Categories
Websites & Domains

SiteUpTime – Web Site Monitoring

I came across SiteUpTime.com which does web site monitoring, as the name implies. They offer a free plan which I just signed up for to monitor The OS Quest.

The free plan includes:

  • 1 Monitor
  • 30 or 60 minute check intervals
  • 4 Monitoring Locations
  • Email Alerts
  • Monthly Reports
  • Online Statistics
  • Control Panel
  • Web Server Monitoring (http)
  • Email Server Monitoring (pop3)
  • Email Server Monitoring (smtp)
  • FTP Server Monitoring (ftp)
  • Public Statistics

There are some reguirements on the free account. You need to link to their site (I added a badge to the right sidebar) and you need to agree to receive occassional emails about their services. Plus you can only have one free account.

The way the system works is you specify a primary location (of the four) when creating the monitor. If the site in not accessible from the selected monitor then additional locations will be checked. The locations are San Fransisco, Chicago, New York and London.

The also have Premium and Advanced plans which increase the number of monitors, frequency of monitoring and the type of services that can be monitored.

It’s worth noting that your monitoring services, not servers. So if you want to monitor both ftp, web and email on a server you’ll need three monitors.

I just signed up so I can’t really say if the service is as good as it seems. But, it will be interesting to see how Bluehost does, even though a 30 minute interval leaves a lot of time for unnoticed server reboots.

Categories
Mac OS X

Superduper!: Disk Cloning/Backup For Mac

Image in this post have been lost.

I’d purchased and used Superduper! with my Mac Mini but when I moved to the iMac I stopped using it. I had used it as a cloner and I didn’t really want to do clones as my primary backup anymore (so I thought) so I switched to Apple Backup. Apple Backup has it’s faults (that’s a different story so see my Apple Backup post) so I decided to give Superduper! another spin for doing backups.

I don’t remember if I ever used Superduper! on my iMac but it was already installed so I fired it up. I was immediately prompted that there was an upgrade ready, version 2.1.4(82) [from 1.5.5 (v74)] so I clicked the button to do the upgrade. It came up as an unregistered version which answered the question if I had used it. The unregistered version does provide a subset of features that will never expire but I dug out the registration number and plugged it into the software.

Installation

Installation is simple. The download is a disk image file (.dmg), open it via double-clicking and drag the SuperDuper! icon to your Applications folder.

Using SuperDuper!

First I started with the basics. I wanted a backup of my home directory, not a clone of the hard disk. This way my backup uses less space and I can put other files on the target drive. When SuperDuper! starts the main screen is displayed.

The first time the program starts the fields up to are blank.

The “Copy” field is the source. You can pick any source drive, internal, external, iPod, USB thumb drives, etc… You do not pick a directory in this field but can limit the copy later. For the “To” (destination) you also pick any drive (other than the source). The destination has to have enough space for the actual files but can be smaller than the source if there’s enough free space for the files.

The “Using” field contains the pre-built (out of the box) scripts for file selection. You can also create your own scripts but that’s beyond the scopt of this review. The “Using” (script) choices are shown in this screenshot.

“Backup – user files” will backup your home directory. “Backup – all files” will clone the entire hard disk except for certain files that Apple says shouldn’t be cloned.

The “Sandbox…” selections are a nice feature of SuperDuper but aren’t really backups. The sandbox creates a bootable copy of your system on another drive (or partition) but the data is shared with you regular boot drive. The sandbox helps you recover quickly if your boot partition fails but your data is not duplcated.

Currently, I only use SuperDuper to backup my user directory on my iMac. On my Mac Mini I cloned the entire drive and could boot off of either drive at any time. I’ll concentrate on my iMac here. I backup it up to a Disk Image. There are two disk image destination options. The first, which is the one I use, is “Read/Write “Sparse” Image. The sparse image can be used over and over and it will grow to accommodate the data. The second type is a “Read Only Disk Image”. This is recreated in full each time. “Read Only Disk Image” is recommended when multiple systems are being restored from a single image.

Then you have a choice of options. You can repair permissions before the copy (only available when doing a full clone). You can do a “Smart Update” which means it will only make the changes (add/modify/delete) necessary to make the destination match the source. It’s much quicker to do the backup this way. You can also optionally erase the destination instead and start fresh. Other options include only copying new or updated files (nothing is deleted). These last two items are intended for merging images and should not be used to create a bootable disk.

You can also tell SuperDuper! what to do when it’s done: quit SuperDuper!, nothing, shutdown computer, sleep computer, restart from the destination, or set destination as startup disk. The last two options are only available if a full clone (not just user files) was done to a physical drive (not an image file).

I didn’t use any of the Advanced options but they include running a shell script before or after the copy, copying the ACLs, to create a disk image of the backup (in addition to your backup). You can also automatically install a package on the destination once the copy is done.

Once you’ve set everything the main screen will tell you what’s going to happen.

You can click “Copy Now” to start immediately. You can also click “Schedule” to set up a recrring schedule. Multiple schedules can be configured and the options for each schedule are presented on one screen.

Like the main screen, what’s going to happen is clearly described.

The Mac cannot be asleep (or off) when the scheduled time arrives but unlike Apple Backup it’s not affected if the Mac is scheduled to awake just before the scheduled backup time. Even the “Smart Update” can take some time if it has a lot of files to check (like your entire drive) but this is true of any backup software. (But “Smart Update” takes a fraction of the time on my Mac. Last night it took 14 minutes in total. It had to evaluate 186.2GB containing 159,641 directories, 726,663 files and 30547 symlinks. It had to copy 4,905 items totaling 7.95 GB which was 556 directories, 1,915 files and 2,434 symlinks.

Restoration is simple. To restore individual files just attach the external drive and drag the files back. If the backup was made to an image files simply mount the image file and drag the files back. To recover from complete disaster you can either boot from the cloned drive (if a full clone was done) or boot from the OS X DVD and run the Disk Utility to restore from the external drive or image file. The SuperDuper! manual has complete (and short) instructions. The important thing to remember is SuperDuper! doesn’t have any native restore functions. It clones/saves the files in a way that can be accessed through OS X or, in the case of a complete failure, through a standard OS X restore process. You do not need SuperDuper! to do the restore.

SuperDuper! also includes ability to create copy scripts so you can customize what gets or doesn’t get copied. You can either modify the four standard scripts or start from scratch.

Summary

Pros

  • Excellent Value- I bought the software back in September of 2005 when it was version 1.x. When I fired it up this week it was upgraded to version 2.1 at no additional cost. I couldn’t find an upgrade policy on their website, but I’ve never been charged for an upgrade since I purchased it.
  • Don’t need SuperDuper! to do a restore. No hunting for or configuring a program to get your files back.
  • Scheduling option works when the Mac just wakes up, unlike Apple Backup (sorry, had to mention it again, it’s a pet peeve of mine).
  • Easy to understand interface that clearly says what it will do based on your selections.
  • Backs up all attributes. I did not have any problems with missing meta data when restoring files. This probably in part due Finder being used to restore the files, but the quality of SuperDuper’s copy engine shouldn’t be minimized. Finder couldn’t copy what’s not there.
  • If you clone the entire disk then recovery is as quick as booting from the backup disk if your main drive fails completely.

Cons

  • Basic disk cloning/file copy only. Lacks more advanced backup features such as keeping historical versions. You could use the scheduler to set up a rotation to different backup location but this would use a lot of disk space.

SuperDuper! is a low cost method of getting quick, reliable safety backups. It doesn’t include advanced features like encryption (useful for safely storing backups outside your house) or the ability to manage multiple or historical backups. What it does do is reliably and easily clone disks and copy data as good as or better than anything that I’ver seen. If you don’t need those advanced features then SuperDuper! is all you’ll need. If you want those advanced features you’ll probably get SuperDuper! as a disk cloner and then license the full version to use it as a quick, reliable safety backup.

Try/Buy

Superduper! is currently available for $27.95 from Shirt Pocket Software. There’s a trial version available. The trial version can be used forever. The features missing from the trial version are scheduling, smart updating, sandboxing and scripting. If you’re going to be using SuperDuper for backup’s you’ll want the licensed version.

Categories
Backup

Backups – Part II – My Modern Era

In part one I covered my “formative years” where backups were little more than creating multiple copies of the files the best way I could. Since I always got my files back when I needed them I could claim it worked, but there was luck involved too. My move to using a Mac as my primary desktop a couple years ago was a good opportunity to examine my backup strategy.

Backups for the Mac ended up being easier than I expected. At the basic level I could simply buy a external firewire or USB drive, hook it up, and clone my disk. There were several options to do this. Carbon Copy Cloner and Superduper were common at the time, Carbon Copy Cloner is donationware and Superduper is now $27.95. Superduper has a free trial and the basic cloning feature is not time limited.

So I got a firewire drive that stacked with my Mac Mini and downloaded a trial copy of Superduper. I picked Superduper to try because of it’s advanced features and it seemed slightly easier to use. At he time CCC didn’t include a scheduling ability and SD did. I ended up buying Superduper and my backup routine simply became a nightly scheduled task to clone my disk. Superduper also had the ability to clone to a disk image rather than a physical hard disk which allowed me to do additional backups when I needed them.

Under windows I had classified my data into importance so I could concentrate on regular backups for my critical data. By cloning the entire disk I eliminated the need to do this. But all my data was still stacked on my desk all cabled together. For awhile burning to CD seemed like a acceptable option but it still had the flaw of requiring me to actually do something to get the backup done.

So I looked into and eventually purchased a .Mac subscription (if your considering .Mac look at Amazon.com or another seller to save money over the Apple direct price). I decided to get one, primarily to be able to use Apple Backup to back up my critical files to iDisk. But being paranoid I didn’t trust iDisk security to protect the files. That led to purchasing a copy of Suffit since it had the ability to create encrypted archives.

Once all that was combined I ended up with a process where Stuffit create a full (all files) encrypted archive of the directories I want to back up on a weekly basis. Then on he following days it creates an encrypted archive of the files that changed. Then Apple Backup backed the encrypted file up to the hard disk.

The main benefit of this setup was that I didn’t actually have to do anything to get the backups (well, I had to leave the Mac turned on), everything was scheduled. While I’d had problems using Apple Backup to backup to CD my test restores of these backups always worked.

Then in January I got a new iMac and it was time for another change. All I was using Stuffit for was the scheduled encryption, they had released two newer versions and I didn’t the point of upgrading. Besides the cost (eventually I’d be forced into an upgrade) Stuffit just seemed to add too much to the system and I didn’t want it on my iMac. So I switched to using the built in OS X encryption to create a encrypted disk image which could then be copied to my iDisk. The downside of this is the entire disk image was copied each time which can be time consuming since my upload speed is rather low. But those files only changed once or twice a week so an automator action meant it was easy enough to kick off the update. All-in-all it was a workable solution.

Then I moved away from cloning the HDD and simply used Apple Backup to backup my home directory to an external drive. I also began using Mozy instead of my iDisk. At first (when Windows was the only option) I copied the encrypted disk image to my Windows machine so Mozy could back it up from there.

Right now my backup process is:

  • Nightly Apple Backups of my home directory (minus iTunes library) to my external drive
  • Nightly Apple Backups of my iTunes purchased music to my external drive.
  • Backup my important files (the ones in the encrypted disk image) to Mozy using the Mac beta
  • Copy the encrypted disk image of my important files to my iPod which is away from my PC when I’m away from my PC. This is set up as an automator action so it’s fairly simple and quick. It’s the only part of my backup process that’s not scheduled.

I’m not completely happy with Apple Backup so I’m hoping Mozy or something similar will prove to be a suitable replacement. My gripes against Apple Backup are:

  • It has issues running a scheduled backup when a computer wakes from sleep.
  • The first backup is a full backup. Every backup after that is incremental. This means I’ll eventually run out of space on the target disk. I then have to manually delete the files and trigger a new full backup. If I don’t manually trigger the full backup it will do another incremental even though the earlier files are gone. (When using iDisk there’s an option to delete the iDisk backups which will automatically do a full backup the next time, just no such option when the target is a external drive.)
  • Having all those incrementals makes me nervous that one in the middle will go bad and I won’t be able to restore. But this could just be my paranoia.

In the interest of full disclosure, the link to Mozy is a referral link. If you use it to sign up for a free Mozy account I get another 256MB of backup space added to my free account when you do your first backup.