anders tonfeldt

Offline remote backups
2014-05-26 09:17

I've got 1.1 TB of data that I mirror and backup every single day. This is data that would cripple me, either professionally or emotionally, if lost. No, it doesn't contain the bloated dvdrip collection I made since we've found we rarely use it at all.. and it took me two months to rip our entire dvd collection. Even with automation. Good grief that was time wasted.

It doesn't include our music files, all carefully ripped from the merged cd collection when Becka and I moved in together, all stored in flac of course. No, we never use that, not since Spotify.

So what exactly does it contain if it's that large? Photos taken after the advent of digital cameras, and scans of photos even older still. Videos of birthdays, Christmas dinners, etc. That means the only visual motion medium record of my father and grandfather since they've both passed. If I were to lose those.. All the code, websites, games, applications, writing and projects in general I've created during my 27 year stint with computers.

Google Drive's new pricing is.. tempting. 1TB for $9.99 per month is pretty much perfect with some slimming down. Unfortunately, the time it would take to make the initial backup to Drive's slow as molasses servers was just too daunting, if you factor in how many changes there will be to the archive during the weeks it'll take to upload it and you're left with pure frustration.

You might call some of us paranoid about not wanting Google to search through, digest and then hand out our private, financial data to foreign intelligence agencies. But you damn well should be paranoid about criminal elements doing the same, especially since people have a nasty habit of leaving sensitive information like credit card numbers in plain-text files.

I've cleaned up the shattered remains of people's digital and financial existences after a completely harmless third party site, let's say a forum about soccer, was hacked. The attackers checked what e-mails were being used for the accounts, oh hey look, a e-mail. Then they cracked the password hashes, which is extremely simple to do these days if the password is weak. Then like the snap of your fingers they had access to my mate's Google account. Not because Google was hacked, not because the soccer site was somehow nefarious. But because the person maintaining the forum wasn't that security savvy and my mate used the same password for every bloody site.

Encryption, heavy encryption, isn't just for the paranoid but for the people who are willing to be a little inconvenienced every day and in return avoid having their lives ruined by identity theft when the day comes. EncFS has major problems that they're hoping to solve for v2. But it works right now, it can be used right now. It's free and is compatible with all file-based cloud services, drive, dropbox, box, etc. You should already be using it.

So just how did I end up making backups? My local server does a mirroring of the backup archives to a separate disc every night, this disc is encrypted with EncFS. The disc rests in an open usb-cradle on my desk. Whenever I leave home I pop the disc out, plop it into a rubber protective case and deposit it in a safe, secure location outside of my home.

It's an off-site, complete backup that is encrypted to the point where the sun would burn out before anyone manages to decipher it in case they happened to stumble across the disc. I'm safe from the eventual fire striking our apartment, burglaries are covered. But it's a pain in the arse and requires absolute discipline whenever you plan to leave home. That one time you say "meh, nothing will happen" and leave the disc at home. That's when it will happen.

I will be making a couple of follow-up posts with how-tos on, well, how to actually implement this in the most frictionless way I've found. The one thing you should start doing right now, this very second, is simply: use different passwords for all of your online accounts. All of them. KeePassX will help you do that, and there's LastPass for the less suspicious. Start there.


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