By now you know that if you are going to be going paperless, backing up your documents is critically important. At the very least I recommend having a local backup on an external hard drive, but ideally you should have at least two backups: one local, and one offsite.
For offsite backup, using an online backup provider is becoming more and more popular, but what do you do if you don’t want your data stored on some company’s server somewhere?
I have a friend in that situation, so we decided to use one of the free features of CrashPlan: it allows you to do encrypted backups to a friend or family member’s computer.
Here’s what we did: I gave him a hard drive to plug in to his computer, he gave me a hard drive to plug into my computer, and then we set Crashplan to backup to each other’s house.
Why Not Just Carry Over A Hard Drive?
A common method of doing offsite backups is to save your stuff to an external hard drive, and then give that hard drive to someone trusted. Then do this on some sort of regular basis. If you ever experience a data loss, you just go get the drive and you are good to go.
The problem with this method for me is that any time something involves manual steps, I know I probably won’t do it consistently. I need things (especially backup) to be automated.
Isn’t CrashPlan Online Backup?
Yes, CrashPlan does have an online backup service called CrashPlan+ (which I do use), but the features I am talking about here are part of the free CrashPlan client software. You can back up to an external hard drive, another computer on your network, or even a friend or family member online.
Seed The Backup
Anyone who has done online backup will be familiar with our first challenge: backing up gigs and gigs of data can take an extremely long time. Neither of us felt like waiting weeks for this to be done, but fortunately we were able to seed the backup first.
What does seed mean? We did the backup first locally. I plugged my drive into my Macbook Pro, created a new backup destination for the drive, selected what I wanted to back up, and then let CrashPlan go to town. Since the drive was connected to my computer, it was very fast. He did the same on his computer.
Exchange the Drives
Once we had both done the local backup, it was time to exchange the drives. Farmhand Ale may or may not have been involved in this, and I think it is safe to say that we were the only ones in the pub that day exchanging hard drives while watching the Top 10 Crazy Hockey Moments Of All Time on TV.
Attach The Archive
Once I had his drive back home, I installed the CrashPlan client software on my Mac Mini and plugged in his drive.
I then fired up the CrashPlan client, logged in with my CrashPlan ID, and then went to Inbound and then Attach an Archive.
It then brought up a dialog box where I could navigate to his drive and the CrashPlan folder:
After that, it added his drive’s backup folder as an Inbound backup source to my CrashPlan, and automatically connected over the Intertubes to his CrashPlan client. After a few minutes, everything was all synchronized up and he could back up to his drive at my house going forward.
He did the same with my drive, and now I can see my drive at his house as a CrashPlan destination:
I Don’t Want My Friend Snooping Through My Stuff!
To be honest, I was really looking forward to poking through my friend’s bank and credit card statements. Unfortunately for me, CrashPlan encrypts everything before upload, which means when I go to look at his drive (and I have), I just see a bunch of nonsense. I can’t actually see his files.
The only downside to doing an automatic online backup to a friend or family’s computer is that the receiving computer needs to be on for this to work. For us that is not a problem because we both have Mac Minis hooked up to our TVs (all hail Plex), but if you don’t have an always-on computer situation, you can go into the CrashPlan settings and control which times you allow backups to be performed and received.
This is one way to do offsite backups to a friend’s place and it is working great for us so far. How about you? I’d love to hear the ways that you do offsite in the comments.
(Photo by heydrienne)