Want 3 months of Backblaze?

Ho Ho Ho! The folks at Backblaze must be feeling the Christmas cheer as they're adding 3 months of Backblaze backup to anyone who signs up within the next 21 days.

I’m a huge fan of Backblaze, having paid for the service since 2013 and had to recently use their backup to restore more than 3GB of photos I took on December 1st and 2nd.

So, if you’re not backing up your data I can recommend Backblaze. Sign up here for a free trial, and if you buy a subscription you’ll get 3 months free, but only if you sign up within the next 21 days. I get 3 months free as well which will make me very happy too. 🙂

The Importance of Backups

How many backups do you have of your important files? I have several backups of my photo archive:

* A local rsnapshot (incremental) backup made every six hours.
* A local copy of my photos directory, which is a straight copy, including deletions. Synced daily.
* A copy on another server synced daily.
* An online cloud backup on Backblaze.

And I still managed to lose a few days worth of photos.

Late last month I took delivery of a new 8TB external drive. I benchmarked it and it was just a bit better than any of my existing drives so I decided to make that the primary location for my photos. I called it “cats”.

Previously my photos lived on a drive imaginatively called “data”, but that would now become my secondary copy.

With my photo archive copied over (all 2.3TB of it), I edited my backup script so it would not accidentally erase my photos on cats, especially not any newly imported photos. I updated rsnapshot so it used cats rather than data, and made sure that Backblaze was backing up cats too. It all looked like it would work perfectly!

The next day I didn’t take any photos, or the next, I took a couple of photos with my phone but didn’t transfer them to my laptop immediately. Then one morning I took a photo of the sunrise, and the following day I did the same.
I edited a few of the images and uploaded one on the same day. Nothing wrong at all.
The next day I went into Cork to photograph Glow Cork and got some nice long exposure photos of the lights. I went in the next day on December 3rd and did the same.

I worked on a couple of shots, but I was busy, and didn’t have time to work on photos until this evening when my world fell apart as Lightroom reported it only had the smart previews for my latest photos. With a sinking feeling and forced calm I checked the 2017 folder. It all looked good, until 2017-11-19 that is. Nothing there after that.

I frantically checked my backup script again and again, poring over each line to make sure the right files were being copied to the right place but it looked ok.
I checked my rsnapshot folder. That should surely have the missing files. No. No, it didn’t.
I checked my other server and the files weren’t there either. They stopped at 2017-11-19.

I checked Backblaze, and the backup made today ended in 2017-11-19 too.

Dumbfounded and a little desperate I started clicking on the end date in Backblaze, going back a few hours, then a day, and another day when I found something weird. I found my December 1st and 2nd photos, but not in the cats drive, but in the data drive!

I’d forgotten to update my Lightroom import preset. Lightroom was still copying my images into the data drive, and then my backup script would delete them the next day. Rsnapshot wasn’t backing them up either because it was now looking at the cats drive.

I started a restore of my December photos off Backblaze. The 3.7GB of data is still downloading. Luckily I hadn’t formatted my camera SD card so my December 3rd photos were still there too, waiting to be copied over again. Once converted to DNG, copied into place, renamed and metadata data updated, Lightroom was happy with those files.

I learned a lot about Backblaze. Without it I would have completely lost my December photos, including this one and the photo at the top of this post.

However, I could not find backups of photos shot from November 20th to 30th. Most of those were sunrise photos, copied to the laptop after the daily backup script had run so Backblaze should have had a day to back those photos up. The restore process offers hourly backups over the last two days, then daily for the next 7 days, then weekly going back a month.

I suspect that Backblaze considered the daily backup done sometime around 7am UTC right after my backup script had deleted the files but that doesn’t explain how I was able to find my December shoot because that was past the hourly deadline. I need to contact Backblaze to find out why.

I still recommend using Backblaze. Last week several factors conspired to make my backup fail:
1. My DSL has a relatively slow 1Mbps upload.
2. I had my laptop unplugged from my external drives for several hours.
3. Backblaze doesn’t immediately back files up.

Then there’s the bad luck to find this problem after more than a week when Backblaze changes to weekly snapshots. It has it’s limitations but it still saved a bunch of my photos and I am very thankful to have it!

I’ve already changed my backup script so it won’t mirror deletions. If I’m going to delete files I’m going to do it soon after copying them onto my laptop and I remove files so rarely it’s not needed in the backup script.

Crashplan Home RIP

With Crashplan Home on the way out I’m in a bind. I was using it to backup my Dad’s laptop to my machine. It was so very handy as it was plug-and-play. Fire up the app on his machine, type in the code and it started sending over his data whenever he was online, wherever he was. All that comes to a screeching halt in October 2018 when Crashplan drop their Home product.

I’m not sure what I’ll replace that with. I’m tempted to try Backuppc, and setup dynamic DNS on his router, but it’s a Windows machine, which is always a complicating factor. Maybe I’ll try that Backuppc Windows Client but all I need are a local ssh server and rsync, right? It might just be simpler in the long run to use Backblaze however. They even published a blog post to encourage Crashplan customers to migrate!

Besides using Crashplan for my Dad’s backup, I also used it to keep versioned copies of my photos directory on a separate external drive, but I zapped that and installed rsnapshot on my Macbook using Homebrew, and configured it to back up every few hours. It’s working fine so far too, and the simplicity of rsync and hard links is comforting. Sort of like Time Machine you can use Finder to navigate through the backups, and copy files from it to restore them. As an added bonus it’s not running in the background the whole time. A cronjob fires it up on a regular basis.

If that all sounds too technical, just use Backblaze. I’ve been with them for years, and recently renewed for another two years. If you want to get a month free (after signing up following the free trial) you could do worse than sign up using this signup link. I currently have over 2TB of data backed up there and it’s still going strong!

Edit: Over on /r/datahoarder there’s a lively discussion about Backblaze, including a rep from the company answering questions. Also, I’m not the only one looking for a replacement for PC to PC backup.
Edit 2: I wonder if Syncthing could be a replacement for PC to PC backup. The Backups aren’t encrypted unfortunately, but it has support for file versioning now which is a plus.

3 months free Backblaze again

A long time ago in 2013 Backblaze had a “sign up and get an extra three months free” offer and they’re back at it again.

For the next 32 days. click on this Backblaze signup link, you’ll get started on a free trial for a month to test it out, but if you decide to pay you’ll get an extra three months.

I love the Backblaze service. It’s a cloud backup service where you can backup your files. I won’t go on and on about it. I did that in my 2013 post, but if it’s any indication of how good they are, I’m still a customer all these years later with over 2TB of data backed up there now.

The signup link is an affiliate link of course (I get three months free as well if someone signs up) but if you don’t want to use it and don’t want that extra three months sign up through this link instead.

And to think, I used to rely on backing up my photos to CD..

3 months free Backblaze cloud backup!

Argh, I just handed over $95 for 2 years worth of Backblaze cloud backup and now they’re offering 3 months free if you sign up through this link before March 31st! It’s to celebrate World Backup Day, something I’m all in favour of since backups saved the day in 2008 when an external drive died on me.

BTW, both those Backblaze links are affiliate links but I’m a happy customer and I’m currently backing up over 700GB of data to the cloud. 681GB of that is 13 years worth of photos! My upstream bandwidth is horrendous but I still managed to upload 50GB over the last 20 days. At this rate it’ll be a few months before everything is uploaded but the backup hasn’t really impacted on my day-to-day work. Websites and videos still download and display promptly which surprised me. Uploading anything from here usually makes everything else crawl. I told the backup client I wanted faster backups too!

backblaze-performance

It’s not all sunshine and roses though. The client has an exclusion list of directories so it’s easy to exclude directories you don’t want backed up. Sensibly, it doesn’t backup “Program Files” or other system directories by default. However, I’d rather have an include list because on this machine I really only care about my photos, some documents and my Thunderbird mail directory and I know where they live. It’s a small quibble and probably one I’ll soon forgive when my machine goes belly up and I’m desperately looking for a secure cert or the settings for some obscure program!

Backblaze Pod

Curious about where your data lives when it’s in the cloud? That’s a Backblaze Pod there, and it has a raw capacity of 135TB but this post goes into a lot of detail about it and how it’s made. This slightly tongue in cheek post then explains why you don’t want to do this at home!

So that's where all my photos are going
So that’s where all my photos are going

Further on the subject of backups, you should really listen to this episode of The Naked Scientists podcast. This interview with Leo Enticknap, University of Leeds deals with backups but also file formats that scares me. I hope the Canon CR2 raw format is durable enough that it can be read in a few decades, or I may consider converting those files to DNG (which is probably just as likely to be unreadable in the far future TBH).

Try Backblaze, they have a 15 day free trial (or if you’re reading this before March 31st, use this link to get 3 months free) where you can upload data and perform restores to see how well it works. It’s a reasonable price for peace of mind and convenience. My photo archive currently resides in 3 drives on 2 separate computers (using rsync, Samba, Synkron and cronjobs to sync daily) and that won’t change but having an offsite backup like this gives me some confidence in case some local disaster should happen!

So, sorry for the affiliate links but Backblaze is a great service and I hope I’ve made you at least consider duplicating your important files somewhere before it’s too late.