Backup Server 2012 Essentials to the Cloud – Part 1 (Crashplan, Keepvault, MS Azure and Acronis)

The Problem

Having switched to Server 2012 R2 Essentials from Windows Home Server 2011 I was confronted with the problem that the new OS is considered a Business Solution instead of a Home Solution by almost all Software companies. That made most of the Home-targeted Backup solutions not applicable and you are forced to purchase very expensive Business Solutions.

This is especially painful when it comes to Backup Software. The Server itself is backed up to an external Harddrive, and the Server provides backup space for all Clients. But you still should keep an offsite backup for your most important stuff in case of Fire etc. So my first idea was to search for some Cloud Backup Providers. You can find a some reviews at BackupReviews. But those reviews are from the perspective of a desktop user and not a Server 2012 R2 (Essentials) Home-user. So I evaluated a couple of different providers.

Before you are able to chose one of the companies, you really should calculate the amount of data you want to store. If it’s just a small amount of GB then there are a lot of free services available. I’m aiming for roughly 250 GB of data – That is my most important data like pictures, home movies, work data and so on.


Crashplan

Crashplan offers unlimited storage space for about 5$ per month. That’s unbelievable, really. And the webpage looks pretty good too. But if you google for some Customer reviews there is a lot of negative feedback. Mostly that the speed to backup but also to restore, is very slow. Another customer claimed that his whole backup was corrupted and had to be reset by Crashplan Administrators.

The application is quite small and didn’t seem to cause a huge performance impact. Sadly there is no Windows Server Dashboard Plugin available, so you will have to use RDP to manage it. Crashplan will also send you email notifications.

So I can’t quite believe that you really get a good service for 5$ a month. A lot of negative feedback left me concerned whether Crashplan would be the best choice. It certainly is the cheapest and offers a monthly plan! Many others want you to sign a one or two-year contract right from the start!


Keepvault

Keepvault features a really nice Dashboard Plugin. And it is everything you expect it to be, except when it comes to the price. Whereas the WHS 2011 Plugin is for the Keepvault Home Plan, the Server 2012 Essentials forces you to purchase the Professional Plan. Although there is a special Promotion that gives you a 40% discount which I received after asking about this. Usually it’s only for existing customers who would upgrade to Server 2012 but the support agent was so nice to give me the promo code as well. So I suggest you just mail them and ask nicely.

Still compared to Crashplan you pay a lot more if you have to backup more than 100 GB of data. The license limit in this case is not per machine but that doesn’t help much – who runs multiple Homeservers?

They also offer monthly plans and one / two-year subscriptions with some discounts. Still 250 GB each month would cost about 20$ even if you don’t use that much storage. That’s kinda stupid, because you don’t exactly know how much you’ll need and thus you estimate and over provision and end up paying much more than you actually need. Sure you can change your subscription but wouldn’t you rather pay only as much as you really use the service? Introducing Cloud Storage next…


Microsoft Azure

Ah the Cloud Service from Microsoft and it comes with a Dashboard Plugin as well. In fact the Dashboard kinda points you towards the Microsoft Azure Cloud Backup Service if you select Add-Ins from the Home Menu. The setup can be a bit complicated because you have to go through several steps, create access keys, create a vault and so on. But the great Web UI (really nice job if you like flat design) should make this easy for you. Backup is working great, although it’s really aimed at Enterprise customers with 20 Cent per GB of storage. You get 5 GB for free though, each month. So even if you backup 25 GB, you only pay for 20 GB. And apparently it’s calculated per day. So even if you use 25 GB for a week and then delete most of it you don’t have to pay 25 x 0.2 for the whole month but only a fraction of it. You don’t have to pay for transfer of data, just for the storage.

There is a free trial available and why not just use the 5 GB for free each month?


Acronis

Well Acronis has been around for years and it’s very popular for home users to backup up their desktop machines. Their primary home backup product right now is called Acronis True Image 2014 (yeah seems like a yearly update which you have to pay for). The feature list seems endless and as the only backup solution you can also create system images. But what about the Cloud? Well Acronis offers 250 GB of Cloud Storage to host your backup for just 5 € per month! That sounds great, doesn’t it? You pay a one time fee for a great backup tool and just about the same price as Crashplan for 250 GB which should be enough for most people (you can select 50 GB or 500 GB as well, still cheap).

Great that’s the perfect solution, well there is no Dashboard Plugin but who cares. It’s cheap, you exactly know much you have to pay and the one time fee for the software can be even lowered if you purchase it at some retailer (about 30 € instead of 50 €) or if you purchase it as a bundle with the cloud storage directly from Acronis. But guess what? Of course, Server 2012 is not supported. In fact, the Software refuses to install and tells you to buy a different product – a business product. Damn. But hey, they a special product for Windows Server Essentials – cool so they didn’t forget the home users. Ah just look at the price tag…..400 € wtf is all I can say. Normal Windows Server versions costs 700 €. Okay but it comes with Cloud Storage, doesn’t it? Well no, you have to pay extra of course. You can now select packages from 500 GB up to 3 TB or more. 500 GB cost only an additional 600 € per year. Totally unacceptable for home users.


Random Webserver using FTPS/SFTP

After finding out, that no matter which provider I’d chose, backup to the cloud is quite expensive (except Crashplan), it got me thinking if I couldn’t just use my normal web space to store data other than websites. For just 4 € more each month I can increase the available storage from 50 GB to 300 GB! That means about 250 GB of extra backup space and I can connect to it however I want since I have total control over the virtual server.

Hosteurope also offers special FTP Storage which you can book on top of your virtual server. 250 GB FTP Storage costs another 12,50 € per month. Compare that to 250 GB of Hosteurope Cloud Storage which costs 250 x 0,15 = 37, 50 € + they take another 0,1 € per GB of traffic (either in or out). Wow. That’s a lot and what’s the difference really. It’s just storage space. It doesn’t need to be fast, the bottleneck will be your internet connection anyway.

So that leaves the virtual server. All in all they charge 17 € each month for 300 GB but you get a complete server with it as well and can run anything on it. So how do you connect to it securely? Well you can either use SFTP which is basically SSH over FTP (successor to scp) and which uses SSH (duh) or FTPS, which is plain old FTP but with a TLS / SSL certificate to encrypt the data. Never ever use plain FTP because it will transmit your password in plain text for everyone to read!

Ok, but how do I actually make the backup? Every other solution comes with a tool to do the backup and transfer it to the storage. Now we have empty storage but do we really want to just sync the files to it or use something more sophisticated?

In the next post I will compare 3 solutions. One open-source freeware backup tool, a free sync software and a premium cloud storage backup tool (which is pure awesomeness but costs a bit of money as well). So be sure to read the next post as well if you decide to use your own Server Storage or real cheap Cloud Storage (hint, hint: Glacier).


Quick Summary (for 250GB of Backup)

Product estimated Costs Note
 Crashplan 6$ (Monthly)  very slow backup and restore, depending on which server you are assigned to
 Keepvault  about 20$ (Monthly) only with Promo Code, otherwise 37,50 $
 Azure  49 €  if you really upload 250 GB you have to pay for 245 GB. In reality it depends on your usage
 Acronis  400 € (one time) + 600 € (annual but 500GB)  just…lol
FTP Account 12,50 € (Monthly) just FTP Storage, still need a smart way to fill it
 Virtual Server  17 € (Monthly)  same as above, plus you need to manage the server a little, can also be a plus

 

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