Look! Up in the sky! A Cloud!

For the last several years, Salespukes have been screaming “Cloud” from the rooftops. So much so, I often wonder if they even understand what they’re actually saying. They always make it out to be some big, complicated deal that is so awesome, it justifies paying $300/mo for it.

I’m here to tell you that’s straight BS. “The Cloud” is buzz-speak for “off site”. I’m gonna tell you about my adventures in making my own Cloud Storage and Cloud Backup.

I’m sure everyone here has their “free cloud storage” from someone, be it Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc. Free storage ranges from 1GB to 20GB. What happens is you wind up with all of your files scattered everywhere, unless you throw down the cash an pay for storage. I’m not gonna get into a product matrix on who is better or cheaper, suffice to say we use a mix of Dropbox (because it’s quick and mobile) and OneDrive (because we get 1TB with our Microsoft Partner package).

Since we are talking about Cloud Storage, recently I “rolled my own”. I have a server in Azure, Microsoft’s Cloud Computing Service, which I do various things with (I’ll tell you what I do a little at a time).

Before I realized that we had 1TerraByte of storage with OneDrive, I needed to get each of us a massive amount of space because the 15GB of free space we have with Dropbox was filling up. I spent a few weeks here and there looking at pricing and FOSS alternatives. I didn’t really want to spend money on storage because I know how cheap it is, and having access to Azure, I could just spin-up new servers or storage blobs any time I wanted for cheap.

That’s where Nextcloud came in. Nextcloud is Free Open Source Software, the server portion runs on UNIX and *NIX-like systems (FreeBSD, Linux, etc). The Clients run on Windows, *NIX, OSX, etc.

Think of Nextcloud as a FOSS Dropbox. It works the same, looks a little different, and everything is stored “in the cloud” or “in the cloud, but on that computer under the desk”. In my case, I setup Nextcloud in…the cloud. But you could set it up in your home and have complete control over your “data in the cloud” and access it from anywhere in the world.

The install took about 30 mins, and setup took just under 10mins. Tweaking to make everything perfect took me a few days here and there. I’m a perfectionist. But over all, it’s super easy to get going. Installing the client takes 60 seconds, you put in the server address and your credentials and that’s it, it’s working.

So anyways, I had just spent a TON of time setting this up and making it perfect. I created a new 1-TB blob of storage in Azure, and gave everyone 100GB of allocated storage. Then 3 weeks later I realized we already had 1TB *each* with OneDrive (*facepalm*). It was working great though. I was doing some other things on the server that were mission-critical for customers and Nextcloud was in the way, so I had to scrap it.

But you could easily setup Nextcloud at home with a low-cost machine and a hard drive as big as you want and next pay monthly for Cloud Storage again. We can help with purchase and setup, of course. Why would you do this? Maybe you don’t want to pay $10/mo for storage or maybe you are paranoid about people looking at your data.

There are a few other “dropbox-like” FOSS projects out there, but I chose Nextcloud. If you use Nextcloud or any of the other flavors out there, let us know on our Facebook page.

On August 22nd, 2017, Crashplan announced it was discontinuing it’s “Crashplan Home” and focusing solely on Business. Crashplan offers Cloud Backups. Its the *best* service on the market for price, speed, and amount of storage. We specify CrashplanPro for all of our customers, and actually roll it into our SLA.

I use CrashplanPro on my home server, but was using CrashplanHome on my Mac. This news was devistating, as I was attached to a buddies CPH account because you paid them $10/mo for 10 computers with unlimited backups, and backup any file. AMAZING deal right?. That’s all gone the wayside now.

We had to come up with a solution for backup that was going to have the same features and cost about the same. I found a few paid options but they just weren’t the same or had stupidness about them. So again, I turned to FOSS.

That’s where UrBackup comes in. Functionally, it was just like Crashplan.

I chose Urbackup because the server ran on Windows, there are a handful of others out there that might be better but they all run on *NIX. I wanted something that would run on windows so I could backup to my Windows Server and the Server would then backup to CrashplanPro, off site and in the mysterious Cloud.

Install was easy. Configuration was confusing, but after an hour of poking and reading, it all made sense and the server was up and running. Client install is stupid easy, you install the client and then wait. The server sees the new client and configures it and boom, backups are happening. But you know me, I had to fiddle and tweak.

The nice part is, you can set it up to have off-site clients backup to you (Mom could backup her PC to your server). But that’s a more advanced topic. There’s also enough advanced things to discuss about Urbackup to make your head spin, but I’ll save you from that.

When I use technology, I have a few requirements:

  • It has to be easy
  • It has to work like I want
  • It has to be as cheap as possible

Sometimes I only get one or two, but when I get all three I’m very happy. UrBackup hit on all 3 points, and so did Nextcloud.

Now, why would you want to use something like UrBackup? I don’t know. Your situation will always be different from mine.

But John! Mac’s have Time Machine!

Correct, but trust me when I tell you that backing up with TM to a network share is complicated. I already looked into that because TM is a great, simple backup solution. I didn’t want to have another drive plugged into my Mac for it to sit there and stay hot 24×7 and eat power. I’m using the resources I already have in place.

I may wind up doing something else for Backup on my Mac, but for now, this is the solution I’m going with.