Treat your backups like winter clothing – Layers!!!

Treat your backups like winter clothing – Layers!!!

Happy Holidays All,

The biggest thing most of us will buy is a house and unless you rent, you have lots of control as to what you can do with it.  Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the next biggest thing you may own or will purchase…. your car because of vendor lock-in …. but I’m working on that. Stay tuned.


Besides loved ones, the most valuable thing that you have is your time.  Once time is gone, you can’t get it back or buy more  – almost like your data.  Your data is usually collected and/or created over time so we might say that Time is Data.   So when it comes to your data, treat it like gold.  Whether its your term paper, pictures or emails, recreating any one of those things would be next to impossible if lost.


Let me introduce you to the concept of backups….. with layers!


Having a home network, access to the internet, and friends/family can be the best backup plan simply by using the free plan at  I did think about using Backblaze for a long time but eventually realized they dont backup certain filetypes like iso, vmdk, etc.  The small problem I have with Crashplan is that data is saved in a proprietary format so I can’t rely on it as my ONLY backup.  If this data becomes corrupt, how would I know (except by always performing random restores daily/weekly/monthly)? I dont have time for that!  If Crashplan closes its doors, how can I authenticate and get my data if I need a backup?  Well, it does protect my unlimited amount of data against my house burning down for free by allowing me to backup my data to someone else’s computer (whom I trust) & they can do the same thru my computer.  I guess I’ll now be building a new server to setup at my parents home in NYC now!  Crashplan could be my outer layer 3 (aka my COLD Zone).


Cloud vendor Dropbox is awesome – it gives me near realtime backups of critical data.  If dropbox ever closes it’s doors, my data will still be available locally.  Simple to use and the ability to add space for phree, Dropbox has my vote…. However my 25gb Skydrive and 50gb Box accounts are great free alternatives (especially if you happened to get them free with large upgrades!)  Until something else compelling comes along, read the TOS and encrypt anything that needs to be secured – checkout keepass …And don’t use the same password passPHRASE for all your accounts!  Dropbox is my Layer 2 (aka my Warm Zone).  Consider using TrueCrypt to further encrypt and secure your data on Dropbox.


Another alternative I’m trying to digest is Windows Essentials 2012’s backup offerings.  Thank you Microsoft for allowing us to try Windows 2012 Essentials for 180 days for free!  This should be more than enough time to see if it will become my new “Windows Home Server”.  I’m also not feeling great on the whole AD thing as I moved away from that model for the ease and simplicity using homegroups between all my laptops & desktops.  Stay tuned on this Server Essentials section as I redo my entire network – again.  *sigh* First world problems….. This will be my Layer 1 (aka my HOT Zone).


Sometimes it is necessary to invest some money because I dont have all the time in the world. Yes, I can build my own FREENAS (or build an ubuntu server)  and beat out other off the shelf NAS’s with an old computer I have around here but 1- I dont want to use old equipment because its not built to be eco-power friendly and 2- the longevity of said equipment is unknown and I dont want to be doing this again anytime soon.   My backups need to be reliable in more ways than 1.  So let’s discuss NAS devices…..


As it turns out, one piece of equipment that I am thinking of nixing from my plan is a cheap NAS (like those from Synology, QNAP, Iomega or Lacie in order of preference).  I work with enterprise class SAN’s which run over iscsi…. they cost THOUSANDS of dollars because they are redundant everywhere… power supplies, drives, spare standby drives, fans, processors, etc. I like iscsi and thought it’d be cool if I could backup data to a NAS over iscsi from windows server 2012 essentials and have it be accessible thru the NAS’s web interface.  The iscsi connection would probably not be seen as an external drive and thus could be backed up to an online vendor.  Depending on the way the data is presented to the NAS over iscsi, the NAS will not ‘see’ the data as individual files and thus cannot present or serve the data.  A NAS device in this case would be acting as a block device and not as a SMB/CIFS share.  I guess I’ll save some electricity and try Windows Server Essentials 2012’s media sharing & see how that goes.

Additionally, a problem with using a NAS, the data now must be accessed over a proprietary device and it’s internal controllers.  If those controllers die, goodbye data (though I’ve heard of some NAS devices that are using Linux.  Simply moving the drives to a Linux machine would allow the data to be extracted).


To sum things up…. The plan must be simple & automatic.

Layer 0 is the actual data sitting on my client machines – like Raid 0, there’s no inherent redundancy here, except for perhaps having Raid 1 or higher, but Raid is not backup!

HOT zone – Layer 1 was going to be a NAS device but I’ll trial Windows Server 2012 Essentials instead.

WARM zone – Layer 2 is Dropbox, a simple cloud based backup for critical data.

COLD zone – Layer 3 will be crashplan


DMAC TECHNOLOGY GROUP has backup options for your computers and servers including:


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