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Tag: backup

Protecting Your Digital Assets

Posted by JaimeDavis at 9:03 AM on August 8, 2012

Two FactorMat Honan’s story (as covered by Todd in the latest podcast) showed me that the strongest password in the world is worth nothing if it can be reset by a straightforward social engineering-based attack. I’m sure Apple and Amazon will be looking hard at their policies and procedures but for the individual, there’s also much to learn from the episode.

i) Two-factor authentication. There’s no doubt that this is a good thing and I enabled it on my Gmail account last night. Turning it on is easy, but it’s a pain in the ass for the first few hours as you re-login to all your Google-based services. With several regularly used PCs, email clients and umpteen mobile devices, it takes a bit of time to get them all setup correctly. Touch wood, now that I’ve been through the re-login process, things are largely back to normal.

ii) Backup, backup, backup. For at least part of the story, Mat is entirely to blame. If there’s only one copy of any piece of data, it might as well not exist. Never mind hackers; theft, damage and accidental deletion make it all too easy to lose data, especially with mobile devices. Disk space is cheap, so even if you have just one PC, have a working set of folders, a backup set of folders and also make copies on a regular basis to a USB drive, which you disconnect from your PC when not in use and preferably store somewhere else.

iii) It’s your data. Convenient as “the cloud” is, remember it’s your data and your responsibility to keep it safe. If you push information directly to the cloud, don’t forget to include this information in your backup routine. Google has tools to download data from its services. Or don’t bother with someone else’s cloud and build your own, using a PogoPlug or similar.

iv) Download email using POP3. I use web-based Gmail and IMAP-enabled apps to manage my email and if email is deleted from Gmail…poof, it’s all gone. By using a POP3 email client like Thunderbird, you can have a copy on your PC as well.

v) Spread the load. Convenient as it might be to have all your eggs in one basket, either with Apple or Google, consider spreading your digital assets across different services, e.g. email on Gmail, work files on Dropbox, personal files on Box, photos on Flickr. If someone does compromise one of your accounts, all is not lost in one go. But don’t use the same password across all the systems.

vi) Remote kill-switch. The ability to kill mobile devices remotely is very handy if they are stolen but there’s a risk that the kill-switch can get into the wrong hands as in this case. However, the benefits probably outweigh the risks in that you are far more likely to lose your device than be hacked, so it’s perhaps better to focus on minimising the fall-out from both physical loss and a remote wipe.

There’s certainly plenty of food for thought there and even if you only take on one or two of the suggestions above, you’ll make yourself much harder to attack while lessening the impact.

Picture courtesy of Brian Ronald.

Arq and Backup Solution for the Mac

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 12:47 PM on May 4, 2012

Arq Having a good backup system both locally and offsite is important for anyone with a computer. Once you have decide to use a cloud backup the first problem you face is the overwhelming number of options. There are two broad category of backups, manual and automatic. Services like Dropbox or Google Drive are what I call manual backups, in that they require you to physically drop a file or folder into them. An automatic backup system is just that, you choose the files/folders you want to back up and the system you choose backs up those files automatically either at a specific time or interval. There are a couple of things I look for in a backup system: first is it easy to use, second when I recover a file do I get back what I put in, third is the cost, and finally is it trust no one(TNO) compliant. The idea behind TNO is that you and only you has access to your content including your password and keys.

The solution I have found is called Arq after trying Backblaze, Carbonite, and Jungle Disk. Arq falls into second category of backups in that the backup happens automatically once you have set it up.
I first heard about Arq on Security Now Episode #351: Back To The Cloud. Arq is a Mac only backup solution, although there is an app available to view the files on iOS. Arq runs on Amazon S3 and does require you to sign up for the Amazon Web Service
Once you sign up it will give you an access key id, secret access key and you also have to provide a password. Make sure you keep a copy of all these, neither Arq nor Amazon can recover them for you (I use 1password for this purpose). Although this can be inconvenient it makes Arq TNO compliant. There is a 30 day trial, during the trial you pay only for the Amazon S3 fees After 30 days if you decide to continue to use it there is a $29.00 one time licensing fee. Amazon S3 fees are $1.25 $12.5 cents/GB or $.93 9.3 cents/GB for reduce redundancy storage. They also bill you for outgoing transfers. Outgoing transfers are free up to 1GB/month, from 1GB/month to 10/GB it is .120 per GB and so on. The price per GB goes down the more GBs you use. This is one of the things I like about Arq you are only paying for what you are using instead of a flat fee. As part of the sign up process Arq will ask how much you want to budget for backup starting in $5.00 increments. You put in the dollar amount you want to spend and it will tell you how much that will backup. If you are about to go over your budgeted amount Arq will automatically delete the oldest files. Arq does version backup similar to Time Machine, so it will always keep at least two versions of a backup.

You can choose which files/folders you want to back up and you can exclude specific files by name. You can back up from a network attach storage drive. It doesn’t delete backups from network storage devices even if you remove those devices from your network. If you can see it in the Finder menu it will back it up. In fact when I first start the backup process I noticed it was backing up my Dropbox folder, which I quickly unchecked. It does not care what type of file you are backing up. Arq allows you to back up automatically every hour at a specific time during that hour, you can schedule a backup once a day or you can do a manual back up and have it only back up when you tell it too. You can control the transfer rate, either maximum, automatic which will throttle the speed if you are transferring something else over the Internet or a fix transfer rate at a specific KB per second. If you want you can get a Growl notification when a backup is completed. Plus you can have Arq start-up on login, show on the menu bar and prevent your computer from sleeping when backing up.

To restore a file or folder you simply highlight it and then either click restore, which restores it to a folder labeled Arq folder or you can drag and drop the folder/file on to the Finder Window. I did a test restore on an image and it worked great, the image and all the metadata restored perfectly.

I have only been using Arq for a day now but so far I really like it. It was easy to set up, I like the fact it is TNO compliant and I like the cost. If you want to share the files with someone this is not the solution you are looking for. However if you are on a Mac and are looking for a good, secure backup solution I do recommend trying Arq.

Correction: made on Amazon fees 18:55 May 4

Dolly Drive Cloud Backup for Time Machine

Posted by Andrew at 8:55 AM on February 17, 2012

Dolly Drive Time Machine Cloud DriveApple’s Time Machine has been a lifesaver for many people, especially when they’ve accidentally deleted an important file. However, it doesn’t protect against fire, flood or theft when everything is lost. Enter Dolly Drive, a Time Machine-compatible cloud-based backup service.

Available as a subscription service based on data usage, Dolly Drive looks like another Time Machine target to OS X and once setup, will store revisions and changes to the cloud, giving the security of off-site backup.

Included as part of the deal, subscribers are sent a hard drive via courier to return and seed their Dolly Drive for the first time. This avoids a lengthy upload over broadband when the service is first started and the whole disk is copied.

Prices start at $5 per month for 50 GB but a more representative subscription is $10 pcm for 250 GB. As a bonus, 5 GB is added each month for free.

Interview by Andy McCaskey and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Backup City for Tokyo

Posted by Andrew at 8:58 AM on November 3, 2011

Picture by Morio

The Japanese Government is taking contingency planning to a whole new level by proposing to build a backup city for Tokyo. Situated 300 miles to the west of Tokyo on an old airport, it would have capacity for 50,000 residents and space for 200,000 workers.

At the time of a disaster the capital would move to this new city so that Japan could continue to function. The city is currently codenamed IRTBBC, or Integrated Resort, Tourism, Business and Backup City and will include buildings for all the key government functions, such as parliament and ministries but will also have general office space and entertainment complexes. It’s also planned to have the world’s tallest skyscraper at 652 m.

Hajime Ishii, a member of the ruling Democratic Party, said, “The idea is being able to have a back-up, a spare battery for the functions of the nation, isn’t this a really good idea?

Err, yes, but wouldn’t it be more cost-effective to find a way to re-purpose existing structures in another city in the time of emergency, much like cruise ships used to be re-purposed as hospital ships?

Check File Copies with Linux Scripts

Posted by Andrew at 6:22 AM on October 17, 2011

OpenSuSE logoFor several years, I’ve had an original Buffalo LinkStation NAS as my main fileserver. Being on 24×7, it’s gone through several fans and at least one hard disk, but it’s now time to retire it in favour of a LinkStation Duo which will give me more space, RAID capabilities and faster transfer speeds.

Naturally, as my main fileserver, it’s backed up. However when I copy the files to the new Duo, how do I know that they’ve all copied correctly and none have been missed? There are hundreds of thousands of files and checking each one by hand would be pointless.

Linux has lots of tools that tell me how much disk space is used, such as du, df and filelight, but they don’t always report back consistently between filesystems. Mostly for reasons of speed, they report the total size of the file blocks used to store a file and as block sizes can vary between filesystems, the total number of blocks used for a set of files will be different. For example, I have two folder sets that I know are identical and du -s on one reports 210245632 and on the other 209778684.

Fortunately, there’s an extra command line flag that will change the behaviour to take longer and sum the actual bytes. In this case, du -sb will return 214813009920 bytes on both filesystems. On the whole, I can be reasonably confident that if the total number of bytes used is the same between two filesystems, then all the files have copied correctly.

But what if the total number of bytes don’t match? How can I find the missing or truncated file? After thinking and tinkering, what I want is to get a list of files with each filesize from the old and new filesystems and then compare the two. And here’s how you do it (each section here goes on one line).

find /home/old_folder -type f -printf '%s %p\n' |
sed 's/\/home\/old_folder\///' | sort > old.txt
find /home/new_folder -type f -printf '%s %p\n' |
sed 's/\/home\/new_folder\///' | sort > new.txt
diff -wy --suppress-common-lines old.txt new.txt

If you aren’t used to Linux, this can look a bit scary, but it’s not really. The first two lines create the text files with all the files and the third line compares the two. The the first two lines are much the same in that they do the same commands but on different filesystems. There are three sections, find to list all the files, sed to chop the directory path off, and sort to get all the files in some sort of order. Here are some explanations.

find – finds files
/some/folder – where to start finding files
-type f – only interested in files (not directories or links)
-printf ‘%s %p\n’ – only print the filesize (%s) and the full pathname (%p) on each line (\n)

sed – processes text
‘s/x/y/’ – means replace x with y. In our instance, it’s replacing the leading folder path with nothing. It looks worse than it is because the slashes in the path need to be escaped by a preceeding backslash, so you get these \/s everywhere.

sort – sorts text
> file.txt – copy everything into a text file.

One of the clever things about Unix-like operating systems is that you can pass information from one command to another using a pipe. That’s represented by the | symbol, so the find command gets the information on files and files sizes, passes it to sed to tidy up which then in turn passes it on to sort before sending it to a file.

After running this set of commands on the old and new filesystems, all that needs done is to compare the files. Let’s look at the third and final command.

diff – compares files line-by-line
-w – ignore whitespace (spaces and tabs)
-y - compare files side-by-side
–suppress-common-lines – ignore lines that are the same
old.txt new.txt – the two files to compare

So what might the output of the diff be? If all the files copied correctly, you’d get absolutely nothing. Other possibilities are that the file partially copied or didn’t copy at all. Here’s what the output might be like.

598 i386/compdata/epson3.txt | 500 i386/compdata/epson3.txt
598 i386/compdata/onstream.txt <

The numbers at the beginning of the entry are the number of bytes, so the first line shows that the epson3.txt is only 500 bytes long in the new file but 598 in the old. The second line shows that onstream.txt is present in the old file but not in the new, as the arrow points to the old file.

To close the story, did I find that I had lost any files? Yes, I did. I discovered a couple of small files that hadn’t copied at all because of non-standard characters in their filenames. The filenames were acceptable to Windows but not Linux and I’d used my Linux PC to do the copying. Fortunately, the files were saved and all the scripting was worth it.

Read more on Linux at Geek News Central.

Five Backup Solutions to the Cloud for Your Computer

Posted by MikeBaine at 11:30 AM on September 21, 2011

In this computer day and age, you want to make sure pictures, documents and more are backed up on a daily basis. Especially with hard drives that fail every day and notebooks that get stolen every day. Even if you get your stolen computer back, the thieves might have done damage like wiping the hard drive or dropping the machine altogether.

I back up my machines to different sources. I have 2 home backups and one cloud backup. The cloud backup can also be a great way to share pictures through an iPhone, Android or iPad application. Nonetheless, if my computer drive dies, if there is fire or water damage, if someone steals my computer, I don’t lose the data.

Advantages to Cloud Based Backup

  • Off-site data retention
  • access to data from multiple computers or mobile devices
  • software that will start backing up files when computer is idle
  • High encryption on backup
  • Cloud based service runs their own backups – Your data gets backed up by them, too!
  • Prices are low – There are some services that are free to a certain level.
So here are Five cloud backup solutions you can employ now:

MyPCBackup

My PC Backup

My PC Backup

MyPCBackup was ranked #1 by Top 10 Online Backups. With unlimited backup, you can make sure all your pictures, documents and more are safe. They have an option to sync multiple computers through a folder on the machine.  They also offer a money back option and full customer support.

Mac users won’t be able to use this program, which is a major downfall to this program. The “1 PC, 1 Mac” per household ratio is growing. There is also no mobile application so you can view your backup files.

Carbonite Online Backup

Carbonite Online Backup

Carbonite Online Backup

One of the more popular online backup systems is Carbonite, this unlimited backup lets you view your files from any computer, or through an iPhone, Blackberry or Android application.  Carbonite also has accidental deletion option, which means if you delete a file that was backed up, you have 30 days to restore it.

Carbonite also works on PC and Mac systems. Therefore, you could backup all your items from the old computer, switch the program to Mac and download the files. There is full customer support if needed.

Mozy Online Backup

Mozy Online Backup

Mozy Online Backup

Mozy online backup is also a PC or Mac backup. You can access your data from an iPhone and Android (no Blackberry) application. They also offer on-site backup, which means you can set up a USB hard drive and Mozy will backup to that as well. Full support and they also offer the ability to restore a file up to 30 days after deleted.

Mozy does not offer unlimited backup, though. $5.99 /month  for 50 GB and $9.99 for 125 GB. For a standard computer, you might not fill that spot – unless you take tons of pictures or create video like myself.

DropBox

Dropbox

Dropbox

You might not think of Dropbox as a online backup. However, with their open API, there are a lot of things that Dropbox can become. You can use it to sync with other computers, so it’s a great collaborative tool.

Keep in mind, it doesn’t tout itself as an online backup. You do get some great options, like short-term backup recovery.

They do have a free service for the first 2 GB, then pricing options after.

iBackup

iBackup

iBackup

iBackup is a backup for not only PCs and Macs, but also Servers. You can also back up your MySQL, Linux box Exchange, Oracle and iPhone. Therefore, it’s a full corporate backup solution. It gets pricey fast, but if you need 1.5 Terabytes of data that has to be backed up, this is a great solution.

They also have a “30 version” backup – If you change a document 29 times, then realize you need to start from the beginning, you can go into your account and pull up the first version. That can help if someone messes up a document and you don’t realize it right away.

There are  other online backup options, too. This includes items like PogoPlug or Drobo, where the files are stored at your home site. Elephantdrive, Livedrive, KeepIT are some other online backup tools.

Since it’s your data, you should research each program and see if it’s right for you. But if you have important data and need to back it up, then these options might help you with that solution.

There are also some great software solutions if you want to backup your computer to another computer. If you are on a Mac, then Time Machine is a feature you can set. Everything from backing up folders to making a full image of your computer to restore at a moments notice.

Most important – Back it up now, because you never know if you’ll get a chance to back it up later.

The Simple Functionality that DirecTV Still Lacks

Posted by Alan at 6:38 PM on May 8, 2011

directv logoA few days ago I had a DirecTV HR23 box go belly-up.  I awoke one morning to the smell of melted plastic.  I didn’t open the box, so I don’t know what went wrong, but it was obviously something bad.  Despite having no LED lights on the front panel there was still power – although it wouldn’t even try to boot up.  But, as long as the power cord was plugged in, the smell and a chirping sound (which probably was from the hard drive) continued.

DirecTV has always had excellent customer service, at least in my experiences.  This was no exception – they were ready to send me a new HR23 via priority shipping.  The box arrived in two days, along with a paid label to send back the old DVR.

Setup is simple – just plug in the old connections that are already in place.  Of course, you need to call DirecTV to activale the box, but that isn’t a big deal either.  It’s after that step that you see where DirecTV, and every other DVR (as far as I know), are lacking.

What do these cable and satellite companies need to add?  Backing up all of your recorded shows would be nice, but we have seen how difficult a netwrked DVR has been for Cablevision.  What I noticed when re-setting-up my HR23 was a glaring lack for backup of personal settings.  I had to, once again, add all of my season passes, set my video preferences, re-enable my network settings, etc.

Is it too much to ask that all of these personal settings be backed up by the provider?  Or at east that they provide a path for backing them up locally to a networked PC?  After all, the HR23 has ethernet and shows up on our home network.  It seems like a simple update to add backup of personal settings.  More importnantly to the providers, it doesn’t seem like anything that would cause them to end up in court.

This seems like a minor addition to the software package of any TV provider.  Still, it doestn’t seem to be mentioned by anyone as an update that is on the roadmap.  I know that I would seriously consider moving to one that decides to add it.

 

Clickfree Automatic Backup

Posted by Andrew at 10:46 PM on February 8, 2011

Andy McCaskey invites Ian Collins of Clickfree into the booth to talk about ClickFree’s automatic backup solution. I think all of us know that we’re supposed to backup our hard drives and memory cards, but how many of us actually do it? Not many going by the number of times friends have phoned me up to see if I can undelete files or recover hard drives that have gone south.

Clickfree provide “the ultimate backup experience”, a combination of idiot-proof software and external USB harddrives which makes backing up and restoring files absolutely painless. No software is installed, it’s that easy.

And if you couldn’t even be bothered to plug in a USB drive, Clickfree have released a wireless version of their backup solution, the C3 Wireless Automatic Backup. Connect the unit to each PC, laptop (or Mac) in turn to initialise the software and settings, then simply leave it connected up to the power on a shelf and it does it’s business. 500 GB costs $179, 1 TB is $249. What price peace of mind?

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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Iomega SuperHero Backup and Charger for iPhone and iPod Touch

Posted by Andrew at 10:00 AM on January 22, 2011

As smartphones get more powerful with more storage, the possibility of losing something important when your phone is misplaced or stolen, gets ever greater.   And it’s not really business documents that are important, it’s your photos that are really irreplaceable.

Iomega‘s new SuperHero Backup and Charger for iPhone and iPod Touch can help with this problem. It’s a charging cradle that also backups up contacts and photos to the included 4GB SD card (which can be upgraded by the user, if needed). An Iomega backup and restore application is available from the iTunes store. It’s especially useful for those people who never sync their iPhone to their Mac.

Available from the end of January for $69.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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A Cheap, Simple Backup Solution

Posted by Alan at 3:59 PM on August 25, 2010

It may not be the latest and greatest, state-of-the-art in computer backup technology, but my solution for this very-necessary process is cheap and fairly easy to set up for the intermediate to advanced computer user.  And it’s been working flawlessly for the past 2 years.

It starts with having an old desktop PC laying around.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, in fact, mine was an old XP machine with a Celeron processor and 384MB of RAM.  And that’s more than powerful enough for what I used it for.  The system requirements are actually:

  • Motherboard with x86 processor
  • 192 MB RAM
  • 32 MB free disk space
  • Network card
  • BIOS that supports bootable CD-ROMs

First I pulled the old 40GB hard drive out of the PC and replaced it with three 750GB drives.  It helps to have a good sized tower case, but with 1.5TB drives now available cheap, a standard two bay case is fine for most users.  Let me just point out here that this step is the ONLY one that costs any money at all.  And it will cost you only as much as you want to pay for the drives.  You can add a second or third later also, so you don’t have to do this part all at once.

Next I went to FreeNAS and downloaded the latest build of the software.  At the time that was version 0.69.  It is now 0.71, but I have had no need to upgrade and I don’t foresee one in the future.  FreeNAS isn’t like Windows or Mac OSX – you don’t need to keep up with the releases.  Once you’re up and running you are good to go for years.

If you aren’t familiar with FreeNAS then let me explain just a bit.  It’s a free, open-source operating system that…well, I’ll let them explain:

FreeNAS is an embedded open source NAS (Network-Attached Storage) distribution based on FreeBSD, supporting the following protocols: CIFS (samba), FTP, NFS, TFTP, AFP, RSYNC, Unison, iSCSI (initiator and target) and UPnP.

It supports Software RAID (0,1,5), ZFS, disk encryption, S.M.A.R.T/email monitoring with a WEB configuration interface (from m0n0wall).

FreeNAS can be installed on Compact Flash/USB key, hard drive or booted from LiveCD.

It’s obviously the hard-drive installation that you will want to do.  Install it on your primary drive.  It does not take very much space as you probably already guessed from the “32MB of hard drive space” system requirement.  For the installation you will need to hook up a monitor and keyboard to the PC.  Don’t worry if you have only one each of these.  You’ll just be borrowing it for the installation.  Once you’re done then you can hook them back up to your desktop PC.  Don’t bother with a mouse – FreeNAS is a keyboard-only interface.  I used this excellent tutorial to walk me through it.  It looks intimidating at first glance, but once you get started and follow each step it really isn’t that bad.

Once  it’s up and running you can disconnect your monitor and keyboard and return to your regular desktop PC or laptop.  Now access to the FreeNAS box will be from any web browser on any computer on your network.  I recommend setting the IP address of the FreeNAS to always be the same, even if you reboot your router.  It’s not necessary, but it sure makes life a little easier.

You will access FreeNAS by opening a web browser and typing it’s IP address in – for instance mine is 192.168.0.9.  Here you’ll be greeted with the status screen.  Click on the image below to see the full size version.

You will need to make sure that you configure each hard drive in your FreeNAS box to UFS (under Disks=>Format).  Create a Mount point for each one (under Disks=>Mount Point).  You can also set the IP address (under Network=>LAN).  You may also want to allow FTP access (under Access=>FTP).  This is handy because it allows you access to your files from a remote location.  I even carry a USB key on my keychain that has a portable version of FileZilla (free) on it that is all set up to access my FreeNAS so that I can do so from someone else’s computer.

Once all of this is up and running the way you want then it’s time for the last step – automatic backup.  There are several programs you can use for this step, but my choice is SyncBack SE.  SyncBack provides paid versions, but the link I put here is to the freeware version which does everything I need.  You can compare and make your own choice though.

Once you have installed SyncBack you can begin setting your automatic backup.  This is how I set mine up, but it’s certainly not the only way.

I created a separate profile for each backup – Documents Backup, Music Backup, Pictures Backup, etc.  Set each profile to run between the folder where your files are stored and a folder you create on a drive on the FreeNAS box.  By the way, creating folders on the drives of your FreeNAS is the same as on a Windows Hard Drive.  Access the FreeNAS drive in Network, double click the drive and create a folder.  Make sure the profiles you create in SyncBack are set to run in Backup mode NOT Sync mode.  This is important.  If you accidentally delete a file locally you do not want it to be deleted from the backup or else this is pointless.  Yes, if you really want to delete a file you have to delete it twice – locally and on FreeNAS, but that way accidents don’t happen.  I set each backup profile to run in the middle of the night – one at 2am, one at 3am, etc.

One additional thing I have done with SyncBack, and this certainly isn’t necessary, is setting up a Documents Sync profile between the My Documents folder on my desktop and the one on my laptop.  I set this profile to run every 10 minutes between 6am and 12 midnight.  Yes, the computers are shared and it’s not hard to access one from the other, but it’s even quicker to just click the Documents link on the Start menu.  Plus it ensures that when we take our laptop on the road we always leave with the latest copies of all of our files – even the one that was just created on the desktop right before we went out the door.  Click the image below to see it full-size.

That’s it for all of the setup.  If you would like to see a better walk through of how I set up SyncBack then I wrote one here.  I hope a few of you will find this useful and set up your own versions.  It’s a fun day playing around with some different types of software.