Friday, July 29, 2011

Should I Write My Own?

I've been making an effort in recent years to look first for something that exists already that I can use, rather than choosing by default to write my own solution for tasks that can be solved with software. Sometimes that's difficult because the thing I need is very particular to some internal requirements. At other times, it's difficult because the task is an obvious and common one and a gazillion people have solved it and the task of evaluating all those solutions seems bigger than writing a new tool from scratch.

My current project is backup. This seems like one that might have been solved a few times already. And it's a task that I've solved a few times already myself. In this case, I want something that does what Dropbox advertises, except that the data needs to be encrypted on my machines so that only opaque blobs are stored in the cloud. I had a look at Spideroak, which claims to do what I want—but, the first dozen times I ran the client software, it crashed. This does not fill me with confidence for that sad day in the future when I might want to access my data. And in any case it doesn't give me the other thing I want—the ability to select the places where the data will live. I want the data to be stored in redundant, widely separated data centres, all under different control.

I've done a lot of Googling, and a ton of reading announcements and documentation for various solutions. Nothing quite does what I want, at least among the things I've so far found. But I'm thinking that a little bit of scripting, some cron jobs and some tools like rsync and/or Duplicity might just achieve what I want. At least in this day of cheap disks the job of testing out the critical restore capability is just a matter of tedium. I might have more to say about this in the future.

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