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Easy, Reliable Distributed Storage and Backup? 222

Posted by Soulskill
from the grandma-needs-those-pictures-of-her-cat dept.
RichiH writes "Most of you are the free IT staff of friends and family, just as I am. One of my largest headaches is backing up their data. What I am looking for allows for off-site storage on multiple server machines running Linux, has Linux & Windows clients that Just Work and require zero everyday effort (although a large-ish effort to set them up is just fine), allows for granular access control, is versioned and will, ideally, allow me to grab data automagically (think photo pool for your family where your mother, sister, etc., share each other's photos). This is something I've been trying to find for years, but I've never seen anything even closely resembling what I want. With the Wall Street Journal handing out its Technology Innovation Award to Cleversafe recently, I was once again reminded of this particular itch which needs scratching. Before I deploy it, I want to ask the Slashdot community for its opinion on that piece of software, and on potential alternatives. How do you solve this problem?"
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Easy, Reliable Distributed Storage and Backup?

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  • Git and the git-web web based tool are very useful for maintaining a tree of archived data, and browsing it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by quinks (1172373)
      Yes, because storing thousands of jpg images and other binary data is exactly what git was intended for. Get people to store their data on Samba fileservers. Set up home directories in their name as well as shared directories accessible by everybody or Samba groups. Use ACL if you need to. To backup, use rsync and OpenSSH, write a few batch scripts and hey - presto! Instant solution that'll even work with cheapo webhosts and your home linux box as backup servers. Versioning can be done for any amount of
      • by tsa (15680)

        Yep. I have something similar at home too. Works well.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by marcello_dl (667940)

        actually, for my own digital assets repo - see signature - i see two features of git which might be handy, atomicity of commits and hashes which avoid storing duplicates. git has "plumbing" commands which might help. Still haven't explored it.

        BTW if you have enough band you could do away with a doxroom instance on a host, don't forget to backup files and db and remember it's alpha quality.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RichiH (749257)
      Being easy to use (as in, not more than 3-5 mouse clicks, total) is one of my main concerns. Git definitely fails in this regard.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by debatem1 (1087307)
        I'd be happy to write a script that will handle that concern, but somebody else would have to do the UI unless you want it looking like it escaped from Windows 95.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by RichiH (749257)

          If you are being serious..:

          Afaik, Git supports Meta/recursive repos where I have one master repo with many subrepos. Thus, it would be best to have a master repo that contains all other repos. That will make replication easier.

          The only other requirements would be that it adds all files in a given directory to repo foo and pulls repos bar, baz, quux. Preferably, it would happen automagically & regularly with a throttled connection. Requiring them to click a button in a butt-ugly app is fine, as well.
          If W

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by debatem1 (1087307)
            I'm perfectly serious. It's a useful app and a pretty easy problem. If you'll email me at CTO@Openmigration.net and let me know more about your specific requirements (number of remote hosts, total archive size, etc) I can start figuring out what the best way to do this is. Also, I'll need to know all of the platforms you're running on (will you need support on cell phones? Xbox?), the level of redundancy you're comfortable with, will you need a web interface, etc.
          • by mcpkaaos (449561)

            If Windows had cronjobs...

            Windows Scheduled Tasks might do the trick. If not, you can always install Cygwin, which includes cron as a Windows service.

            ...or I knew VB

            Forget VB. Python is your friend.

    • As I understand it, in normal use, Git never forgets a commit. Is that really what you want for photos?

      The other poster isn't entirely accurate -- I suspect Git does just fine with binary data. It's just that said binary data will stay in the tree forever.

  • by dogganos (901230) <dogganos@gmail.com> on Saturday October 04, 2008 @05:28AM (#25254895)

    Rename your data to 'Barely legal college girls having first time sex - XXX Vol1/256.r001' and use p2p to spread them all over the world!

    • What an excellent way to backup my photo collection! I'll get to work on it right away.

    • by debatem1 (1087307)
      Not a bad idea, actually, using the p2p grids for backup. Wonder if that's possible.
  • by jimicus (737525) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @05:33AM (#25254913)

    I can tell you how I solve it in a business context, but whether or not it could be scaled down to personal I'm not sure.

    The problem: 2 sites each with 70-100GB of data needs offsite backup with similar criteria to your own. Bandwidth available to these sites is 2-4Mbps. The only OS involved is Linux, though I'm sure Windows could be shoehorned in somehow. A third site which has a tape streamer and someone to take tapes offsite is available. Data protection legislation means that storing it with a hosted service is illegal unless I encrypt it myself before sending it offsite - I'm only aware of one tool which claims to be able to do this and still send data as a binary delta (it uses the rsync library) and that tool is still not particularly common in Linux distributions and not very widely used. I'm nervous of trusting my backups to a tool that isn't on heavy use, particularly if strong encryption is being employed.

    The Solution: A server in the third site and some judicious scripting with rsync allows it to mirror the data in the other two sites. The first sync is fairly painful, of course, but provided you don't have too much data regularly changing subsequent syncs aren't too bad. The server is backed up to tape which provides versioning capability so if someone only realises that they lost a file a week after the fact it can still be restored,

    Initial effort to set up was pretty great but now it's done it JFW and requires no brain power whatsoever to run on a daily basis. I can make the data available over the VPN (of course the access speed will be dog slow) more-or-less immediately and I can make it available at LAN speed by copying it to a hard disk and courier it to the remote office in under 48 hours. A full restore of 100GB across a 2Mbps connection will take at least 4-5 days.

    • For storing permissions and the such, are you using a .tar container? My biggest stumbling block with my backup scheme is storing ACLs and permissions.

      I've got a few ideas about doing it, but they're all kludgy or force me to walk away from my rsync scripts which are really fairly mature at this point. Furthermore, I need to get deltas downstream and packing everything in to one file pretty much defeats that purpose at the several gig level unless I'm running an rsync server to calculate the diffs. Th
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jimicus (737525)

        Recent versions of rsync fully support POSIX ACLs (including, if asked, setting up ACLs on the receiving end that don't make any sense because they refer to uids that don't exist - though you could work around that one with a common authentication mechanism such as LDAP) - I've not tried to get Windows working so I'm not sure how well that would work.

        Be warned that full POSIX ACL support hasn't made it into every Linux distribution yet - IIRC Debian Etch's rsync doesn't, for instance. If you're paranoid,

        • Even better, recent versions of rsync allow you to shoehorn all metadata into xattrs on files, so you can (for example) store Mac OS X metadata and ACLs on a linux box with no special file system setup. You can even store the files as an unprived user and have the real perms stored in xattrs as well.

          • by jimicus (737525)

            Be warned that with Mac OS X metadata, that gets stored under the same filename as the original with ",_" prefixed - I'm not sure what happens if a file with that name already exists.

            Also, if you want to make full use of rsync options, you need the same version on both ends of the tunnel.

            (That being said, props to Mr. Tridgell, rsync is an absolutely awesome tool which has saved me I-don't-know-how-much in terms of time and effort. I really must make a donation to the project at some point),

    • by maino82 (851720)

      You don't necessarily need to make that first backup painful. Rsync while you've got both servers in the same room over a LAN, and from then on you just have to deal with the delta and don't need to worry so much about bandwidth.

      • by jimicus (737525)

        You don't necessarily need to make that first backup painful. Rsync while you've got both servers in the same room over a LAN, and from then on you just have to deal with the delta and don't need to worry so much about bandwidth.

        The source server was in another country and in daily use, the destination server was bolted into a cabinet, weighed about 40kg and also in daily use.

        (Nice idea though).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PC_Freak (532227)
      Data protection legislation means that storing it with a hosted service is illegal unless I encrypt it myself before sending it offsite - I'm only aware of one tool which claims to be able to do this and still send data as a binary delta (it uses the rsync library) and that tool is still not particularly common in Linux distributions and not very widely used. Based on my limited understanding of crypto, when you encrypt data it should turn into pseudo-random noise, so if *any* bits change the whole thing c
      • by jimicus (737525)

        Based on my limited understanding of crypto, when you encrypt data it should turn into pseudo-random noise, so if *any* bits change the whole thing changes (unless you're doing a block-cypher, but if it's chained-block then every portion *after* that will also change). So for large files, this seems like the delta would end up being practically the entire file, wouldn't it?

        I'm not sure how it works, but I can think of a few ways you could work around that in theory.

        The most obvious is to encrypt every file individually and then ship a tar of the whole lot up. Though for best results, you'd need to download each file, decrypt it, perform a binary delta against the source file, encrypt the delta and ship that up.

        End of the day though, it sounded rather too complicated for my liking. I get the benefit of offsite backups stored with someone like Amazon but I'm using a tool whic

  • Two questions (Score:4, Informative)

    by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @05:38AM (#25254929)

    You're asking two questions. The first is that you want backup, so that all their data just gets thrown somewhere and they lose the last few days' work their hard drive dies. You don't even necessarily want this on the network; just back up to a DVD-R every so often, and take every month's DVD-R offsite (a friend's house, a bank's vault, whatever). There's lots of backup software for this. Most can do fancy stuff like incremental backups. You can probably find something opensource you can host for your friends and family on a decently-available server.

    The second question is networked file storage, where you don't care about automatically archiving files, but you do want frequent access and a good UI. For this I recommend something like Dropbox [getdropbox.com], which has good support for OS integration and a web interface.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RichiH (749257)
      Actually, I was asking one question. I need both rolled into one. And requiring me to be on site is not feasible. Ideally, they don't even notice that Backups are being made.
      • Re:Two questions (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @06:44AM (#25255085)

        If you try to roll backup and distributed file-storage into the same application, you're not going to get anything useful. Aunt Sally is going to want every single file including her OS and her tax returns backed up, in case her hard drive dies, but only wants the photos -- and only some of the photos, actually -- to be visible to Grandma Suzie. If Suzie can see every file on Sally's computer, and the entire history of each file, she's not going to be able to browse the photos in a way that's at all intuitive.

        And worse yet, if Sally wants to send out links to her photos to fifteen of her friends by e-mail, she needs some sort of interface to mark parts of her backup as world-readable but the rest (like her passwords and e-mail) not. If the network backup program even lets you do this, it won't give Sally a UI that she'll be able to figure out.

        You can certainly get network backup services: Mozy was mentioned in an earlier comment.

        If you rethink your requirements in terms of your goals, you'll probably find that both rolled into one isn't what you want, and not just because a product doesn't exist at the moment that does that — a product that does that can't possibly have a good UI. If they shouldn't notice or care about how backups are being made, how are they going to figure out how to share photos with each other?

      • by Angostura (703910)

        You need Mozy for the backup. You need Dropbox for the sharing. Unless you simply want to alias all of their files and folders into the Dropbox,

      • by Znork (31774)

        Not sure if it suits your situation, but you could take a look at drbd. Current stable versions only support 2 node mirroring, but future versions are planned with further nodes.

        Personally I've used it for shared-device semantics for backing storage on Xen VM's (and prefer it over my previous iSCSI-in-VM config). It is also, however, eminently suitable for remote-site mirroring of block devices. It isn't too difficult to build a stack with backing devices remote-mirrored over drbd, shared out over iscsi in

    • by dbIII (701233)
      DVDs are not paticularly reliable. I've seen dozens that can't be read. Tape is pretty expensive but I've seen quite a few tapes from the 1980s that can be read (if somewhat expensively).

      Forget about portable hard drives for anything other than temporary storage. Enough dust will kill them off if nothing else.

      • by ishobo (160209)

        Tape is not that expensive. A single LTO4 drive costs ~$3500. The cassette is $0.10 per GB. The big money will be if you invest in a library.

  • Dropbox (Score:5, Informative)

    by operator_error (1363139) <spztoidNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday October 04, 2008 @05:42AM (#25254949)
    Ars technica did a nice review of Dropbox, titled, "How Dropbox ended my search for seamless sync on Linux" (but it works on OSX 7 Windows too) http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080914-how-dropbox-ended-my-search-for-seamless-sync-on-linux.html [arstechnica.com]
    • Re:Dropbox (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Firehed (942385) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @06:19AM (#25255033) Homepage

      Dropbox is absolutely fantastic as a sync tool (and also has some degree of versioning), but there's no practical way as of yet to make it into a full-system backup. When 'watch folders' show up, it'll get a lot closer, but like any web-based system, it becomes impractically slow for anyone dealing with lot of data. Even digital snapshots add up quickly with the resolution of the point-and-shoot cameras, never mind if there's an actual photographer shooting RAW.

      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        If you want backup, use Mozy.com. It's already been around and perfected for many years, it integrates into "Shadow Copy" on Windows and "Time Machine" on OS X, it's cheap and effective. My media PC is backed-up to Mozy, over 250 GB with no problems.

    • Seems very interesting, but this disturbs me:

      Dropbox cooperates with government and law enforcement officials and private parties to enforce and comply with the law. We will disclose any information about you to government or law enforcement officials or private parties as we, in our sole discretion, believe necessary or appropriate to respond to claims and legal process (including but not limited to subpoenas), to protect the property and rights of Dropbox or a third party, to protect the safety of the public or any person, or to prevent or stop any activity we may consider to be, or to pose a risk of being, illegal, unethical, inappropriate or legally actionable.

      If I read this correctly, your data is anything but secure or private, as Dropbox can use any arbitrary reason to give your data to any party.

      • by Fweeky (41046)

        I don't think I'd want any of my backups on a service that clearly has access to my data. All such a service should be able to see is utterly opaque encrypted binary blobs they don't have the key for. Dropbox clearly think that's too hard, and prefer to err on the side of making their implementation easier.

    • by pla (258480)
      Ars technica did a nice review of Dropbox

      I think Dropbox has the right idea, with one glaring flaw - You need to trust your data to a third party (Amazon S3), and that third party needs to continue to exist (and offer the service) for Dropbox to keep working.

      For most purposes, I wouldn't consider that a major problem - I doubt Amazon really cares about the contents of my personal collection of apps to which I'd like to have access anywhere I go, or my family photos, or the contents of my to-do list; an
  • online backup (Score:2, Interesting)

    by derekcohen (952533)
    what's wrong with getting an account with Connected/Iron Mountain - easy to use intelligent online storage that doesn't cost a lot - saved my bacon many a time
  • by kefa (640985) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @05:53AM (#25254977) Journal
    Have you considered the JungleDisk client that works with the Amazon S3 storage cloud? This has backup clients for Windows, Linux, and Mac and with suitable configuration of 'buckets' would allow you to do most of what you are trying to achieve. Okay so it's a pay-for service (albeit cheap) but it does provide the all important off-siting, strong security/encryption and unlimited capacity.
  • wimps (Score:5, Funny)

    by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @05:59AM (#25254991)

    "Only wimps use backup. Real men just upload their important stuff on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror it."

    God

  • I looked at Cleversafe, trying to get through the PR bubblespeak. It seems they are emulating disks, not offering integrated _backup_. As saving from my mom's SD card to a distributed online disk via a DSL line is not feasible, I will most likely need to scratch that idea.
  • by speedtux (1307149) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @06:13AM (#25255011)

    Backup isn't the same as sharing. And do you want actual replication or merely fault tolerance to node failure? Actual n-fold replication means you're going to pay n times the amount of money for storage. And why do you insist on one application to do everything?

    My suggestion: set up automatic backups to one of the many backup services on the net. They worry about how to replicate your data, you don't have to. For the same service to support both backup and sharing is hard and it's probably a bad idea. It's much easier if you know that the backup service simply cannot access the contents of any of your files.

    For sharing, use services designed for that: Flickr Pro, Picasa, Google Docs, whatever. They are designed for sharing, they know about users and permissions, and they can only publish what you actually upload to them.

    As for Cleversafe, the idea is as old as forward error correction, but the economics and management never seem to quite work out. And basically, you're getting the same functionality from hosted storage: Amazon, Google, Box.NET, etc. are already figuring out how to keep your data available and secure, and are probably doing a better job than you could do with a homebrew system.

  • by Delgul (515042) <gerard@@@onlinespamfilter...nl> on Saturday October 04, 2008 @06:15AM (#25255019) Homepage

    The subject says it all:

    - rdiff-backup to backup your data one backup server.
    - chironfs to clone the file system to another remote server.

    rdiff-backup runs on *nix and windows (with the help of Cygwin).

    Once set up, rdiff-backup needs virtually no maintenance. If needed, setup Nagios to warn you if things run afoul.

    Used this for years, never disappointed me so far!

    • haven't used chironfs (I'll check it out), but rdiff-backup has been working at a medical clinic for off-site backup for 10 months without a glitch.

      Basic data from my backup:

      • 2.5 GB of original data (including the application)
      • mysql-autobackup script to dump daily, weekly, monthly copies of all relevant databases
      • Average daily diff is about 25-35 MB
      • Off-site server
      • cron job to run a custom script

      The results are that it's been running without a hitch for 10 months, and I've used the backed-up data to create a

      • by Albanach (527650)

        Where you have sensitive data you can look at duplicity - it uses gpg to create encrypted diffs.

        With Amazon S3 integration there's even a cheap distributed storage host available.

  • If you had only Windows and Mac, I'd opt for Mozy (http://www.mozy.com) which is owned by EMC. It's $50/year for unlimited storage and their agent is unobtrusive and backs up even open files.

    The downside is that it limits upstream bandwidth to 1Mb/s, so your initial backup might take a week. But after that, it takes 3 minutes a night and it does it without prompting. I've strong-armed my immediate family into using it because it also allows me to monitor remotely the status of all backups.

    It's seriously

  • Use rsnapshot (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Get 4 x 1TB disk and minimum RAID 6. Install Linux. Install rsnapshot [rsnapshot.org], which offers:

    * Filesystem snapshot - for local or remote systems.

    * Database backup - MySQL backup

    * Secure - Traffic between remote backup server is always encrypted using openssh

    * Full backup - plus incrementals

    * Easy to restore - Files can restored by the users who own them, without the root user getting involved.

    * Automated backup - Runs in background via cron.

    * Bandwidth friendly - rsync used to save bandwidth

    You may also find CentOS [cyberciti.biz]

    • by RT Alec (608475)

      4 disks and RAID 6? That make little sense. If you have 4 drives and are willing to give up 50% to redundancy (which is not out of the question), RAID 10 (pair of striped drives + pair of striped drives, mirrored) is much less complex.

      Now a ZFS RAIDz/2 with 8 drives...

  • Bacula? (Score:5, Informative)

    by up4fun (602118) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @06:34AM (#25255071)

    http://www.bacula.org/ [bacula.org]

    Runs pretty tight (low bandwidth), supports channel encryption and datastore encryption, can even create Bare Metal Recovery disks. I have a server room with LTO3 tape drives that I use to backup my clients' incremental data changes nightly, including Linux, Mac and Windows clients and servers. I have VPN's out to each client, so don't use the built-in channel encryption, but I maintain a keypair for each client.

    Backup only, but I /could/ present a maintained volume as a share over the VPN. Bacula supports disk and tape volumes as backup stores. I've personally had no need to do that to date.

    We're not talking terabytes here - my ISP would pwn me if that was going on, but I do circa 20G of data changes every night from clients. Some of them are laptops that are not always on or connected. Most are friends and family PC's, so it backs up when it can. I have to do almost no maintenance apart from changing a tape occasionally. The backup client is tiny and unobtrusive, even when running. On Windows it uses VSS, so it is reliable.

    I have had a number of panic phone calls (esp from my kids at Uni) who have lost a thesis or the like and are utterly amazed when, after a few clicks over the phone they look at their webmail and yesterday's version is in their inbox. That's what it's all about! I am the god of lost data! Which, of course, works for me.

    • Re:Bacula? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:32AM (#25255209)

      - plural of baculum.

      Do you know what a baculum is? It is the penis bone found in most male mammals with the exception of humans.

      Great product naming!

      • by Doctor O (549663)

        The best thing is that despite being posted by an AC it's not only funny but actually true [wikipedia.org].

        I'm going to introduce Bacula at work immediately. That will be the first IDIFTL meeting in company history.

  • There are a bunch of people offering this sort of service (or build your own) on Amazon's S3. It has the advantage of being accessible to everyone, has the security built in and you only have to worry about the data not server availability.

    Backup not on the cloud just doesn't make much sense to me these days.

  • AFS? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:26AM (#25255199) Journal
    AFS is only about 20 years old, and supported on Windows, Mac, and most flavours of *NIX, so it might not be sufficiently mature for your needs, however it does provide the following capabilities:
    • Remote storage with local caching.
    • Snapshots, allowing coarse-grained versioning.
    • Replication on the server.

    As well as all of the standard things you'd expect from a networked filesystem (ACLs, authentication, and so on).

    If you set up an AFS cell with your volumes replicated across a few remote servers and get your clients to connect to this cell then it should be fine. Set a cron job to take regular snapshots, and dump them to some offline medium periodically.

    • by Eil (82413)

      AFS is only about 20 years old, and supported on Windows, Mac, and most flavours of *NIX, so it might not be sufficiently mature for your needs,

      Sheesh, condescend much?

    • by emj (15659)

      AFS is not "mature", maybe it works flawlessly on Solaris but the Linux and Mac clients are unstable and prone to crashes.

  • It sounds as if the author of the opening post is looking for a Network-Attached Storage device that will function as a server, is based on Linux, and comes with pre-loaded applications.

    I found and tested the predecessor of the following device (which I can recommend on basis of a year-long test of a sample with N=1): Bubba (see http://excito.com/bubba/about-bubba.html [excito.com] ). A Swedish NAS device. I have to note that it's certainly not "distributed" in the sense that it's easy to mirror data across multiple d

  • First set each computer up with a dyndns account so that remote administration is easy.

    Then set up folders in each computer for each member of the family. For each family member's main computer, make symbolic links to other family members picture folder, etc.

    Set up a schedule to use rsync to copy the contents of the folders on a daily basis.

    While you are at it, I suggest adding one more computer to the mix that will copy the home folders for all family members and keep them in a svn folder so they can call

  • BackupPC might do what you're after. From the blurb:

    high-performance, enterprise-grade system for backing up PCs
    BackupPC is disk based and not tape based. This particularity allows
    features not found in any other backup solution:
    * Clever pooling scheme minimizes disk storage and disk I/O.
    Identical files across multiple backups of the same or different PC are
    stored only once (using hard links), resulting in substantial savings
    in disk st

    • by gardyloo (512791)

      BackupPC is nice. Its pooling strategy is very good, it works brilliantly and painlessly when backup up linux -> linux (though I have to re-try it Windows -> linux), and their UI is what a lot of the other solutions need for people to browse/restore their own data using a web browser.
          Its devs are responsive, too!

  • www.jungledisk.com - does all you want, its cheap and its hosted on Amazon's multiple servers.
  • by ka9dgx (72702) * on Saturday October 04, 2008 @08:37AM (#25255433) Homepage Journal
    I think that the issue is faced by far more people than is readily apparent... it's the need for a VERY easy to use tool to share Our Stuff with Our Family. If my Mom and sisters were able to share all their photos with each other by carrying a USB drive around when they see each other... the most important thing they have on their computers would be backed up... the need for social file sharing is huge... we just don't have the tools to do it well yet. Something that does auto-discovery of stuff, remembers previous decisions, and just goes to work making copies in the right directions is what we need.
    • A low power "set top" linux box; 1 lan, 1 wifi, 4 USB, no internal storage; plug in external usb drives. Tv out, usb audio & video in.

      Serving; Email, web, files, printers, p2p, music & videos, video calling.
      easy VPN between trusted boxes
      easy sharing files (rsync over vpn)
      easy sharing calendar & addressbook(with outlook, thunderbird integration).

      The key is an easy and secure way to set up trusted vpns between multiple set top home servers to form friend & family networks. Perhaps email an UR

  • I just didn't want to deal with it. I use cloudbackup.openrsm.com [openrsm.com] and have them buy an account. It can do a whole network of Linux, MAC, and Windows machines with one account, or just a laptop. The client software is free and does network drive of the backup space too. I figure easy and my friends paying for it works. It's saved my butt a couple times too.
  • AhSay's free version of their Offsite Backup Server (http://www.ahsay.com/en/freeedition/ahsay_free_edition_index.html) does versioning and, well, everything you're really asking for. I use this at work with about 20 clients, and it's rock solid.
  • I do this commercially. I ship a small embedded box with custom firmware that works as a samba client and runs a VPN back to my server.

    Then I run rsnapshot to rsync the remote.

    That way the clients don't have to do any installation at all, I can admin my box remotely without any local representation, and it will work with any system as long as it supports samba.

    The only setup required on the local site is a userid for the backup client.

    The devil, of course, is in the details.

    • What equipment do you use for the embedded box? I'd love to do the same for my customers.
      • by cptdondo (59460)

        Typically off-the-shelf wifi access points. Currently the Asus 500G Premium running OpenWrt.

        I think my samba build is part of the openwrt distribution (they were using 2.x and I built 3.0.xx for it.)

        Disable the wifi, take the antenna off, and you have a really capable embedded linux computer.

        • Nice...never would have thought of that. I've been meaning to play with OpenWrt. Sounds like I should get off my butt and do it.
  • It supports rsync, ssh, tar, and SMB. Performs pooling which reduces the number of stored files. Only issue is it uses the local account password file, so you'd have to set up an account for each user you wanted to give direct access too. http://backuppc.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
  • by dheltzel (558802)

    I use SVN to backup my sister's important stuff to my home server. It was easy to teach them to commit changes and add new files to be versioned because I installed Tortoise SVN on their Windows computers. It has full versioning and can use an encrypted link if that's important.

    Everything else just seemed like too much work to implement.

  • I run a company called Real Pro Data Solutions, LLC.

    You can check us out at - http://www.realprodata.com/ [realprodata.com]

    We run on open standards and can provide assistance with setup. We have solutions that will work on all of your platforms, Windows, Linux, Mac...

    We're a small business so you can always work with the same people who helped build the company!

    And you can actually call and talk to us! :-)

  • Don't most businesses already do this? On laptops, I used roaming profiles, and synched My Docs with the user's home directory on the server. All additional backups, versioning, etc. were handled on, and by the server.

    Downside is it's not a complete solution, as any data stored in Program Files or Common Files dirs wasn't mirrored.
    Upside is that it's simple network management, and even lets you use login scripts.

    I don't think you're ever going to find a 'simple' (as in 3 clicks) solution usable by non-techi

  • The current state of open source backup technology is abysmal. Currently, I'd say reliable would by rsyncing to a large, removeable hard drive, and then couriering it to a remote location or "secure" physical storage service.

    For "long term" backup, get a DLT tape drive, and selectively backup to tape. The tape, if properly stored, will be more likely to recover data than a hard drive. Also note, this is a few hundred dollar investment, with large capacity DLT tapes going for a hundred a pop as well.

    =====

    A

    • by cdrguru (88047)

      While it is true that if the initial border zone on a DVD becomes unreadable the disc cannot be accessed normally, there are recovery techniques that will allow the data to be read from the disc. No, there isn't any way to "demand" access to the data - you have to go through the drive's normal protocol. But you can play some tricks.

      No, there aren't any "alternate forms" of DVD encoding. DVD discs are rather complicated and the drive and chipset are very, very much required as an intermediary. And the dr

  • Wuala (Score:3, Interesting)

    by numLocked (801188) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @10:52AM (#25255885) Homepage Journal

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned Wuala - www.wua.la - which is a distributed online storage system. You agree to store (encrypted) bits of others' files in exchange for the ability to do so on others' machines across the wuala network. It's free and pretty damn cool. They can explain it better than I can: http://wua.la/en/learn/why [wua.la]

    • by apankrat (314147) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @02:25PM (#25257073) Homepage

      I watched their CTO's Google Talks presentation and it was really interesting. I got all excited, joined their beta only to realize that they - IMO - misused the technology they had and designed a rather mediocre product. Wuala wants to be a backup tool, a sharing tool, a social networking medium as well as few other things. In other words it lacks focus and wants to do everything - an approach that rarely works.

  • ObStdDisc: I work for the company I mention here... but suffice it to say that I left a very stable job to do so - so's to indicate that I do actually believe in the excellence of the product.

    Keep an eye on Rebit [rebit.com]. It doesn't do what you're asking about as of this moment... but (without treading into realms of "I'm not allowed to talk about that") I can safely say that the future holds some interesting things along this sort of direction.

  • When I saw the words "easy", "reliable" and "distributed", I was expecting the punchline to be "choose any two".
  • carbonite (Score:3, Informative)

    by keraneuology (760918) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @02:14PM (#25257015) Journal
    I use carbonite. Small app, I can have multiple machines within the same account, unlimited data for something like $49/year. I got it for a work machine - and it has already been used to retrieve deleted files (very painless process), liked it so much that I got it for a couple of the family machines that I support. I set it up for them and the only instructions they have to remember is "don't save tax returns under c:\windows\system32, save them under My Documents".
  • http://www.crashplan.net/ [crashplan.net] has done exactly what you describe. everyone in your 'backup network' backs up to each other, and for free. They make money from selling their own offsite backup. --Sam
  • http://trac.manent-backup.com/ [manent-backup.com] Easy: yes, after a first setup. Reliable - yes. Versioned: you bet! Actually, every backup you do is accessible as a different version, with a very little overhead.

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