Duplicacy is my new backup solution (after CrashPlan shut down)

Image result for duplicacy logo

I have been using Crashplan as my backup tool since February 2015. At the time, I bought into their four year family plan (=multiple computers) for 429.99 USD. But Crashplan turned out to be a memory hog (especially if you have a multi-terrabyte harddrive) and it was clear that I want a better solution so I started looking for an alternative in 2016, one year before the subscription was supposed to end. I focused on software solutions that would allow me to back up to whichever storage I want so that I would be in better control of my data (Crashplan at some point deleted an entire backup of mine because the computer it was associated with hadn’t backed up anything for more than six months. Apparently it was in line with their Terms of Service, but deleting backups is not a goof thing to do for a backup company).

I spend a lot of time testing various solutions, including Arq, Goodsync, Cloudberry, SyncBackPro and Syncovery. Goodsync, Cloudberry and SyncBackPro were out pretty quickly [Note that the notes about those three are from 2016 and things may have changed]:

Cloudberry cannot handle backups larger than 1TB unless you buy the enterprise version for 300 USD. It’s crazy!

Goodsync had crap customer service (reasonably fast response, but useless and not answering my question) and it was designed more for syncing than for backing up (although backing up is possible).

With SyncbackPro, the restore process seemed rather complicated and once a folder is selected as the source, you cannot add other folders to that backup job. (Well actually you can change the source folder and the original stuff in the backup will remain but will no longer be backed up.)

Syncovery was very promising but I kept bumping into bugs and errors and I spend a hell of a lot of time helping the developer debug these problems and he actually ended up compensating me for some of that work. So while my experience with the software was not so good in the end, I can only say good things about the support by the developer. He listened patiently to my problems and although he insisted that he has lots and lots of customers where the software works fine, I did manage to convince him to look at the issues I had (this is how it should be but not all developers/companies do that) and we managed to track down a couple of bugs but it seemed a neverending story and so I eventually decided to scrap syncovery and start looking anew, even though this entailed that I would probably have to pro-long my Crashplan subscription another year.

This is when I discovered duplicati 2 and although it was still in beta, it looked very promising. In particular, I liked that it is open source and future proof in the sense that I would always be able to access my encrypted data, even in decades when duplicati may no longer be maintained. Because I did not like the existing support channels (gitter, google groups), I helped the developer set up a discourse-based support forum which has attracted a lot of users since its launch in August 2017, partly, I suppose, due to Crashplan announcing the end of its service for home users, many of whom explored duplicati as a possible crashplan alternative.

Unfortunately, I kept running into issues with duplicati (mostly having to do with the local database being corrupted and repair not working) and bug fixing went slow, as it is a hobby project for the developer. With my crashplan subscription drawing closer to its definite end in April 2018, I decided to try yet another alternative: duplicacy.

Duplicacy worked more or less flawlessly from the beginning (though less technophile users may find it to complicated to use) plus it has a killer feature that I have not seen anywhere else so far: cross-source deduplication. In plain english, this means that when I sync my files to different computers via dropbox or similar services, they will be uploaded only once: The program notices that these files are already backed up and will not upload them again, thus saving a pile of space.

So if you don’t have a backup solution yet (or are unhappy with the one you have), I highly recommend you look at duplicacy (I use the command line version, but there is also a GUI version).

If you find it too “technical”, you should give duplicati a try: the development seems to have made significant steps forward in the past couple of months and many people are already using it without any of the issues that I had. I still think it is an excellent solution and the thriving community is very helpful if you encounter problems (I am still trying to convince the duplicacy developer to setup a similar forum…). If you are interested in how I’m running scheduled backups using the Windows Scheduler, let me know.

I am currently using duplicacy with pCloud, which, unfortunately, I cannot recommend at all as a cloud storage provider, but that’s a different story.

Oh, I should mention that another advantage of duplicacy over duplicati for me was that duplicacy even runs out of the box on my rather old Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra (which runs on Debian Etch), while duplicati doesn’t because it needs a newer version of Mono.

UPDATE: Duplicacy now has a very user friendly support and discussion forum at forum.duplicacy.com.

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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.