Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Trying to use Carbon Copy Cloner with a Network Drive

This effort to find a solution for backing up my hard drive in the Cloud has proven to be much more difficult than I even anticipated. At least it gives me material for my blog.

In this installment of my quest, I try to use Carbon Copy Cloner to back up my files to the Network Drive in the Cloud, but run into more problems. So I go looking for a different back-up program.

In my last blog I described how Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) had deleted most of the backup I had made by using the Finder and Fetch to copy the files from my hard drive to the off-site file storage service I had selected ( Online Storage Solution (OLS-CS) ). Nevertheless, I knew that the fault was mine for checking off an option in the program that caused CCC to do what it did. So I decided after a day of gathering my composure to continue on with Carbon Copy Cloner. I figured I had learned my lesson and hopefully would not make a mistake like that again.

So I restarted the backup of the Desktop folder using CCC. First CCC made a tally of changes that had been made since the last time it did a backup of the folder. The scanning of the 5500 files took less than a minute. Then it proceeded to backup the files. It finished the backup of the Desktop folder in three hours and forty minutes, but it reported a lot of errors. I guessed that this was due to connection problems with the Network Drive.

So I immediately reran the backup. This time the backup took over five hours (I’m not sure exactly how long because I was in bed asleep when it finished.) I assume that the time involved largely has to do with the connection speed I was able to get over the course of the backup. Again there were a lot of errors, but there were about half as many as the time before. This was promising. That told me that once the file was copied successfully, the next time I ran the backup, that file wasn’t touched. Where there was an error during copying however, the files were replaced on the next backup with a good copy of the file.

So I reran the backup again. This time it took three hours, and there were only 19 errors. Again, I reran it. Again it took three hours, and this time there were only 8 errors.

The next time I reran it, I came back to it after five hours. In that time it had only copied 243 MB, maybe ⅛ of the files it indicated it was going to copy during this run. In other words, it had stalled. There were no indications of errors or problems. I guess the connection to the Network Drive had been dropped, and CCC had been sitting there spinning its wheels ever since.

So one more time, I restarted the CCC backup. It ran overnight and finished at 10 in the morning. It had copied about 2 GB and finished with two errors. I guess I can live with that.

But now I got back to thinking about my Documents folder, with the 55,000 files totaling about 30GB. If I had had that much of a struggle to get 5,500 files copied from my Desktop folder, what was it going to be like to get ten times as many files copied?

What to try next?

I went back to the research I had done on the back-up programs that are out there.

The one program that promised to work with a Network Drive was xTwin. Even though it costs USD$99, it does have a seven-day trial. So I thought I’d give it a shot.

Defining the source, the files and folders to be copied, was not that much different than any of the other backup programs. But when I went to define the destination, there was immediately a big difference compared to any of the other programs. Once I let the program know that I wanted to back up to a Network Drive, there were all kinds of questions I needed to answer about how the connection was to be made. I had to choose between seven different protocols (AFP, SMB, HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, FTPS, or SFTP), and enter the required login data.

Connecting with OLS-CS, you use the HTTPS (Secure WebDAV) protocol.

Once I had let the program know what I wanted to do, I clicked on the “Start backup” icon. It reported that it would be backing up 33,279 files or 29.43 GB. It’s estimated time to complete the task: 22 - 24 hours. The console window shows your progress as it completes its task, updating the estimated time to complete as it goes. It also gives the speed it is able to accomplish as it copies the files. I was seeing anywhere from 50 to 425 kiloBytes per second.

The Downside

When I looked at the Finder window to see the progress that was being made copying the files to the Network Drive (and to make sure the files were being copied to the right place this time and that no files were being deleted), I came to fully understand how xTwin works. To quote from their FAQ page:

The backup data stored by xTwin is compatible with open standard technologies (CPIO or CPGZ archives, split files, Open SSL encryption…), and does not use proprietary formats, so you can still access your backup data without xTwin if you ever needed to.

In another part of the FAQ they say:

Keep in mind that xTwin is a backup solution, not a file-sharing solution. However, it is very easy to access the contents of a backup on another computer than the one it was generated from, as long as you have a copy of xTwin also installed on this computer.

What xTwin does is break up the files on your hard drive into chunks. You can set the size of the chunks, or let xTwin set the size. If a file is smaller than the chunk size selected, the file may be combined with other files to create a file of the set chunk size. Then those chunks are sent over the internet to the Network Drive. You can even set up xTwin to send more than one chunk at a time to speed up copy speed.

You then need a program (like xTwin) if you ever want to retrieve one of your files. Or, if you know how, you can use the Terminal to open your file.

So, what I learned that this indeed was the most reliable and efficient way to copy my files to my off-site storage. However, once they were copied (and xTwin can do incremental backups), I could not get to them on my iDevices. I could only get to them by running a program like xTwin that would be able to restore them to their original form.

So to summarize:

Using the Finder and FTP is slow and cumbersome and doesn’t lend itself to incremental backups.

Using FoldersSynchronizer, Personal Backup, and Carbon Copy Cloner, while each has pluses and minuses, is slow and cumbersome and has lots of problems working with an off-site Network Drive because of dropped connections.

Using xTwin is very reliable, but doesn’t leave the files in a form that allows for access from my iDevices.

So now I’m at the point where I need to decide what way to go from here. There is still the option of copying everything to an external drive and putting it in a safe deposit box. Or I could just forego having an off-site backup altogether. That, however, is not the best solution, in my opinion. I still want off-site backup, and I still want to be able to get to my files from my iDevices. Stay tuned.