CrashPlan Update – Week 2

I’ve been running CrashPlan on Windows Home Server 2011 for a couple of weeks, give or take a extended power outage. Overall I’m impressed and I like it. This summarizes my impressions so far. While WHS 2011 isn’t officially supported, the software works well, just no add-in.

Backup Logo - Laptops connected to backupWell, not exactly week 2 due to a 5 day power outage but it feels like two weeks and it’s time for an update. I installed CrashPlan on Windows Home Server 2011 and have uploaded the first 70 GB to their online backup service. Upload speed has been good. I generally limited it’s bandwidth usage and it’s done a good job of staying near the  limit while not going over. When I opened it up it was likely affected more by my connection’s limitations than an throttling by CrashPlan. So no complaints there.

They can also backup to another PC, a friends PC (running CrashPlan) or a locally attached folder. I don’t think I’ll use anything other than their online storage. I like Cloudberry Backup better for backing up to other computers (on my network) and to local drives. Cloudberry will back up to a share and not need any software installed on the PC. Backing up to a friends computer with CrashPlan would require that computer to be online and for them to have CrashPlan installed. I’d still be using my bandwidth (and theirs) but not get much more reliability than cloud storage. One benefit that backing up to a friends computer has is the ability to seed the backup with a hard drive and then to get that hard drive back for a restore if needed at no cost. This would avoid the bandwidth of the first backup or a complete restore without the cost and time lost when sending them to CrashPlan. So these are definitely good features, just not ones I’m likely to use, at least not yet.

The idea of having PCs I support back up to my server is intriguing but my bandwidth caps makes me leery of becoming a data center.

Crashplan rescans the drives to verify backup selections at 3AM every day (configurable). This stops the backup for a short while but then the backup starts again with the refreshed file list. In my case this would refreh changes and put already backed up files before previously selected files were ever backed up. I kind of liked this since it meant backed up files were kept relatively fresh. On the downside it takes longer to ge at least one copy of all files up there. It’s only my observation that it seemed to refresh previously backed up files, it may not have been 100% consistent. For me the scan is taking about 10 minutes for 230,000 filet totaling about 70 GB.

The test restores worked fine. I was able to restore while files were still being backed up. With over 200,000 files backed up at the time, the files I selected were quickly restored to my desktop. The restore messages were a bit confusing which is my only complaint. The screenshot below is typical when a restore is finished:

CrashPlan Restore message

It says it’s unable to restore, yet the restore is already done. The rest of the restore options are pretty intuitive, The default options restore to the desktop and don’t overwrite any files which are pretty safe selections. Although in the case of a server I generally avoid filling up personal directories like the desktop since they are on the C: drive which is usually smaller than any other drive. Can’t really complain since this is desktop backup software, Just have to remember that large retores go to a drive with the space.

The backup also runs fine whether or not I’m logged on to the server (such as through RDP) without needing an hacks or workarounds.

CrashPlan does have an iOS app but it doesn’t support people like me who insist on our own encryption keys, so I haven’t tried that out.

I haven’t had any noticeable performance hit wile doing the backup. I generally limit the backup to uploading at 500 kbps when I’m home. This is about 1/4 of my rated upstream bandwidth, and about 1/3 what I usually see my upstream running at when under load and during peak net usage times (like after dinner when the entire neighborhood jumps on.) There hasn’t been any noticeable impact on streaming or file access when the backup runs. I also didn’t have any streaming issues when the nightly file scan ran.

I’ll be holding off adding any more files to my CrashPlan backup for a couple weeks. I figure I have about 100 GB of my Comcast cap that I can use for these backups in a normal month but want to wait awhile to make sure it’s a normal month. I’m already backing up the directories that typically change, so there will still be backups and I can see how CrashPlan handles versioning and deleted files.

The only negative is fairly obvious. Since CrashPlan doesn’t officially support Windows Home Server there’s no add-in. It’s necessary to remote desktop into the server (assuming it’s headless) and run the client. But that’s a relatively minor downside. I’m hesitant to trust my backups to software that isn’t officially support for the way I use it, but I haven’t read about any problems or encountered any myself. I’m confident enough that I turned off some offsite backups to S3 and I’ll trust those to CrashPlan. Not everything, the critical stuff goes to Amazon S3 too but is relatively small.

Update Dec 3rd: The latest CrashPlan update is included in Trail Log #66. A few hiccups bit going well.]