Combining Local Virtualization And Remote Cloud Together Can Truly Help Everyday People Prevent Data Loss

Oh, crap!! [DSCF8022]

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Not the best data redundancy solutions of all, but if you follow my data redundancy solutions here, I think your data are going to be very resilient against data loss.  The idea is to have more than one backup of everything.  Emphasizing on data redundancy is the key.  This is well known for businesses, but here I’m pointing this out to everyday people who happen to have some personal data they want to protect for a long time to come.  So let us begin.

You need to create a personal file server and remote cloud.  Personal file server has become easy to create nowadays.  What you need is the right solution.  I used to love Pogoplug, but I noticed how Pogoplug required your local data to be trafficked through its network from remote locations from time to time, this would not be a good idea for slow Internet connection or data security.

In our specific case, we want a personal backup file server solution to help boost our data redundancy, and we don’t really have to have our file servers to stay up 24/7 as how businesses do.  With this in mind, we can just use a virtual machine as a webDAV or rsync or FTP server.  We can then clone our main virtual machine.  We’re going to store our important backup data onto the main and clone virtual machines.  We can place the clone virtual machines onto different external hard drives so we can access our clone virtual machines as easy as how we can access our main virtual machine.  Each time we have new backup data, we have to sync or copy the new backup data onto the main and clone virtual machines.  Even if our main virtual machine goes bad, we can rely on our clone virtual machines to recover our backup data.

For security purpose, our backup data must be encrypted.  Nonetheless, you don’t really have to encrypt your external hard drives since such a process would take too long, but I recommend you to encrypt one big backup partition within the main virtual machine once.  To encrypt one big partition for backup data we can use Truecrypt.  Using Truecrypt to encrypt one big backup partition within our main virtual machine once can speed the encryption process up tremendously, and yet the backup data can still be super secure.  We don’t have to create newly encrypted backup partitions for clone virtual machines since we are going to clone our main virtual machine anyway.  We only clone our main virtual machine right after we have completely saved our backup data onto the encrypted backup partition (i.e., using Truecrypt to encrypt data) within our main virtual machine.

To go about creating a main virtual machine, you can use VirtualBox or Parallels or VMware.  I recommend VirtualBox since it’s free and as capable as the paid products.  Next, you have to know which operating system you want to use for your main virtual machine.  I recommend you use an operating system you know best so you can set up a webDAV or FTP as fast as you can.  For the people who care about the planning process more and want to learn something new at the same time, I recommend Ubuntu as the operating system for the main virtual machine.  Why?  Ubuntu and any other Linux distribution can allow you to rsync backup files easily, and so by using Ubuntu or any other Linux distribution you get not just the webDAV and FTP capabilities, you also get the rsync capability.

The obvious next step is to set up the file servers for our main virtual machine so we can backup our important data onto it.  If you want to have a lot of choices, you can set up both webDAV and FTP servers for your main virtual machine.  If you want only one choice, I recommend you to set up webDAV.  webDAV is better since it allows you to map network drives to your webDAV folders.  This way, you can just copy, paste, drag, and drop the files and folders from local hard drives onto the network drives.

Ubuntu comes ready with rsync capability, and so you can just use rsync to sync your backup data from your desktop or laptop to the main virtual machine. Rsync will sync only new backup data, and so it can update your backup partition faster than otherwise.  You can also use rsync to delete old backup data from the backup partition, this way you will be able to keep the backup partition of your main virtual machine identical to the backup structure of your desktop or laptop and the clone virtual machines.

The obvious last step for the creation of personal file server solution is to clone the main virtual machine.  I think Parallels and VMware and VirtualBox all have their own special method to allow you to clone a virtual machine.  After having clone the main virtual machine more than once, you can then place the clone virtual machines onto separate external hard drives.  Each time you backup the new backup data, you have to fire up the main and the clone virtual machines to do so.  The good thing is that you don’t have to fire up all virtual machines at once, because you can always fire up the main virtual machine first and each subsequent clone virtual machines later.

By having proper local/personal backup file server solution, your backup data are now more resilient against data loss than before.  Still, local/personal backup file server solution is susceptible to fire, flood, power surge, hardware failures, and other unfortunate catastrophic events.  When such unfortunate events happen, your backup data will forever be lost.  This is why we must also backup our data to a remote cloud.

There are several remote cloud solutions you can look into, but most remote clouds require you to pay certain amount of monthly fee for a certain size of cloud storage space.  You can use free remote cloud solutions such as Skydrive, Ubuntu One, and Dropbox.  With that being said, sometimes it’s better to go with a premium cloud solutions since free cloud solutions usually come with limitations.  One good example of the limitations of using free cloud solutions is not enough cloud storage space.

Besides using remote cloud solutions through third parties, you can create your own remote cloud solution such as renting a web hosting server.  This requires you to be knowledgeable in securing your web hosting server.  After renting a web hosting server, you can turn it into a personal webDAV or FTP or rsync backup server.  This way it acts as if it’s your remote cloud, but it will be a private remote cloud.  With that being said, some web hosting companies will not allow you to use their web hosting servers as remote file servers or remote cloud solution.  This is why you need to read up on their terms of use before implementing this solution, OK?

Of course, don’t forget to encrypt your backup data using Truecrypt when you have to backup your data to a remote file server or cloud.  Encrypting data is much more important when you are actually sending your backup data out to a remote file server or cloud, because you don’t actually have a complete control over the security of the remote file server or cloud.  We’re talking about the whole enchilada here.  Ideally, the physical location of the file or cloud servers has to be secure from unauthorized access; the file or cloud servers have to be secure with firewall, antivirus and antimalware software, and so on; physical preventive measures and means to prevent hardware failures and so on; the list can go on pretty much.

Another thing to make sure is that your remote file or cloud servers have to be able to churn 24/7.  It’s important for you to be able to reach your backup data at any time, remotely.  You never know what will happen to your backup data if you cannot reach the file or cloud servers that host the backup data, right?

In summary, it costs some money to protect data.  Even if you’re just protecting some private data, it is still going to cost you some money such as buying external hard drives.  For everyday people like us, we might not even need the remote file or cloud solution.  Still, if people who are paranoid enough about protecting their backup data, then I think these people need to deploy a remote file or cloud solution.  It’s smart to go about using virtualization to deploy local backup file server solution since the virtual machines can be cloned easily and stored on external hard drives for data redundancy purpose.

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