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TDP: Time-Dollar Product

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I learned a lesson over the last two months. It starts with off-site backup software for my computer, and ends in me spending money.

I’ve been trying to get the most out of my DreamHost account—or really, I’ve been trying to recoup the $10/month I pay for them by trying to save the $5-$7/month I pay for JungleDisk/S3. When I write it, it seems silly: the $10/month I pay to DreamHost is well worth it. They do web hosting very well.

Similarly, JungleDisk has a very good backup solution on Amazon S3’s service. Namely, the backups are:

  • Off-Site
  • Encrypted
  • Past versions (modified/deleted files stay around for a specified time)
  • Set and forget (their Windows client does the backups every night)

Nonetheless, when DreamHost announced 50GB of personal backup space with each account, I thought, “I’m getting screwed.” I promptly began a search for backup software which supported SFTP (DH’s only access at the time was FTP/SFTP) and had all the features listed above.

The end result is that I found that I discovered a universal constant called Time-Dollar Product (TDP). Every time I try to save or reduce money (dollars), I end up spending a great deal more in time. The two seem inversely proportional. Consequently, it seems like the product of time and money is constant; when one goes down, I spend more of the other.

Most people will want to stop here. The technically inclined will want to continue.

My search lead me to two solutions: Backup Premium and SynchronEX. I was proud of myself for not immediately purchasing either. They each had a trial license, so I tried each of them. Backup Premium seemed more polished, but SynchronEX seemed to be more powerful (Python-based scripting).

I spent a bit of time getting SynchronEX to do everything I wanted. Out of the box, it supports past versions using something they call XVS. It supports encryption through GPG. This connection was both good and bad: GPG means I can encrypt it without their software, but it was in truth a pain to set up and get right. In any case, things worked. I had to do a two-step process (backing up to a local HDD and then uploading) to get both XVS and GPG to work together, but it did work.

On the other hand, Backup Premium seemed to have trouble maintaining a connection with DreamHost. It did seem to have more accessible features (backup email, etc). So, the clear winner was SyncrhonEX.

I decided to buy SynchronEX, but being cautious with money, I waited a while before I did so. I finally did about a month or two ago.

I should note that several people (at army.twit.tv) mentioned that there were many open-source Linux-like solutions available. I reasoned that relying on Cygwin would be unreliable as it is emulating Linux on Windows. I said that the bridge that Cygwin builds could be what breaks my backups. I basically wanted something I could set and forget, and I thought Cygwin might get flaky at some point.

I should caution people that I do have local backups. I run a FreeBSD machine that runs Samba. I use Allway Sync to constantly synchronize the family computers with the Samba share. Some of you question why I don’t simply have the FreeBSD sync to DreamHost. The point of DreamHost is to have a redundancy for local backups. If the local backups fail (and I don’t notice), I still want the remote backups to keep going.

Unfortunately, after I went ahead and bought SynchronEX, I had worse results. For some reason, SynchronEX would not function on Vista correctly unless I ran it as Administrator. Clearly, something had changed in the intervening months between the trial period and when I finally purchased it. In addition, once I did get it going, it wouldn’t maintain a connection correctly.

The worst thing was that I sent an email with the error code to SynchronEX support with no response. Putting all this together, I concluded that SynchronEX was not going to be the set-and-forget solution that I wanted.

In the end, DreamHost now allows rsync. In addition, I found Duplicity. Yes, it uses Cygwin. However, that seems more stable than the other stuff out there. Yes, it took a few steps to set up the prerequisites on Windows. But, it wasn’t hard. It’s running right now (has been all day). If there’s interest, I’ll blog how it turns.

Written by PoojanWagh

December 20th, 2008 at 6:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response to 'TDP: Time-Dollar Product'

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  1. Just FYI, I signed up for an iDrive.com account and they provide a Windows application that runs in tray and provides the backup. They provide encryption both during transport and during storage on their servers. And they keep multiple revisions of your documents on their servers.
    The free account gives you 2GB of space, but you can send emails to 10 friends and get a free upgrade to 12GB space. (Hint: you can send emails to 10 disposable addresses to get this upgrade).

    Andy K

    29 Dec 08 at 6:17 pm

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