CrashPlan – Backup Adoption is the Killer App

I’ve been happily using CrashPlan for about a year now, after publicly breaking up with MozyHome, and sleeping around on Backblaze. I’ve signed up for another 3 years or so, so I’m fairly committed at this point. I’m a big fan of the Aussie DC presence and ability to use a local seed drive. The client itself is easy to use, and the pricing has been reasonable in my experience. But enough about my opinions.

I had a weird problem the other day on my main iMac where it looked like I had to re-seed all of my data. I’d had this problem before with MozyHome (link), but with a smaller set of data, so wasn’t too keen to re-upload over 900GB again.

CrashPlan

So I logged a case with support. A very nice gentleman named Daniel R got in contact with me and got me to send through some logs. I hadn’t realised I could clicky on the CrashPlan icon in the main window to open up a console. That’s kind of neat.

CP_window

I sent through the logs and Daniel got back in touch to have me modify my settings.xml file. No dice though. He then got back to me to advise that my archive was in a “maintenance queue” and he’d removed it from that queue and advised me to restart everything and see how it went. I’m fascinated by what the “maintenance queue” might be and how my archive ended up there.

Still no go, so he had me do a full uninstall (I think with prejudice) and re-install. The instructions for this process can be found here. For a complete uninstall, the following steps need to be done (on Mac OSX).

  1. Open the Finder
  2. Press Command-Shift-G and paste /Library/Application Support/CrashPlan/Uninstall.app into the dialog
  3. Double-click Uninstall
  4. Follow the prompts to complete the uninstall process
  5. Remove the following directory from your system:
  6. Custom installation (as user): ~/Library/Application Support/CrashPlan​

 

Once I’d re-installed everything, I could log back in with my normal credentials, and “adopt” the backup sitting in the Code42 DC that was assigned to my iMac. Simple as that. And then all I had to do was synchronize the changes. Seriously awesome, and so simple. No data loss, and smiles all round. And resolved in about 52 hours (including about 12 hours of them waiting for me to send logs through). And hence the title of the blog post. The ability to re-attach / adopt backups with new / replacement / freshly re-installed machines is a really cool feature that no doubt is saving people a fair bit of angst. It’s also not a feature you really think about until you actually need it.

So I’d like to publicly thank Daniel R at Code42 Support for his promptness and courtesy when dealing with me, as well as his ability to actually, well, resolve the issue.

CrashPlan – Initial thoughts and “feelings”

[Disclaimer: CrashPlan in AU provided me with a free 12-month Family subscription and use of a seed drive. This isn’t a paid review but clearly I’ve benefitted.]

So, a short time after my post on Backblaze and Mozy and why I was going for the cheapest (but not necessarily nastiest) personal cloud backup solution, the Australian arm of CrashPlan got in touch and offered to help get me started with them. So I thought I’d do a post to cover off on some initial thoughts and feelings and provide some public feedback on how it went. Just a reminder, every product is different, and every user’s circumstances are different, so don’t complain to me if you find that CrashPlan isn’t for you. Additionally, I hope you appreciate just how hard it is to take photos that look this bad.

So, the killer feature that CrashPlan offers for me, and residents of the US, is seeded backup. You can read more about how that works here. This was one of my complaints with Backblaze – I couldn’t get all of the data I wanted to up to the provider due to the extraordinarily shitty ADSL1 connection at my house. So gigabytes of home movies and other media were, beyond Time Machine backups, at risk. So, Adrian Johnson from Code42 offered me the use of a seeded backup drive, and I must say it’s been a really smooth experience. Again, here’re the rough steps, but you can look it up for yourself:

  • Support contact me to confirm my details;
  • Courier arrives with hard drive;
  • I attach hard drive to computer and add it as a destination;
  • I backup my stuff to hard drive;
  • I box up hard drive and send by pre-paid courier back to CrashPlan;
  • They contact me when they receive it;
  • They contact me when seed data is uploaded at their end;
  • I restart cloudy backup. Everything is pretty much there, barring a few new files from iPhoto; and
  • Profit.

It was pretty much that simple. So, here are some pictures to fill in the space where I should be offering thoughts. Firstly, I was mildly panicked when I saw that the drive was formatted as FAT32. It seemed like that would just suck as a transfer mechanism, especially for large files.

cp1

And at that start of the process, it certainly looked like it was going to take some time.

cp2

But the key thing with this service is compatibility. It is compatible with Mac OS X, Windows, Linux and Dots OS (?).

IMG_7246

I also found that by fiddling with some of the power saving settings on my Mac I was able to get the transfer speeds up to a more reasonable level. Also, like most backup products, lots of small files will choke the I/O, whereas big DV files go through at a healthy clip. Note also that this isn’t a straight file transfer. The data is being de-duped, compressed and encrypted. So, you know, that can take some time. Particularly on a 850GB backup set.

So what’s in the box? You get:

  • Instructions;
  • A LaCie rugged drive (1TB);
  • A USB3 cable; and
  • A pre-paid courier satchel to send it back in.

I took some photos, to make me look more like a tech journo.

IMG_7240

IMG_7243

IMG_7244

IMG_7245

And, then, magically, a little over 2 weeks after the drive arrived, I have 850GB of my data in the cloud. Almost like magic.

cp3

There are a few other things you can do with CrashPlan but I’ll look to cover those off in the next post. Because I’m tired now. In short, the NAS compatibility is cool (if you’re a QNAP owner – check this post out), as is the ability to send data to your friends.

So, I’ll wrap up with some of what I thought were good things about the product. Firstly, I can pay in Australian dollars. This may not seem like a big thing, as we’ve had parity with the US for a while, but recently the dollar has dipped to 85 cents. So, on a $50 subscription, I pay, after fees and charges, $60. Which, isn’t that big a deal, but it’s enough to make me pause. Secondly, the access to local support and a seed drive service is fricking awesome. And support have been helpful and informative every step of the way. Thirdly, CrashPlan pricing, for unlimited storage, is pretty competitive. Here’s a link to the Australian offering. Whether they can sustain that pricing remains to be seen. As an aside, I often wonder what Mozy’s pricing would have been like if they hadn’t been bought by EMC. But that may have had nothing to do with it.

So, in short, I’ve been really happy with my CrashPlan experience thus far, and am looking forward to doing some more stuff with it. I still won’t hesitate to recommend Backblaze to people, if it seems like a good fit for them, but I’m having a hard time arguing against a local presence and the somewhat parochial comfort that that provides. Thanks again to Adrian Johnson and the team at Code42 support for making this a really simple and effective exercise.

 

 

OT – Mozy, Backblaze and my race to the bottom …

Welcome back. I know it’s been a while, so I thought I’d try something different and do more of a thinky thing about my personal use of cloud backup. Strap yourselves in, because I don’t usually give my opinion on things, so this might just get really wild. Or not.

[Disclaimer: Backblaze haven’t paid for nor asked for my opinion. And Mozy have done nothing particularly heinous either. This is just my experience and opinion. What works for me mightn’t work for you.]

I’m about 2GB away from backing up the last 30GB of my holiday photos from Europe. As such, it seems like a perfect time to announce to my three loyal readers that I’ve switched my home cloud backup product from MozyHome to Backblaze. I’ve been running MozyHome on my Mac since 2009, and was generally happy with the performance and the product. It did some weird things at times, but Mozy support were generally pretty helpful, particularly when I took to my blog to rant about them. This is a good example of their support staff going beyond the call of duty. I even felt okay about their price structure change, although I don’t think it was very well handled with existing customers. In the meantime, I’d been looking at various home-brew NAS solutions and came across the Backblaze storage pod stuff (version 2 and 3 designs are here too). I’m no fan of them hippy startups, but there was something about Backblaze that got me interested. Not that my perpetually tolerant family would really put up with me building a storage pod for home use, but I liked that I could access the plans if I wanted to. So I kept researching, and tried out the client. And looked at the price.

And there you have it, my personal race to the bottom. I am the reason we have so much crap stuff in the world. I am the consumer who wants fast and quality for cheap. And that’s what I get with Backblaze. And it’s what I had for a while with MozyHome. And I imagine (without any evidence to back it up) that I would have had it with MozyHome to this day if Decho weren’t swallowed up by EMC. But here’s the hilarious thing: I’m on an ADSL1 internet connection. And I get about 300Kbps upload. If I’m lucky. And if nothing else is happening between my house and the exchange. Let me just clarify that it takes quite some time to get 220GB “to the cloud” when you have that kind of connection. Hell, I had a 13Mbps/13Mbps synchronous connection at my hotel in Korea on my way back from Europe. So here’s where I get thinky. Firstly, major tech companies doing “cloud” backup aren’t necessarily thinking about suburbanites in Australia when they’re talking about what their products can do. And that’s okay, because they’re going to make a lot more money off the enterprise than they will off me. But am I in the minority? Is everyone else sitting on fat connections to the internet? Or are they just not pushing as much data up there? I mean, I haven’t even considered sending my home videos to the cloud yet. That’s another few hundred GB. My friend has access to the NBN – maybe I could take my computer to her house and just let it seed the data for a week (month?) or so? Maybe I wouldn’t have this problem if I didn’t have a family and an insatiable desire to keep every photo I ever took of my kids?

In any case, here’s my enhancement request for Backblaze. Let me send you a hard drive of my stuff to manually seed in your data centre. I’ll pay the shipping to the US. I’ll even fill out the stupid forms and show my ID. You can keep the drive. In the same way you offer a recovery service where I can order a hard drive of my data from you, let me do the reverse. Please. Pretty please. Because some of us don’t have fat pipes but we still have data we want to protect.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t as thinky as we’d all hoped. I should probably also point out that my race to the bottom is on price, not quality.

Mozy avoids further tirades – uses personal touch …

So my hat goes off to the Mozy support and marketing people – they are extremely good at turning a PR debacle into a positive customer experience. After my little rant about credit card issues and surly response to the patient frontline support person (Steve), I was contacted by Mozy’s UK Support people via Twitter asking for my number so we could talk it over. In the meantime, the L1 support technician had gotten back to me via a case update to say that it was a Mozy issue and they were looking into it further.

Then at 11pm last night a nice support manager from Mozy UK (Ireland) named Damien rang me to discuss the issue and apologise for any inconvenience caused. He’d manually sorted out my account and I was all good to go. The short of it was that one server wasn’t talking to another and that’s why the system was doing rude things with my account.

I think the point here is that I wasn’t frustrated with the Mozy product’s performance this time round, but with the system-generated e-mails that seemed to ignore my responses. I give extra credit to Mozy for the quick response, multiple methods of communication, and the icing on the cake was a phone call and follow up e-mail. It’s not often that we get to air our frustrations and have someone respond personally to say that they’re on it and they’re sorting it out.

MozyHome cloudfail …

So Mozy opened a support case to let me know that my account has been disabled. Bad move.

So I figured I’d tell them what I thought.

I didn’t think I was being too mean. I’ve updated my CC details again, but I expect that this adventure is only just beginning.

Really Mozy? But I gave you my details 3 times already …

Mozy has decided to threaten my account with suspension, because they keep losing my credit card details, and I keep putting them in.

I think someone’s going to get a rude e-mail soon …

Mozy – that’s funny …

A few days ago I got an e-mail from Mozy. For those of you keeping score at home I had some serious tantrums late last year regarding some issues I had with the Mozy Home client for my Mac. Things have been generally stable since then. So imagine my excitement when this e-mail came through.

Seriously? “Rest assured that your data is safe; the hiccup only affected payment details”. Wow. Stuff happens and all, but, wow …

Mozy don’t tempt me!

Although I’ve often found that putting the boot into hapless tech support staff rarely gets to the root of the problem …

mozy_survey

Mozy Survey

Mozy almost working again …

My whining about MozyHome was picked up over at IT News and various related news outlets, so maybe someone will pay attention. Although judging by the last e-mail I received from Mozy support, I don’t think this is really the case.

from<support@mozy.com>
to dan@penguinpunk.net

date Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 9:31 PM
subject [#JGN-287396]: Mozy backups

“Hi there,

We still have not heard back from you. We will be archiving your ticket at this time. If you still need assistance, you can reply to this e-mail, and we will be happy to continue the trouble shooting process.

Thanks
xxxxx
Mozy Support”

So now their e-mail isn’t working either? Pfft, according to the client there’s only another 2GB or so to upload and things will be back to normal. And after a short period of 10 days or so, I’ll get some clean backups again. If I sound jaded, it’s only because I am …

Mozy, this is kind of funny now …

I think I was right about just leaving Mozy alone for a while, because the following ridiculous exchanges have started happening.

I got this on 20/11/2009 @ 11:26 AM Australian time:

Hi Dan,

We have not yet heard back from you, and are curious to know to the current status of your issue.

If you are unable to reply, we will archive your ticket after 2 days. If you wish to resume the ticket, please simply reply back to this e-mail and we will be happy to assist you.

Thanks

xxxxxx

Mozy Support”

My response 15 minutes later:

“xxxxxx,

I wrote back a little while ago and was advised that the data is “re-associating” on the server-side. Unfortunately I can’t tell you how well this is going because I’m getting Client Error 15 – which according to your site doesn’t really exist. http://mozy.com/error/ClientError15?ver=1.5.2.1&key=(null)

So if you want my honest opinion, I don’t think it’s going well.

Thanks

Dan”

Then I get this gem over night (4:53 AM my time):

“Hi xxxxx,

Thanks for your email. I apologize for the inconvenience caused to you.

I would request you to select all your data and run a backup. Before uploading any file into Mozy, it will check to see if the files are already existing or if it is a new file.

In case you need clarification or further assistance, please email me and I will be glad to help.

Thanks for using Mozy Support!

xxxxxx

Mozy Support”

Well, that’s great. Here’s how it’s going so far.

Backup Status

I’m guessing this wasn’t the result we were after.