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Data backup options

If you don’t back up your data, sooner or later you will lose it. That’s just the way it is. Any solution other than a proper backup will ultimately be more difficult and less advantageous. So back up your data. :-) There are several options available to back up your valuable data.

It must be emphasized that “backing up” means that the data is stored in at least two separate places. If you simply move data to an external drive, then it won’t be backed up because there will still only be one copy!

Department of Botany backup server.

Right at the faculty we have a small network server (NAS, model DS409), which currently serves mainly as a backup for the department server. It is only accessible from the faculty network (or possibly through a VPN - virtual private network, enabling access to the internal FS network from anywhere. Upon request this can be arranged by Mr. Rezek from CIT) and so it mainly good for backing up data from desktop computers at the faculty. If you would like to back up data from your computers, contact the administrator and he will create a user’s account for you.

There is a simple application, Data Replicator, which can be downloaded at the bottom of this page, where you can set regular backups of select directories, including the option for preserving several historical versions of files. You can access the data in various ways (according to your preferences and operating system). Download the user’s guide and look in particular at sections 1, 8 and 9. The server IP address is 10.2.1.108 and the name is nasik. The web interface is accessible from the faculty at https://10.2.1.108:5001/webman/index.cgi (during first access user must accept certificate signed by the server itself).

Department of Botany server

The Department of Botany has its own server accessible via SFTP which serves primarily for webhosting, sharing data between users, etc. Due to limited capacity, it is not suitable for backing up large volumes of data. In the event of questions contact the administrator.

Faculty data backup

All instructors and students have access through the intranet to network disks with assigned disk quotas. These disks are always accessible from classrooms and studies and it is possible to connect them to computers which are connected to the physical faculty network (not possible via Wi-Fi). Because of limited capacity this is not suitable for backup, but when organizing lessons or sharing files among faculty users it may come in handy. More information is available on the CIT website (in Czech).

CESNET services

CESNET is an association of institutes of the Academy of Science and Czech Universities with the goal of supporting the development of e-infrastructure for research and education. It provides a whole range of services, including data storage and backup.

ownCloud

I recommend that everyone use the ownCloud service on CESNET servers. OwnCloud is freeware which you can install at any time on your own server that serves as an alternative to commercial services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive etc. Your data will be stored on servers at several data repositories (in a cloud) so it will be accessible from various computers and mobile devices. You can use this for backup and sharing among different computers and/or users.

OwnCloud makes it possible to back up and share files, including different file versions, calendars and contacts among your devices, and your data is accessible both through the web and by using the webDAV protocol. You also have the option of creating text documents right on the web (similar to Google Docs). Of course there is a simple program available (Desktop Clients and Mobile Apps), which will automatically back up/synchronize your data from select directories. It really can’t be any simpler. :-)

The service is available at https://owncloud.cesnet.cz/, where you can also sign in with a name and password to CAS (just like signing in to SIS, faculty mail, etc.). You don’t have to register, the service is available for everyone immediately. CESNET offers all students and academic employees 100 GB of space, see the service details, the instructions on the CESNET website, and the official documentation from the ownCloud developers.

OwnCloud is accessible via the WebDAV protocol, which can be implemented on all operating systems and in an enormous amount of applications. For advanced synchronization of directories in Android, e.g. the FolderSync application is very useful.

An advantage over commercial services is both the large capacity and the fact that data is still stored within the Czech Republic, subject to Czech laws, and unlike some other companies left unnamed, CESNET does not further use the data for its own purposes (targeted advertising, for example).

Massive CESNET data repository

For those who need more than 100 GB (people working with genetic data for example), CESNET offers practically unlimited data storage. Capacity is currently so large that we can’t even imagine. :-) Data storage is accessible after registration. If you have any questions contact administrator, CIT employees or call CESNET directly (they are very helpful). Data which has not been used for a longer period of time is shifted to slower disks and tapes, so if you want to download it, it may take a while for it to become available. This storage is not entirely ideal for everyday work (nonetheless, you can arrange for CESNET to leave certain data on fast disks), it’s better for archiving large amounts of data. In any case, I recommend checking out the information on the CESNET website, and possibly asking about their user support.

Filesender: do you need to send a file up to 500 GB?

CESNET offers one more interesting service: Filesender. This lets you send up to 500 GB of data at once. Again, you can use it at any time from university and scientific facilities in the Czechia. If you need to get a large amount of data from colleagues abroad, you can send them a one-time invitation which lets them upload large volumes of data and send it to you. The service is available at https://filesender.cesnet.cz/ (just like ownCloud after logging in to CAS). See the basic information and instruction, or information on the website of the developers of this application.

Offers from private companies

Data storage is offered by numerous private companies at various levels of quality and credibility. Below are the ones worthy of mention. This is not a full or exhaustive list. If you store data with a third party, it is important to use only a trustworthy service. Encrypting data before sending it to the server is also useful. This can easily be done by software such as Duplicity (Linux users will typically find it in their repositories), which automatically creates incremental encrypted backups. The backups are secure because of their encryption, and it is also easy to return to previous points in the history. Duplicity knows how to connect various storage sites, which is one of its many advantages. Of course, there are numerous similar programs.

(Faculty) Google Drive

The faculty uses Google Apps For Education as Groupware (e-mail, calendar...). These apps include the Google Drive service. The Google pro Edu license (which we have) offers for all users unlimited space. This service is mainly suitable for synchronizing and sharing among multiple users. Login at http://www.google.com/drive/ and look at the Google instructions, Google support, and also faculty information (in Czech). You can also consult a faculty ambassadors who will help you right at your computer. The login process is the same for all Google services available at the faculty (login@natur.cuni.cz and CAS password).

Advantages

  • ability to create and edit office documents online (including simultaneous work of multiple users, which is the main advantage)
  • integration with other Google functions which we use at the faculty
  • unlimited space
  • no need to create another account

Disadvantages

  • more limited ways of accessing data compared to other services (especially through the web and Android), see the application, which is only available for Windows and Mac OS X (missing for Linux)
  • does not support multiple versions of files, only revisions within office documents (with certain restrictions)
  • for those bothered by the fact that the data is physically held by Google (see the recent scandals with the American NSA spy program), in this case (unlike person Google accounts) the data remains in the possession of Charles University

Dropbox

Dropbox is one of the most well known services for storing and sharing files, it has numerous functions and is supported on a large number of devices such as e-book readers – not just conventional computers and common mobile systems. The basic version offers 2 GB of space, which can be expanded for free if you perform certain activities (e.g. connecting additional devices, recommending new users). Additional capacity can also be purchased.

Europeans should realize that the “cloud” must ultimately be physically located in servers located in some country and subject to its laws. In this case USA. American laws are far less strict in protecting privacy than current EU legislation. So when you register for some online service, read the terms of use for the service and the privacy protection rules. Recently there has been justified suspicion regarding the handling by certain American government agencies of user data.

SecureSafe and Tresorit

Both are alternatives of Dropbox from European teritory. Main advantage is strong full encryption on user side. Both storages are aiming mainly to security. They do not have any or just very limited free space. Chech features and prices of SecureSafe and Tresorit.

MEGA

MEGA is another fully encrypted storage site. It was founded in early 2013 after the FBI took down the previous service, Megaupload, because it was widely used to share pirated multimedia. MEGA is headquartered in New Zealand (mainly for legal protection) and the basic service offers 50 GB free (even though there are certain restrictions on data transfer volume) and client applications for the major operating systems, mobile telephones and web browsers. You can find additional information on their website (upper right menu).

Microsoft OneDrive and Office 365 Pro

Microsoft OneDrive offers 15 GB of space free. Client applications are available for MS Windows, Mac OS X and 3 major mobile platforms. For current students as well as employees there is Office 365 Pro, which is basically MS Office running online, also with the option of working offline (including the installation of MS Office 2013 on your own computer.) OneDrive is a data repository. Everyone at the faculty has 1 TB available. To log in, use your regular faculty login name (login@natur.cuni.cz) and CAS password.

Local backup

To cover all the bases, let us not forget the most common backup option, namely an external drive, or possibly the local NAS. When using simple external drives, make sure that you have all data saved at least twice in two difference places. In the event of fire or flood, it won’t help you to have an external drive right next to your laptop… And use backup software, which will ideally keep all of your data synchronized automatically. There are a wide range of programs which differ greatly in their functions. The NAS devices are accessible over home or public networks and have numerous functions such as advanced backup, access from all possible operating systems and mobile devices, streaming, sharing etc. If you are thinking about buying something, look at current Czech wholesale offers and talk to someone knowledgeable.

Conclusion

So what should you choose? The options are pretty similar so don’t worry about it too much. :-) If you have a (desktop) computer at the faculty and need to back up your drive, and we’re not talking about terabytes, then the NAS department backup system will be fine. I recommend ownCloud through CESNET for everyone, and if that’s not enough space, register to use the massive CESNET data repository. If you have a lot of data which you need to access relatively quickly, try talking to a CIT representative about possibly using the faculty data storage.

Address any questions you might have to administrator. He will either have the answer or direct you to someone who does.

And finally, remember: There are two types of users. Those who back things up, and those who have not yet lost their data. Try to start backing things up before you regret it. :-)

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