Back It Up.

I am a very determined backup user.  I have lost some data over the years – not all of it critically important, but there’s a slice of our life in photos that seems to be missing.

Note: yep I use sync software too, like NextCloud, SyncThing, etc. They’re super handy but they fail hard if you think of them as backup. They are NOT BACKUP.  The below is real backup and restore software, used and loved in the real world, used for real to save my bacon.  Sync software would not have helped me with what I needed.

I have had quite a few occasions to need and benefit from my backups, from lost files, to total computer disasters.  My first huge success was with…


I was able to restore a full machine (Mac) totally over the Internet using CrashPlan when it just died.

CrashPlan at the time was a great service, with huge (unlimited? I forget) data quotas and cross-platform use.  They kinda lost the plot and went bonkers with their subscription plans and limits.  It turned out not to be the best option in very short order.  It’s slow, expensive and very feature limited now.  I didn’t even bother to link it because you don’t want it.


Then I moved to Arq.  Arq v5 was a very solid if simplistic backup app. It let you back up to local and cloud destinations, plus I bought the lifetime upgrades option, and it is cross-platform too!  All was good!  Mostly.  You couldn’t migrate backups to other platforms (local to cloud or vice versa), and worse, he kinda got rid of the lifetime upgrades options.  I still have it, and use it, but it’s not my preferred software.  Would I recommend it?  Yes, actually I would, read the limitations and understand them though.


Next stop: restic.  Oh yeah, it has all of the above, plus a way to sync existing backups to the cloud (no more doing two separate backups). It has multiple snapshots, restores just by mounting the backup repository like a drive (on *nix-oriented machines). There’s a GUI repo browser if you prefer that or you’re stuck on Windows.  The backups are encrypted (and look much like a “sharded” git repository.

Open source, free and very small!

It’s not for the faint of heart though, you need to be very very comfortable in the command line and willing to write scripts to do unattended backups. Cloud and remote backups are handled by an external app (rclone) so it never has to deal with that code.  Once you do get it all set up though, it’s really hard to beat restic.  I rely on it big time.


The Winner

UrBackup is SO MUCH my favorite daily driver right now.  It is server-based (don’t just rely on it as a client-only app) but has significant management advantages because of that.  You can do both image (as a vhd disk image, or various compressed flavors of that) and/or incremental file-based (note: not encrypted) backups.  I was able to restore a VM image of approximately 250GB in well under 10 minutes using a boot CD and automatic backup discovery.  This was under ideal circumstances, though, both the image and the destination were on the same SSD, the server and the VM were both hosted on the same UnRaid server.  If you wanted just a partial restore from an image, you can sometimes just click and mount the vhd files (some additional fussing required if you’re on non-Windows and if the image is incremental and/or compressed)

It’s open source, free, and runs on almost anything.

Client setup is awesome. Go to the web page on your UrBackup server, configure a new client with your machine name and download and install the preconfigured client software.  It should automatically locate your server and back up according to the default options you configured.  You can change settings globally, per-client or per-machine (the latter two are kinda the same but basically differentiated based on where the settings are stored, on the client or on the server).

You can back up over the Internet as well, obviously without auto-discovery, and ensuring that you have set up some pretty good security for it (you don’t want people downloading your file backups, I’m sure).

Out of all, I would easily recommend UrBackup to anyone that has the hardware and storage to run it.  If you have a smart NAS, it’s probably super easy to install there too, at the very least using Docker.



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