How to run CrashPlan 4.3 on a NAS (after the update “broke” it)

CrashPlanThis is somewhat off-topic on this blog, but hey, I’m not gonna start a new blog for this.

Problem

Here’s the problem that I’m addressing in this post: since a couple of weeks, when CrashPlan 4.3 was released (and apparently updated itself automatically on my machines), I haven’t been able to connect to the CrashPlan installation on my NAS (a ReadyNAS Ultra 2). Whenever I started the CrashPlanDesktop.exe that is supposed to connect to the CrashPlan engine running headless on the NAS it just got stuck on the CrashPlan splash screen and nothing happened. The CrashPlan-engine itself was running fine and was doing its backup jobs as it always did. But I couldn’t access the interface anymore as I have done for years before. If you’re reading this, you probably know what I’m talking about because you have a similar issue.

If you are looking for instructions how to install CrashPlan on a NAS, this is not the post for you. This post assumes that all that has already been done a long time ago. If you want to get started, I suggest to google and make sure you find a post that is explicitly written for CrashPlan version 4.3 or later, precisely to avoid the kinds of issues that this post deals with. (Personally, I followed these instructions at the time, but they may be obsolete now)

So if you’re still reading on, you may also already have have found some information about how to fix this issue on the Synology NAS, but if you have a ReadyNAS like me, you can’t be sure that following those steps will actually help you. And I thought that it was a pretty complicated procedure, I tried to find a more promising way.

This comment by user sarme gave me hope that there is an easy way out: it simply stated that all s/he needed to do was “to copy the token from “‘/var/lib/crashplan/.ui_info’ and put it into ‘C:\ProgramData\CrashPlan\.ui_info'”. This is indeed very easy, but I was unsure whether I should just go ahead and do it, since the files in the ProgramDate\CrashPlan folder were obviously used by the local crashplan installation on my PC too, while I was just trying to fix the one on the NAS. And since there was all kinds of other information out there, especially that you’d need to identify which ports your headless CrashPlan is running on, it still took me a while to solve things. Now it’s fixed (as far as I can see) and that’s why I’m writing this post.

Solution

So what I needed to do to fix things was indeed to simply copy the content of “/var/lib/crashplan/.ui_info” on your NAS into “C:\ProgramData\CrashPlan\.ui_info” on your PC. It’s just a 41 character string in plain text. Now, the first problem I faced was that I couldn’t find the .ui_info because I didn’t see that it was in “C:\ProgramData…” and not “C:\Program Files\…”  (It was late at night). But of course that would never happen to you, so just forget about it.

Next thing was: careful as I am, I wanted to rename the existing .ui_info on my PC and create a new one with the token from the NAS, but Windows doesn’t seem to allow me to create a file starting with a dot (for windows, it’s just a file-type without a file name). So I ended up making a copy of the file as a backup and then opening the .ui_info in Notepad++, deleting what was in it and pasting in the token from the .ui_info on the NAS.

Next problem: I couldn’t save the file because it was being accessed by another program. So I had to completely close down CrashPlan on my PC (including the CrashPlantray.exe)  and then I was able to save.

When I then started the CrashPlanDesktop.exe (the one configured to connect to my NAS, not the one for my PC) it immediately connected as it should and I was relieved.

Open questions

I am still not sure what exactly happened, especially, I’m surprised that CrashPlan apparently managed to update itself on my NAS without me doing anything. And I also don’t understand what this thing about having to take care of the ports now is all about. Why was I able to solve things without doing anything related to ports? In fact, when I looked for the app.log file as described here, I did not even find it. Anyway, I’m not worried as long as things are working again. Just curious.

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Bitcasa? – Not yet!

bitcasa-logoCrashPlan Bitcasa is definitely a game changer. It offers infinite (!) cloud storage mapped as a drive on your computer (just like SugarSync are now doing with Sugarsynch Drive) for 99 US$ per year. Accessible from anywhere with internet access. I mean: what more do I need to say…

The reason for this quick blog post is that Bitcasa currently have an opening special offer where you can get the whole thing for 69 US$. Apparently until the end of February. However: having tested Bitcasa for a couple of weeks now (when it was still free for beta testers), I have to say: nope. I’m not paying for this service just yet. There are too many problems. Little bugs, glitches and inconveniences that just don’t make it feel right yet. Don’t get me wrong: the support is fast and doing a good job, but I’ve spent too much time with this already and if I pay, I want it to save time for me.

I was thinking: okay, if this offer is about 69 US$ yearly subscription fee for ever, then I would actually consider signing up. But unfortunately, Bitcasa told me that the 69$ is only for the first year.

The thing is that Bitcasa is simply not out of beta stage. They seem to sense that themselves, as their blogpost announcing the end of the beta phase is entitled “The End of Beta as You Know It”. Haha. So now we’re in beta-v2, or what? A few weeks ago, I told Bitcasa support that I think they should be honest revert to alpha. But I guess investors are standing in the door, tapping their fingers. I hope they won’t ruin it.

Anyway, I will wait another year or so, until my harddrive is overflowing or so, and reconsider a paid account. For now, I signed up for a four year Crashplan+ Family Unlimited account. It’s not the same thing, but it also offers infinite storage and since I was mainly looking for online and automatic backup, it’s clearly the best option for me at the moment. The good thing is their risk-free cancellation policy, which means you can cancel anytime and get the money for the remaining months back. So unless you’re short of cash, there is no reason to sign up for any subscription shorter than 4 years, as that is the best value for money (around 9 US$) per month.

It’s the most expensive web-service that I have so far subscribed to, but when I almost lost years of work a couple of weeks ago, I decided: I need to start backing up properly and I want it to be easy and convenient, so I guess I will pay for it.

Just two three more things about why I currently prefer CrashPlan to Bitcasa:

  1. Crashplan is not just for backing up and restoring to the same computer but you can selectively restore to any computer. So you can access all your files from anywhere too, just not as comfortably as in Bitcasa. In the longrun, this will be Bitcasa’s advantage, but for now I’m fine with Crashplan.
  2. Finding older versions of a particular file is not well solved in Bitcasa (check out their forum, where many people are suggesting to change the system, which currently requires you to know the day when that file was last changed.) In Crashplan, you can just select the file and see the different versions that have been backed up in a list and select the one you want.
  3. I managed to install Crashplan on on my ReadyNAS Ultra at home, which means that those 2 TB will also be backed up. Plus: I can also use my NAS as a secondary backup, in addition to CrashplanCentral. Since the idea of Bitcasa is not to backup the harddrive on my computer or my server, but to replace it, this feature is, and probably will not be available from them.

And what are your experiences with Bitcasa and/ or Crashplan?