I have a little storage array that I store my life on. Music, movies, photographs, projects, school work—I’d be devastated if I lost any of it. And yet, I don’t have any sort of backup for it. Last year I evaluated various online backup services but concluded that my 5 Mbps (~600 KB/s) upload bandwidth was just too slow to feasibly backup all of my data. Now I have a 25 Mbps (~3 MB/s) symmetric connection, so last week when I got a promotional email from CrashPlan announcing their new version and prices, I decided to give it another try.

CrashPlan is, as far as I know, the only online backup solution that officially supports Solaris, and it’s not half-assed either. The software is delivered as a standard SVR4 package which installs to /opt/sfw/crashplan and includes an SMF manifest. Normally I’d never trust consumer-oriented proprietary software like this, but their Solaris support instills confidence in me. I can only hope that they continue to maintain it, despite the uncertainty surrounding Solaris’s future.

Like I said, installation was a breeze. Looking back at my shell history, it was as easy as:

# cd /tmp
# wget
# tar -xvzf CrashPlan_3.0_Solaris.tar.gz
# pkgadd -d . CrashPlan
# svccfg import /opt/sfw/crashplan/bin/crashplan.xml
# svcadm enable crashplan

From there the GUI can be launched as a regular user by running /opt/sfw/crashplan/bin/CrashPlanDesktop. The user interface is clean and simple. On the first run, it walks you through setting up an account. New users get a 30-day free trial to CrashPlan+, which includes unlimited online backups. I’m still on my trial, but as long as it continues to work for me, I expect I’ll purchase a subscription for $5/month.

First thing I did after registering was to go into the security settings and change the archive encryption key type to use a private password. This encrypts the key which encrypts my data with a separate password so even if someone hijacks my CrashPlan account, they will not be able to restore any of my files. The other advanced option, supplying your own private data key, I would argue is less secure since the key is stored in-the-clear on the local system and it cannot be changed without invalidating all of your backups. Security is very important to me, so I am happy to see that they give control over these settings to the user, though I wish the backup agent were open-source to enable more public scrutiny. At the very least, I’d like for CrashPlan to provide more details about their encryption methods similar to SpiderOak.

Next I directed the software to backup my storage array mounted at /nest to CrashPlan Central and off it went. I’m currently seeing speeds around 6 Mbps (750 KB/s) which is slightly disappointing on my fast connection, but not unacceptable. They claim that they do not cap or throttle connections, though from what I’ve read, speed is largely dependent on which of CrashPlan’s many datacenters you are provisioned to. They’ve been experiencing much higher volume than normal with last week’s release of CrashPlan 3, so I hope to see increased speed when that activity subsides.

I do like that the backup actually takes place in the background, so the GUI is only ever necessary for changing settings and performing restores. I tested a restore and saw much better speeds around 16 Mbps (2 MB/s), though still not even close to saturating my internet connection.

My backup should hopefully be done by the new year and then it’ll just be a matter of performing small nightly incrementals.

14 thoughts on “CrashPlan

  1. Was looking at Crashplan a while ago and saw that you could use your own computer in another location (e.g. work) for the backup destination and you could even pre-seed the backup by sneaker-netting an external drive to the destination. That was the compelling use-case for me. Haven’t set it up yet, but its on the todo list.

  2. Nice post, I have had this running on a couple OpenSolaris boxes as offsite destinations for other systems. Has been very solid, like having my own _cloud storage_ backups system, which no subscription. Actually, I take that back, because now you have to pay a subscription, even if you backup to your own system. Stupid. 🙁

    @Chris… I have several clients that I’ve set this up for. We run CP+ in their office, and a small linux box at the owner’s home as an offsite destination. It works very well. I seed it onsite first, then take it offsite and just get tiny updates throughout the day. This worked beautifully until they started charging a subscription, just to backup to our own system. Now I don’t want to install this on new client systems, having that option for _free_ was a huge selling point and the best part of this software. I’ve never used it, but it’s worth noting that their Crashplan Central service is not for business use, nor is their _free_ Crashplan product, and they’re not clear about it except in these forum posts:

    Another big complaint I have is they are taking way too long to get back to me with questions. I have support/sales tickets to their Pro service because I want to upgrade some clients to their Pro server and client. I have a few clients waiting on me, and they are taking several days to answer questions. I mean, don’t they want to sell this or what?

    Having said that, I still love Crashplan! It’s still the best backup software I’ve used, and has saved many a _butt_ for my clients, several times. Including my own, been using it for about 2 years, and I still love it.

    I wish they had FreeBSD support too though.

  3. @Greg

    You still do NOT have to pay for a subscription if you backup to your own system (or a friends).

    Without a CrashPlan+ subscription…
    You can continue to back up to your own computers and hard drives or friend’s computers for free.
    Files you have backed up to those destinations will remain available for you to restore.

    or, from :

    FREE for personal backup
    More reliable than online backup alone
    Once daily automatic backup
    Onsite and offsite destinations

    — JJ, just a happy CP+ user

  4. @JJ Spreij

    Yes, I understand that for Free version, but Crashplan Free is not allowed for non-personal use. Plus, without the CP+ version, I lose the real-time backup. That I can live with, but I’d still like it on some systems. So, I still have the main complaint, for small business use, you must now pay a subscription to backup to your own systems. Not cool, just my opinion 🙁

    When the Crashplan folks changed their pricing/licensing, they really messed up a great product for small business use. There’s a void there, between users of Free , CP+ subscribers, and Crashplan Pro, where small business users used to fit fine until the changes. Now, Pro is just too much (with server install needed too) and Free not for biz use, and CP+ requires subscription even if only backup to own system. Crashplan+ used to be perfect.

    Also, tomorrow is 1 week waiting for questions to be answered by CrashPlan Pro sales and support. They did initially respond 2 days ago, but didn’t tell me anything I needed, so I sent much more detail of my needs, still haven’t heard anything.

    Like I said before though, I havne’t seen anything as awesome as Crashplan yet, and I love the software! But dealing with the company is becoming quite frustrating. If I could find something with similar features, I’d go with that instead at this point.

  5. @Greg: I’m pretty certain that the license terms of the old CrashPlan did not allow use of the software in a business environment without paying for CrashPlan+ — at least that’s what the UI always said. If you were using CrashPlan in a business environment to back up to other computers without at least a CrashPlan+ license, you probably were in violation of the license agreement. That has not changed with CP3.

  6. Hi,
    I am just wandering if you are still using CrashPlan and if you are happy with it. If you are now running Solaris 11 (or 11 Express) did you have to do anything special to get it working?
    Thank you,

    • I am still using CrashPlan and I like it a lot. After the long initial upload, the incrementals have been quick and easy. By now I think I have about 3 TB stored with them, which isn’t bad for $5 a month. I didn’t have to do anything special to get it working in Solaris 11–just follow the steps in my original post. The software even updates itself. The worst thing that could be said about it is that it is a memory hog. It will use half a gig of RAM without even doing anything. Let me know how it goes for you or if you have any questions.

      • Thanks James. I gave it a try and the service goes into maintenance mode because it has dependency on svc:/milestone/sysconfig. After following these instructions I was up and running:
        While it works I am a bit concerned that Crashplan is not supporting S11 themselves…
        I started the initial upload and the speed is 1.4Mbs. I tweaked all the settings I could find and no improvement so it is going to take ~51 days to upload 🙁

        • Update:
          A little over a month ago I sent a message to CrashPlan tech support asking if they are planning on supporting Solaris 11. I finally got a response (it took them over a month!):

          Good day,

          Unfortunately, we do not have any timeline for supporting the new version of Solaris at this time. We do hope to in the future, but we do not have an ETA at this time.

          The Solaris version should have all of the features and capabilities as the other OSes do.

          • To CrashPlan’s credit, the Solaris version is still the most recent version compared to the other OSes. Applying the fix from the blog post that you linked to has it working just as well as anything else. Here’s to hoping they keep it up–there’s nothing like a Solaris fileserver.

  7. I know this post is old, but since there’s been some recent comments it’s clear people are still reading it, so I’d like to contest a point you made.

    You said that the own encryption key is arguably less secure as it’s stored in the clear on the local system. Whilst that’s true, it’s also true of the encryption key for both the alternatives. The only way crashplan is able to backup your files without prompting for and caching your passphrase in memory each boot is because the key is not encrypted locally. The first too options do encrypt the key when it’s stored in your remote backup archive though, the third never leaves your machine.

    Having a separate key per machine also has an added advantage that if one of your pc’s is hacked and a Trojan key logger installed, they’ll eventually get your crashplan login details and will also have your unencrypted data key. With the First two options that is enough to allow a remote restore of backups from any pc in your account. Where as with option three, the most they can restore data for is the compromised pc, which would be pointless to do as they can already read/copy everything from that machine anyway.

    Of course option three brings with it a risk of losing your data keys unless you keep multiple backups of them which IMO still makes option two the best balance of security vs safety.

    • Thanks for the comment, Gary. Using the passphrase protection method, there probably is some sort of unprotected key cached on the local system, but I guess my original point was that you can’t really do anything with it. CrashPlan will always prompt you for the passphrase when doing a restore. Compare that with the self-supplied key which, if I recall correctly, is stored directly in one of CrashPlan’s configuration files, and could be used, for example, to do restores from the web interface.

  8. Hi again,
    I recently reinstalled the US to Solaris 11.1 and ran into a problem while installing crashplan. When I run pkgadd, it complains about the Java version:

    ERROR: Failed to find an acceptable Sun Java Runtime Environment
    These paths were searched: /bin /usr/bin /usr/local/bin
    pkgadd: ERROR: checkinstall script did not complete successfully

    I have both JRE 1.6 and 1.7 packages installed but am not sure how to make Crashplan see and use 1.6. Do you know how to make it work?

    I contacted Crashplan customer support for help but they told me that Solaris 11 is not a supported platform :(. They also couldn’t give me an ETA on when (and if) they are going to support 1.7.


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