Aug 31, 2011

Backups, Store More On Less For Free

Not sure if you’ve seen it, but I recently posted an article on creating your own redundant SAN using Ubuntu, GlusterFS, and ZFS. This solution provides you with a lot of cost effective storage with cool features like deduplication, compression, and thin provisioning for half the cost of the big boys.

What if you don’t have a storage solution with compression or dedupe though? Or what if you do, but you want to maximize what you store on it as far as backups? What if you are like me, and you want to pack as much data onto an LTO3 tape as you possibly can? Well, let me introduce you to one of my favorite backup solutions, CrashPlan!
CrashPlan comes in a few different flavors, Free, CrashPlan+, CrashPlan Pro, and CrashPlan Pro Enterprise. If you want to take advantage of CrashPlan’s cloud solution, you must pay for either CrashPlan+ or better.

If you are a business user, and want to use their cloud solution you must purchase a CrashPlan Pro plan or better. If you are just backing up locally, then the Free version will do just fine. It’s also legit. I received this email from CrashPlan’s support team about using the free version for business use:
Good day Paul,
You are more than welcome to use the Free version of the CrashPlan software to backup those business files as long as you are not backing them up to our servers!
Have a great day,
Anyway, one of the cool things about CrashPlan, even in the free version, is that it protects your data with 256 bit encryption, and performs block level deduplication so it saves a ton of space! If you have a dedupe SAN, and you save your CrashPlan backups to it, it can dedupe the dedupe saving even more space!

What I like about it is that I inherited a single LTO3 backup drive from my predecessors when I took over my current job. LTO3 tapes will only hold 800GB of compressed data. All the other shops I worked at had tape autoloaders, with multiple drives so space wasn’t an issue. Now that I have to take a trip to the data center every week to swap out one lousy tape, I want to make sure I’m getting more bang for my buck!

So here is what I am doing. I have installed the Free CrashPlan software on all my servers that I need to backup. I don’t have Microsoft Exchange to worry about, but I do have Microsoft SQL. For the SQL servers I have maintenance plans to backup databases to local storage, then with CrashPlan I backup those files to an iSCSI LUN attached to my backup server. On web and file servers I use CrashPlan to backup to the iSCSI LUN on my backup server as well. Then from there I backup the CrashPlan backup directory to tape!

For tape backup I am using Microsoft Data Protection Manager because my backup server is running Windows 2008 R2. If your backup server is running Windows 2003 though, NTBackup is built in and can write to tape! Mmmmm, smells like free!
I am now able to pack over 2TB of data into a little over 500GB of space! I can now fit my entire environment onto a single LTO3 tape! Boom!
If I ever have to restore, I can restore from disk fairly quickly. Way quicker than tape that is for damned sure. However, if I have to restore from tape, CrashPlan can mount a previously made backup archive.
If you have the budget for it, I would highly recommend purchasing their pro products as well. In fact, for home use I recommend their CrashPlan+ Unlimited for about $10 per month! I switched from Mozy to CrashPlan+ earlier this year and never looked back. I have found their backups to be highly reliable, and well worth it! Plus, the ability to have multiple backup destinations for free is huge!

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