The Joys of Buddy Backup

I'm always on the lookout for a good backup solution for friends and family that's almost idiotproof

Howard Marks

April 3, 2009

3 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Like many of you, I have ex-wives, grown children, distant relatives, and friends who walk my aged dog when I go to exciting places like Orlando for Storage Networking World next week. They look to me as the guru of tech support. Unfortunately, some of them are as technically astute as the aforementioned aged golden retriever and run small businesses, so I've become very careful about what I recommend to them.

Of course, despite the many tape drives, zip drives, external USB disks, and other software I've set them up with, none of them ever remember to make a backup. So I'm always on the lookout for a good backup solution that's almost idiotproof. Marks's Third Law, named after its discoverer -- my brother -- who's cursed with being CIO at a law firm, states: "You can't make things idiotproof. Idiots are too inventive."

So I looked for a backup solution that:

  • Runs automatically in the background.

  • Doesn't run on a schedule at night (they turn the PC off to save the planet).

  • Keeps a local copy for fast restores.

  • Makes a remote copy for when their computer is stolen, in a fire, etc.

  • Keeps multiple versions and deleted files for at least a year.

  • Notifies them, and me, when backups aren't happening.

  • And costs almost nothing.

What I ended up with is Crashplan a peer-to-peer backup application or, as I like to call it, buddy backup. Crashplan runs on Windows, OS X, and Linux systems, and all you have to do is install the software -- did I mention the basic version is free? -- and have it invite your friends to back up their data to your computer.

Code42, Crashplan's creators, run a connection broker so multiple computers behind routers and firewalls can backup to each other and, for those that don't have friends to backup to, run an online storage service you can direct your backups to. Crashplan dedupes, encrypts, and compresses data to both local (USB or NAS, take that TimeMachine) and remote destinations, and the $60-plus-per-computer version does CDP and multiple versions. Best of all, when three days go by without a backup I get an email.

I set up an old laptop with CentOS and a USB hard drive for my friends to back up to. Their data is stored in cryptic folders on the USB drive, so I have no idea what they're backing up except that it is less than the quota I assigned each of them. When a friend's teenager lost his laptop, we recovered all his data to the new one across the LAN in my apartment, which was much faster than any online service could have been.

Cucku backup has a similar feature set built as a Skype plug-in, and so it uses Skype as it's data transport and connection broker. Cucku's biggest limitation is that it only supports one backup destination across the Skype Net for each PC, and each PC can only back up one other. Might be good for some, but I needed to hold backups of my entire support group.

Code 42 also has a Pro version they're selling for backing up the sales force's or senior execs' laptops, which explains how they can give away such a useful tool.Howard Marks is chief scientist at Networks Are Our Lives Inc., a Hoboken, N.J.-based consultancy where he's been beating storage network systems into submission and writing about it in computer magazines since 1987. He currently writes for InformationWeek, which is published by the same company as Byte and Switch.

InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis of the challenges around enterprise storage. Download the report here (registration required).

About the Author(s)

Howard Marks

Network Computing Blogger

Howard Marks</strong>&nbsp;is founder and chief scientist at Deepstorage LLC, a storage consultancy and independent test lab based in Santa Fe, N.M. and concentrating on storage and data center networking. In more than 25 years of consulting, Marks has designed and implemented storage systems, networks, management systems and Internet strategies at organizations including American Express, J.P. Morgan, Borden Foods, U.S. Tobacco, BBDO Worldwide, Foxwoods Resort Casino and the State University of New York at Purchase. The testing at DeepStorage Labs is informed by that real world experience.</p><p>He has been a frequent contributor to <em>Network Computing</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>InformationWeek</em>&nbsp;since 1999 and a speaker at industry conferences including Comnet, PC Expo, Interop and Microsoft's TechEd since 1990. He is the author of&nbsp;<em>Networking Windows</em>&nbsp;and co-author of&nbsp;<em>Windows NT Unleashed</em>&nbsp;(Sams).</p><p>He is co-host, with Ray Lucchesi of the monthly Greybeards on Storage podcast where the voices of experience discuss the latest issues in the storage world with industry leaders.&nbsp; You can find the podcast at:

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights