Time Machine's retrieval interface. Image from Wikipedia.
Slashdot’s Ask Slashdot: It’s World Backup Day; How Do You Back Up? post reminds us to not forget to do backups for our data even though the post somehow either sarcastically or just idiotically suggests that April Fool day might be even worse than the data corruption event itself. Anyhow, my very own answer to world backup day is that I have been setting up my own backup solutions that rely on automation. Nonetheless, these backup solutions as a whole — not as elegant as I would have like! I will tell you why in just a moment, for now let us take a glimpse into how I keep my data safe so far.
I’ve couple laptops. Nonetheless, none of them is as important as my work laptop which is the MacBook Pro. So, I want to make sure the data in the MacBook Pro is safe. But how? Time Machine of course! With Time Machine, you can do backup for Mac data as long you have formated an external hard drive or a partition or (creating) a network share partition that is compatible to Apple’s journaled HFS+ file system. Obviously you can also use one Mac to be the receiver of the backup data of another Mac, because Mac is Mac and all Mac supports the same file system type and network protocols such as AFP (Apple Filing Protocol). In my case, I only have one Mac (i.e., MacBook Pro laptop), therefore I had formated my external hard drive with journaled HFS+ file system so I could infrequently do backups of the MacBook Pro. Why I infrequent do backups of MacBook Pro onto the external hard drive? Well, I hate how I have to physically connect an external hard drive to a MacBook Pro laptop, because it makes the laptop feels stationary. I needed a solution for doing frequent backups of the MacBook Pro, but how? I solved this problem by virtualizing FreeNAS on a desktop machine of mine. As FreeNAS (which is free to install and use) supports AFP sharing, I can now just connect the MacBook Pro to FreeNAS AFP sharing volume once, choosing the volume as the Time Machine, and the MacBook Pro will automatically do frequent backups on an interval basis (incremental backup on automation). With FreeNAS being virtualized as a VirtualBox virtual machine, as long FreeNAS is running when the MacBook Pro is on, I don’t really have to physically have the MacBook Pro connect to an external hard drive for doing a backup, because the backup will be done through a local network on an interval basis (i.e., automation) — consequently allowing me to move about with the MacBook Pro at all times. Isn’t that how MacBook Pro was designed for?
I’ve a desktop which runs Windows 7, and I use this desktop a lot! Mostly, I use this desktop for gaming and doing stuffs that Windows does best, but I do not keep anything important on this desktop. Why? Windows is well known for being susceptible to vulnerabilities in regarding to computer security problems. This is why I prefer to work on the MacBook Pro. Nonetheless, the desktop is more powerful than the MacBook Pro, therefore I have to use the desktop for encoding videos (the videos I make for uploading to YouTube) and what not. Anyhow, since I do not ever want to have to reinstall Windows if it can be helped, because reinstate Windows to the condition as how it was before can be quite gruesome in my opinion. I’ve to have a backup solution for my Windows machine. How is reinstalling Windows can be gruesome? I’m security paranoid, and so it’s not so surprise to see me to go through the process of reapplying all the Windows updates before I even dare to use the Windows machine, and this whole process takes awfully long and boring. Additionally, I still have to reinstall all of the software onto the reinstated Windows machine. So, what is the backup solution I use to keep the data on Windows machine safe? Simple, really! I use CrashPlan! How come? CrashPlan is a super sophisticated backup solution which is quite fitting for enterprise backup purpose, but amazingly CrashPlan puts this sophisticated backup technology in the hands of the regular users. It’s also simple to use, and it also has free backup plan which requires no fee or whatsoever. Nonetheless, I use the paid CrashPlan plan and allow CrashPlan to locally and remotely do incremental backups for the Windows machine on an interval basis (i.e., automation). Since CrashPlan is so intuitive and easy to use, I don’t really have any complain — setting it up once and the data on the Windows machine suddenly become more resilient. For your information though, CrashPlan also supports Mac and Linux.
So, as you can see I do have backup solutions on automation, but why I still feel like I’m missing something here. Well, it’s because I’ve more than one backup solutions for all of my data, including Mac, Windows, and Linux machines. When my data are residing in different physical media locally, it just makes the whole shebang seems somewhat inelegant. Part of the blame to this problem has to be me! I trust the backups of a Mac with Time Machine more than anything else, therefore I have not used CrashPlan to do the backups for my MacBook Pro laptop. I think I will eventually arrive at a better answer for all of my backup problems. This will have to do with the combination of using CrashPlan and a physical NAS box which will utilize FreeNAS. I plan to create a network attached box with enough storage space to hold all of my data locally; this NAS box will use FreeNAS as its OS. FreeNAS talks to all major operating systems, therefore I should not have a problem of setting FreeNAS up to accept backups from Mac, Linux, and Windows. So, locally, when NAS box is in play, doing backups locally seems much more elegant. Keeping the local data even more safe (hopefully also secure), I have to have a plan for storing the local data in a remote location. This is where CrashPlan comes into play! I’ll use CrashPlan to slowly upload my local data to CrashPlan network (i.e., remote location). One problem though, CrashPlan cannot be installed on the top of FreeNAS. Solving this problem is easy enough! I’ve to rely on VirtualBox and Linux! So basically, Linux will be the host OS for the NAS box, and VirtualBox will run a virtual machine for FreeNAS. I can configure Linux to run RAID 5 to prevent data failure on the NAS box itself . FreeNAS will then be configured to just host as a storage attached network with software or without software RAID (i.e., depending on how much fun I want to have). FreeNAS will see Linux’s RAID volume which consists of at least 3 hard drives (i.e., each hard drive has data capacity of 2 terabytes) as one single large volume. Since I can install CrashPlan onto Linux OS, therefore I can use CrashPlan to do backups for my FreeNAS (VirtualBox) virtual machine. This allows all the local data within the NAS box to be uploaded to CrashPlan’s network (i.e., keep data in remote location for data redundancy purpose). Since CrashPlan encrypts all data, therefore I don’t have to worry about my data being easily access by uninvited guests.
In summary, in a way, you can say I don’t need a world backup day to remind me to do backups, because I rely on automation. Automation? Yes, because as you can see I don’t have to remember when my MacBook Pro laptop will use Time Machine to do a backup, because I had set the MacBook Pro to automatically allow Time Machine to upload the backups to the virtualized FreeNAS (VirtualBox) virtual machine. Also, I don’t have to remember when I have to do a backup for my Windows machine, because CrashPlan is also doing this automatically for me on an interval basis. My backups essentially run on automation. Nonetheless, I prefer to have a physical NAS box so I can centralize my data locally (i.e., more elegant this way).