Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My backup host is psychic! Or maybe not...

Two months ago I got myself a 50GB backup account for personal use (photo library, documents, code and such), and played around with rsync until I got a working backup script. However, for some deranged reason, I never actually got around to scheduling the backup script to run every night... Well, now I felt it was time to remedy the situation, and maybe write another blog-post while I was at it.

At the very same second I decided this, an email arrived from my backup hosting company (Dreamhost) with the ominous subject "Backup server problems"..! Now, honestly, what is that? Fate? Can they read my mind or what? This is seriously creepy...!
Hello Albin,

I'm very, very sorry it has taken us so long to report back to you regarding your backup user status.  For the last week and a half we've been working with 3Ware to try and revive the raid array, but so far have still had no success. You can read more about it here:


At the moment, it is really starting to look bad, and we have more or less given up hope on being able to recover the data. Again, I'm really horribly sorry about this.

Hopefully, as this loss only affected our "backup" service (intended to only be used as your backups), you have another copy of all the data that was there. We have now at least gotten the backup server back online (without any 3Ware raid cards this time), so you may begin using it again to re-backup your data.

To try and make up for this a tiny bit, I have just now applied a $20 account credit to your account. (The total of any amount you've been charged for backups since October, plus  extra.) Again, I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. If you have any questions, please respond to this email and we will all do our best to help you in any way we can.


So, it turns out the they had begun experiencing problems with their backupserver about two weeks ago. Since my backup script hadn't been running I hadn't even noticed. But get this, in the end they were unable to recover the data, and gave up! All data on the backup server gone. For everyone! And yes, when I logged in now my backed up files were nowhere to be seen.

So.. Well for me it's actually not a big deal, since all my data is safe and sound on my healthy 1.8 TB RAID5 array at home, and my backup script hadn't been running anyway... And I guess a $20 credit is better than nothing. But honestly, this must really be the last kind of email you'd like to get from your backup company...

(Dreamhost isn't actually a backup company, but a regular hosting company. Since last summer they've been offering an additional 50GB backup space with every hosting account, which as it turns out is cheaper than most of the regular dedicated backup providers. But I guess this is why :P)

So, well did I ever get around to setting up the backup schedule? Yes I did! My home server is running WinXP and Cygwin, with rsync and cron. The command I use for rsync is:

rsync --delete --protocol=29 -avP /cygdrive/d/backup-folder bXXXXXX@backup.dreamhost.com:~/backup/

My local backup-folder is actually a collection of symlinks (yes you can use symlinks in Windows, but they are called junctions) pointing to the folders I actually want to backup. As you can see rsync is not so difficult to use (the protocol=29-stuff is Dreamhost specific, my thanks goes to Climens Codelog for the tip).

After some meddling with crontab (turns out crontab and emacs don't play nice, at least not on Cygwin), I got the schedule up and running as well with:

0 4 * * * rsync --delete --protocol=29 -avP /cygdrive/d/backup-folder bXXXXXX@backup.dreamhost.com:~/backup/ >> ./backup.log

Voilá! Automatic backup scheduled to run every night at 04:00. Finally. Just hope that Dreamhost won't mess up again...

UPDATE: Dreamhost messed up again! The files i uploaded yesterday are gone! Nothing new in the Dreamhost Status blog... What's going on?

UPDATE 2: My files have mysteriously reappeared. Still no news from Dreamhost on whats going on...


  1. Don't you think you're being a bit harsh on DreamHost? After all, they added it on as a completely free service for users, and they're pretty upfront about it coming with no guarantees.

    Personally, I was pretty pleased to get 50G free space, I can now do offsite backups of my home computers, and it hasn't cost me a cent.

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  2. Well, I got my Dreamhost account specifically for the 50GB backup, so for me it wasn't "free" in that sense. I know it doesn't come with guarantees, but you have to admit that a backup service loosing all their customers' data is pretty severe, right? (In the end I think they recovered some of it though.) And also I was pretty upset about the lack of information in their status blog on what was going on. I uploaded new data many times just to have it wiped clean again the next day.

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