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..

Ages …

Time Machine Initial Backup

Well, look. At least it’s not like in Windows where it tells you it’ll be done in ten minutes and then five minutes later it’s gone up to twenty ..

I expect this will take a few days.

Restoring From Physical Media

dancing in the street

Remember DVDs? Last night while looking for the original photo of this dancing in the street photo I was horrified to find an empty directory!

Empty Directories

I had no idea when they were deleted. I searched my backups but of course the directories had been synced a long time ago and they were gone. I checked Backblaze and there was no sign of them. I even checked Google Plus for their backups but still no sign of them. I must have deleted them more than two years ago.

I hate that. I have multiple copies of every photo just because this might happen and yet it wasn’t enough! My backups sync every night so any deletes were synced within twenty four hours.

Almost. Later, I remembered that I had backed up photos to DVDs before I started using multiple drives and Backblaze. They were up in the attic!

DVDs

It didn’t take long to get them, the first DVD worked and my photos from The St. Patrick’s Festival in 2006 were restored, but the photos from April 20th were on the second DVD. The second DVD didn’t work. Nooooo!

The rest of the photos did survive their stay in my cold, damp attic and were restored. I’m thinking now about monthly offline backups to a drive I’ll plug in occasionally.

Do I have any photos from April 20th, 2006? I remember the day well because I was in St. Finbarr’s Hospital with my wife helping a family member. While the others waited I went outside to take photos of a derelict building at the back of the hospital grounds. People passed me going to work while I was take pictures of the daisies, flowers and old architecture. Soon enough a security guard showed up but he just asked me to stop taking photos. I do have a few photos. We called to a friend later in the day and I got some shots of her cat so that’s here too. 🙂

What’s the take home message from all this?

  • You can never have too many backups.
  • You need versioned backups (of a few days at least) in case you notice a mistake a few days later after your backups have been synced.
  • You need an offline backup that’s synced periodically.
  • You need cloud backup that will keep your files safe for a length of time after they’re deleted. Backblaze holds on to your files for thirty days after they’re deleted!
  • When you export files from Lightroom, Photoshop or whatever graphics app you use, always make sure you export a full size original version, not just a web version.

I’m sad that those files are gone, but glad I have a few reminders of an eventful day.

Fill and span DVD archives with Discspan

I have a huge archive of photos. I shoot tens of thousands of photos every year. Storage requirements for all those photos was bad enough when I shot in Jpeg but then I switched to RAW and space usage jumped! Here’s what the last 3 years looks like:

169GB of data is a lot of stuff to store. Originally I had them all duplicated on two external drives but then I bought a 500GB internal drive for my laptop for speedier access. Unfortunately that drive simply wasn’t big enough. I need to convert some of my RAW files to Jpeg to save space. To preserve the original RAW files I want to archive them somewhere permanently. I have a DVD writer so that was an obvious choice.

Burning data to lots of DVDs is tiresome. You can use tar, zip or another archiver to split the data but then you have to run through all the DVDs to pick out a file to restore. I like having the files directly accessible but that means endless selecting files, making sure they’re as close to the DVD size as possible, burning them, moving on to the next bunch. In the bad old DOS days I had a program to fill floppy disks if you pointed it at a directory but I’ve spent years searching for a similar Linux script. Last week I found one.

Enter Discspan. My 2007 archive was already burned to DVD, and I wish I had this script while doing it. I’ve burned my 2008 archive with Discspan and it was a doddle. Point it at the right directory, feed it some details about the DVD drive and let it go. 26 DVDs later and my 2008 archive is safe on DVD!

The script scans the directory, figures out how many DVDs are required and it fills each DVD with data, spanning my digital archive over multiple DVDs.

Be aware when using it that you should let Linux detect the next blank DVD before pressing return. The first time I ran it the script bombed out when growisofs didn’t see media to write to. You also need to patch it because it doesn’t detect the right size of DVD+R’s but it’s a simple one-liner.

Another Linux project, Brasero promises to span disks too but it didn’t for me. It’s the default CD/DVD burner in Ubuntu now and it’s a shame this functionality is broken in it.

Hopefully Brasero will be fixed for the next release. I’d offer to help but my C/C++ is very rusty.

Backups save the day

Marina City, Chicago A few weeks ago I blogged about my backup system. How I have two 1TB Iomega external drives and how one drive is a duplicate of everything on the other drive, and how I backup everything on my laptop and VPS accounts. It sometimes seem excessive but I’m paranoid.

This morning I’m very glad I went to such lengths. I wanted to copy some stuff onto my Macbook, and there’s nothing like the bandwidth available from a directly connected disk. I unmounted my drive, at least I tried. Something was keeping it mounted. Instead of following my own advice and checking what program was keeping the drive busy, I used “umount -l” instead. Turns out it was Rhythmbox, but I didn’t realise that until later.

Anyway, I disconnected the usb cable, plugged in the one connected to the Macbook (BTW – Ext2 for Mac OS X is useful for reading ext2/ext3 filesystems) and kaboom. The light on the external drive went out. Oh oh.

Long story short, the drive refused to mount again on the Linux box for several minutes. Eventually it did, but with errors. I’m running fsck.ext3 on it but it’s giving me tons of errors and won’t run automatically. I need to buy another drive this morning.

So what’s lost? My 8 years of photos? All the family videos shot over the last 2 years? My mp3 collection? Nope. They’re all backed up. Murphy’s Law states that if something can go wrong, it will. This was the worst time ever for a drive to fail as I had just reinstalled the operating system, and my backup system wasn’t running properly yet. Thankfully nothing irreplaceable was moved onto the broken drive in that narrow window of time when things weren’t being backed up.

I now want to get that new drive installed before the second goes belly up! Paranoid? You betcha!