data. It also means that if a particular device should fail or need rebuilt, then its an easy job. Lovely.
However, what I hadn’t necessarily appreciated was how important that little server had become in our lives. What originally started off as a place to store music and movies now has our financial info, wedding photos, videos of our kids’ first steps, and a heap of other memories – something that no insurance policy can replace.
So, it was time to practice at home what I preach at work! We already had a (Un)RAID setup to provide an easy method of future expansion and cost-effective protection against disk failure, but that’s off little use in the event of a fire/flood/theft. So, after some discussion with the client (my wife) and following my own advice, I estimated our Recovery Point Objective (RPO) should be measured in days and our Recovery Time Objective (RTO) to be measured in months. In other words, in the event of a disaster we don’t really mind how long it takes to get our data back as long as we can, and that the backup is reasonably up to date.
Enter CrashPlan. CrashPlan is a piece of backup software that runs on Windows, Mac, Linux and Solaris and lets you backup your data off-site to removable hard disks, computers belonging to friends and family or to CrashPlan’s own “cloud” backup solution. The software tracks changes to files in realtime and backup data is encrypted before it leaves your computer. You’ll receive regular emails giving you a summary of your backups, as well as a warning if any computer has failed to backup for a few days. And, the software will automatically update itself when new versions are available. However, best of all, “it just works!”.
I’ve been using CrashPlan for over a year now and I must say that my experience has been excellent. The software is easy to install (including Linux) and there’s plenty of technical information and how-to’s on the CrashPlan website. My only niggle was that the software assumes that you’ll have a graphical user interface, which my Linux server does not. I’ll cover how to get around this limitation very easily in a later post.
My advice to you all is go do it now. No, really, now. It’ll take you ten minutes. Download the CrashPlan client, sign up for a trial of their online backup service and then once you’re data is uploaded, you’re safe and you can practically forget about it. You’ve probably thought about backups a few times but its always relegated to the “later” pile. If you’ve read this post and (heavens forbid) you do have a home-based disaster, you’re really going to kick yourself. So, go on, go do it now … I’ll even give you the link!