Peer to Peer Backup solutions appearing

To the Napster (real, not pay-for) generation, such as my self, the peer-to-peer thing has always been enticing.  That’s why I was so impressed when I stumbled upon CrashPlan last week.  It immediately struck me as a great idea for backup.  Peer to Peer backup really puts you in control of your data backup and potentially offers some features that the other online guys can’t.   After looking into the topic a little more, I found that the idea has been tossed around by many students in academic papers and there are even a few additional software on the market for this – including Cucku.

I realize that there are lots of affordable online backup solutions available online, including one that we provide here at HTC.  These are all great solutions.  The killer for all is the initial backup and how it is handled.  Our backup solution here at HTC offers the ability to backup locally to a disk, ship that disk to HTC and then we restore it on our “Vault” back end.  At this point, our software does block-level, incremental backups forever.  And the incremental backups are fast.

From my testing with Mozy and a couple other solutions, its painful to try and backup my 14GB of photos or 100GB of home movies through my internet.  The biggest restriction on broadband is usually the upstream bandwidth.  I could allow this to run for a month or two, saturating my broadband all the time and this might complete, but at a cap of about 50K upstream, its not appealing to me.

The same held true when I setup the backup solution bundled with Norton 360 for a friend of mine.  I was very selective in getting only her documents and email to backup, rather than her iTunes library and everything else.

But enough about the problems with other solutions, what is good about these?  Well, plenty.  First, there is no recurring cost.  Just buy a storage device and find a buddy.  I guess this could be a problem for some of our geek types, but most of us are social enough – at least with other geeks.

CrashPlan is nice in that it offers software for a many operating systems – Mac, Windows and Linux.  You are able to do both on and off-site backups.  It encrypts the data before transmit and includes a feature that it calls “archive tampering protection.”   I hope that is exactly what is sounds like and there is some security on the archive of my social security numbers and bank records that my buddy can’t just break into…  Guess that wouldn’t really make them a buddy, but more of a frenemy, but I digress.    But, the big one for me is that you can start your backup locally and then move it to an off site location and continue backups later.  And this is the differentiating factor for me.  Solutions like Mozy and other online providers don’t offer a way to take a full backup of everything, restore that onto their storage in some way faster than uploading everything over the Internet, and then just adding differentials after that point.  

CrashPlan comes in two versions of software for the home user.  There is a standard version and then a plus version which offers continuous data protection and versioning.  These are two enterprise class features that only seem to exist in these direct to disk backup solutions.

It should also be noted that CrashPlan has an enterprise product as well for larger environments (advertised for 10 or more computers) where it includes a local backup server running CrashPlan Pro Server and the ability to send that data offsite.  One thing that is particularly compelling is that CrashPlan includes a VMware Virtual Appliance of the Pro Server software.  CrashPlan Pro uses 448-bit Blowfish encryption.    Also important to note for medical businesses, the enterprise software is HIPPA compliant.  I do wonder how this solution will do for more enterprise type applications like databases, email server and other more specialized data types.

Cucku is a bit different, but has many of the same features as CrashPlan.  The solution is unfortunately Windows only, which is a major drawback for me.  I have only briefly looked at this solution since it won’t work for me.  But I did want to mention it for others who it might work for.

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Philip is a IT solutions engineer working for AmWINS Group, Inc., an insurance brokerage firm in Charlotte, NC. With a focus on data center technologies, he has built a career helping his customers and his employers deploy better IT solutions to solve their problems. Philip holds certifications in VMware and Microsoft technologies and he is a technical jack of all trades that is passionate about IT infrastructure and all things Apple. He's a part-time blogger and author here at

7 Responses to “Peer to Peer Backup solutions appearing”

  1. Hugh #

    I had the same experience with Mozy. I ended up using TrueSafe, I can back up offsite to my friend’s pc.

    February 22, 2009 at 7:35 pm Reply
  2. I agree with you Philip upstream bandwidth is a big issue for lots of people. In Europe some countries upstream is tiny so trying to upload 100GB would just take so long

    April 23, 2009 at 7:33 pm Reply
  3. Kirk M. Schafer #

    I realize this is an old post, but it comes up high in a search for “p2p backup”. Unfortunately, after spending about 15 minutes on the CrashPlan site, I’m just having trouble seeing this as anything other than a glossy version of BackupExec, and I’ve been in this industry long enough (over two decades) that I was using BE when it was owned by Seagate, before Veritas or Symantec. CrashPlan–according to their own description–uses one “server” repository for multiple “client” sources; I would expect peer to peer to be headless, i.e., if there is a server, it’s a tracker only, and the peers are all (in the client/server interpretation of p2p) clients AND servers. In fact, the diagram at the top of this page: shows a typical client-server architecture (p2p would have lines between every device, not everyone to a server). In any case, perhaps they’ve simply shifted software models.

    Cucku appears to be closer to the model (multiple partners, and it’s doubly implied in being able to set up one-way partnerships), but unfortunately, multiple partners are serialized…so it’s close, but not quite there yet. In any case, you still gave me a place to start–as well as highlighting standard options I can still consider–so thank you for the writeup.

    July 15, 2010 at 1:01 pm Reply
    • Philip #

      Kirk – Good point, but you’re talking about the business version which does look like a typical client server application. The personal version (which I use) is a true peer to peer application but it also offers other options. You can backup to an external drive, to a friend (peer), or to a cloud service (pay-for) through Crashplan. It seems to have the best of all worlds.

      July 23, 2010 at 10:14 am Reply
  4. Darin #

    I really wanted to use crashplan, but after two attempted installations, followed immediately by two trojan virus infestations, I gave up.

    The crashplan install and exes themselves don’t appear to be infected, but I’m guessing something about their application opens a door for infection.

    I’ve emailed the company and they’re looking into it, but after the same result two times in a row, I won’t be trying again.

    Just something to be aware of.

    I do believe I’m going to look at truesafe and cucku though. Thanks!

    December 6, 2011 at 10:08 am Reply


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