On a previous blog I wrote quickly about my initial experience with rsync.net as a backup storage provider. I thought I should re-post some of that, since they deserve the praise. Here's an edited translation of the old post from 2012.
I should preface this by saying that I'm not paid to write any of this. Nor do I get any special benefits for posting this. I'm just a regular, very happy customer.
I've always been lucky with hard drives. I don't know why, but none of my hard drives had failed during the time 1998–2012. All the drives I had used up to that point still worked back in 2012; I just had to connect them and wham! There were all my files, just like when I last used the drive.
That whole thing made me nervous. I felt like I lived on borrowed time. Soon, it had to be my turn to have a hard drive crash. I didn't think a whole lot about it until I started working – at work I'm constantly exposed to crashing hard drives and similar problems.
Backups are a funny thing. It's one of those things everybody should do, but most people don't start until it's too late. If even then. You usually don't realise how important backups are until the figurative excrement collides with the air-moving device. So from that perspecive, I'm glad my job opened my eyes to how important it can be.
My first thought was to stock up on hundreds of DVD discs and then save all crap onto them with regular intervals. That's probably the easiest John Smith solution and it's a hundred million times better than not having a backup at all. However, I could never be bothered to buy DVD discs, so I didn't get very far with that idea.
I started thinking about it again. I tried to paint a picture of what my dream system for backups would look like. One thing is for sure: it wouldn't have any loose plastic discs in it.
No, what I imagined looked like this:
- Scalable. To begin with I might only need 20 gigabytes of storage space, but I want to be able to expand it whenever I please up to terabytes of storage. I only want to pay for what I actually use.
- Encrypted transmission and storage. A backup system that doesn't support encryption shouldn't be taken seriously.
- Simple usage. There are tons of open source Unix/Linux utils to manage backups already. I want to manage my backup using those. I don't want a separate proprietary program to do my backups. I want to set up a cron job for rsync or something like that.
- Redundancy in some form. Ideally, my data should be split over several data centres in different places on earth, but an absolute minimum is RAID-6 on the drives on which the backup resides.
- Live access. I don't want to stash my stuff somewhere and
then find out it costs a lot of money, time or bandwith to access them
again. I want to be able to (figuratively)
cdto a directory and
scpa file over.
- Stability. I want the service to have been around for a while with some high-profile customers so I know it won't just tank overnight when the single guy maintaining it gave up on it.
Mind you, this was written in early 2012. These services are slightly more common these days, but back then the whole "cloud" thing hadn't quite taken off so you didn't just stumble across a service that happened to match these requirements.
I was determined that if a service like that didn't exist, I would start it up myself when I had the money for it. Then I did a last desperate search with slightly weirder keywords and
I have a very simple rule of thumb when it comes to contracts, which has helped me massively in life: if the contract seems too good to be true, it's because it is. In my life, I've only experienced that rule be broken twice. The first time was rsync.net. It's like someone read my thoughts and built a service tailored to my needs. I couldn't stop laughing when I read through their web site, convinced it was a joke. It was just too good to be true.
They even have a data centre in Zürich, Switzerland. I have an unhealthy obsession with Switzerland and how I imagine they have much stronger privacy guarantees than EU countries.
rsync.net simply can't be real. They're way too good. They're too perfect.
I still decided to search for other peoples opinions of them on the internet. There were surprisingly few mentions of them, but I couldn't get the thought of trying them out for a month out of my mind. It would only be about $6, so it's not a huge loss. And they have a "terminate any time you want no questions asked" policy. (I'm telling you they're too good.)
So that night I spent setting up automatic backups on my primary computer. I do an incremental backup every night, and then I rotate full backups once a week and save around 8 weeks worth of full backups. I figured that should be enough.
It should be easy to maintain backups. Mine are automatic so I don't have to touch them anymore until something goes awry, and I am "completely" protected against hard drive crashes and similar accidents. If you aren't making regular backups today, you should start before it's too late. You're honestly being an idiot if you don't do it, and it's so easy to do. There are no reasons not to do it.
I've now used rsync.net as my primary backup storage for over four years, and I still could not be happier.
One of my hard drives did finally crash back in 2014–2015 sometime, and my rsync.net backups were there, making the transition to a new drive smooth.
I've had some problems with their service (all of which were my fault) and their support is amazing. They'll respond quickly, and you get to speak directly to one of their knowledgeable Unixy tech people. They'll even help you set up your backup scripts, however arcane your system.
I haven't even bothered setting up a private dotfiles repository, because I know I can just fetch the relevant dotfiles from my rsync.net file system. Since my backups are categorised by machine I can find them easily.
They don't spam you with lots of offers. A few days ago I got an email from one of the founders about a new service he's started, "oh by", which is blatant advertising. But you know what? I didn't mind. I read through it. It was short, to-the-point and well written and rendered well in my text-only email client.
I can't say enough good things about rsync.net.
The common complaint is that "they're expensive". Yes, they are expensive. But I promise you get what you pay for. Scalable, live backup with open tools and aboslutely fantastic support, and has been around since 2001 with a bunch of high-profile customers. You don't get that anywhere else, and certainly not for less money.