Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

October 14 2011

Dolly Drive: Time Machine in the Cloud

As many of the Mac AppStorm writers will tell you, backup is important! It is the single thing that is protecting you from massive data loss, hours of frustration and lots of hair pulling.

With the advent of Leopard, Apple released a built-in backup utility that makes backup a breeze, called Time Machine. However, Time Machine was developed for local use only. It will backup to a Firewire or USB hard drive plugged directly into your computer as well as a Time Capsule device on your local Wifi network. While that is a very good thing, natural disasters do occur, as does theft and simple hard drive failure that can put your backup at risk. What if you could use Time Machine to backup to the cloud?

Introducing Dolly Drive

Dolly Drive does just that. It enables you to use Time Machine to backup to a cloud service, called Dolly Grid.

Backing up to Dolly Grid

Backing up to Dolly Grid

Backing up using Dolly Drive just requires a small application that changes a few things about your Time Machine settings. Instead of backing up to a local hard disk or Time Capsule on your local network, it creates a backup that is transferred up to the Dolly Grid.

Dolly Drive main window

Dolly Drive main window

Dolly Drive Backup Status

Dolly Drive Backup Status

Now one thing that must be remembered is the slowness that is associated with online backup. Whether you use Dropbox, CrashPlan or Dolly Drive, your backups are going to take a bit longer than they would if they were backing up to a local hard disk. However, the benefits (protection against theft, hard drive failure or natural disaster) often outweigh the downside of slower backup.

Cloning With Dolly Clone

Once you have your time machine backing up to the cloud, what are you going to do with the hard drive that is sitting idle besides your computer? Use it as a local backup of course! With most of your data secured online, it can takes hours to download your data to get going again after a hard drive failure or loss of some kind. Having a local backup as well a cloud backup will help you get up and running again in a matter of minutes instead of hours.

Since Dolly Drive takes up your Time Machine capabilities, (Apple doesn’t allow for two different Time Machine instances to exist on one Mac at the same time) you will need to use a cloning utility instead. Recently, Dolly Drive added cloning capabilities right inside their application under the name “Dolly Clone.”

Dolly Clone, selecting a source

Dolly Clone, selecting a source

Dolly Clone is about as simple as it gets. You pick what you want backed up and then which drive it should be cloned to. Then you can chose to have Dolly Clone wipe the backup destination and start fresh, or have it smartly update the drives to be clones of each other. The latter is done by determining the differences between the two drives and then adjusting the destination drive to match the original.

Pricing Online Backup

Dolly Drive is a subscription service (with Dolly Clone being a free download for everyone). They have a few different plans starting at $5/month for 50GB, going up to $10/month for 250GB and even $55/month for 2TB of storage (there are discounts available if your pay in advance). Each plan comes with an extra 5GB per month that you remain a customer. Since Time Machine backups continuously expand, it’s a great bonus to using Dolly Drive.

The two main competitors to Dolly Drive appear to be CrashPlan and Backblaze. However, these don’t utilize the built-in Time Machine system to backup. They each charge $5/month for unlimited backup. It’s important to note though that restoring from these services generally requires logging onto their website and downloading a .zip file. This is much less fluid than using Time Machine to connect to your Dolly Drive backup and restoring from there.

Conclusion

Dolly Drive for Lion, at the time of writing is still in Beta. There are a few bugs that should be fixed with Lion’s 10.7.2 backup, according to Dolly Drive. However it worked splendidly for me.

It is stuck with the normally slow internet backup problem that all of its competitors also face. With a normal home connection, the Internet isn’t really fast enough to match local backup speeds. While it isn’t Dolly Drive’s fault, it is something to think about if you plan to start backing up terabytes of data.

Because it is using Time Machine to backup, there isn’t a way to access your files on a mobile device or different computer, even if your files are located in the cloud.

Should you start using Dolly Drive for cloud backup? I would say yes if you haven’t ever tried online backup. Being so deeply integrated with the Mac operating system is fantastic. I found their support to be exceptional as well. If you are already backed up with another online backup service, I would be a bit weary. This is mainly due to the amount of time that it would take to get all of your data in the cloud again.

Do you use an online backup service? Have you tried out Dolly Drive? Let us know in the comments!

July 20 2011

Accessing the data center from the cloud with OpenVPN

This post was inspired by a recent exercise I went through at the prompting of my colleague Dan Mesh. The goal was to have Amazon EC2 instances connect securely to servers at a data center using OpenVPN.

In this scenario, we have a server within the data center running OpenVPN in server mode. The server has a publicly accessible IP (via a firewall NAT) with port 1194 exposed via UDP. Cloud instances which run OpenVPN in client mode are connecting to the server, get a route pushed to them to an internal network within the data center, and are then able to access servers on that internal network over a VPN tunnel.

Here are some concrete details about the network topology that I'm going to discuss.

Server A at the data center has an internal IP address of 10.10.10.10 and is part of the internal network 10.10.10.0/24. There is a NAT on the firewall mapping external IP X.Y.Z.W to the internal IP of server A. There is also a rule that allows UDP traffic on port 1194 to X.Y.Z.W.

I have an EC2 instance from which I want to reach server B on the internal data center network, with IP 10.10.10.20.

Install and configure OpenVPN on server A

Since server A is running Ubuntu (10.04 to be exact), I used this very good guide, with an important exception: I didn't want to configure the server in bridging mode, I preferred the simpler tunneling mode. In bridging mode, the internal network which server A is part of (10.10.10.0/24 in my case) is directly exposed to OpenVPN clients. In tunneling mode, there is a tunnel created between clients and server A on a separated dedicated network. I preferred the tunneling option because it doesn't require any modifications to the network setup of server A (no bridging interface required), and because it provides better security for my requirements (I can target individual servers on the internal network and configure them to be accessed via VPN). YMMV of course.

For the initial installation and key creation for OpenVPN, I followed the guide. When it came to configuring the OpenVPN server, I created these entries in /etc/openvpn/server.conf:

server 172.16.0.0 255.255.255.0
push "route 10.10.10.0 255.255.255.0"
tls-auth ta.key 0 

The first directive specifies that the OpenVPN tunnel will be established on a new 172.16.0.0/24 network. The server will get the IP 172.16.0.1, while OpenVPN clients that connect to the server will get 172.16.0.6 etc.

The second directive pushes a static route to the internal data center network 10.10.10.0/24 to all connected OpenVPN clients. This way each client will know how to get to machines on that internal network, without the need to create static routes manually on the client.

The tls_auth entry provides extra security to help prevent DoS attacks and UDP port flooding.

Note that I didn't have to include any bridging-related scripts or other information in server.conf.

At this point, if you start the OpenVPN service on server A via 'service openvpn start', you should see an extra tun0 network interface when you run ifconfig. Something like this:


tun0      Link encap:UNSPEC  HWaddr 00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00  
          inet addr:172.16.0.1  P-t-P:172.16.0.2  Mask:255.255.255.255
          UP POINTOPOINT RUNNING NOARP MULTICAST  MTU:1500  Metric:1
          RX packets:2 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:2 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
          collisions:0 txqueuelen:100 
          RX bytes:168 (168.0 B)  TX bytes:168 (168.0 B)

Also, the routing information will now include the 172.16.0.0 network:

# netstat -rn
Kernel IP routing table
Destination     Gateway         Genmask         Flags   MSS Window  irtt Iface
172.16.0.2      0.0.0.0         255.255.255.255 UH        0 0          0 tun0
172.16.0.0      172.16.0.2      255.255.255.0   UG        0 0          0 tun0
...etc

Install and configure OpenVPN on clients

Here again I followed the Ubuntu OpenVPN guide. The steps are very simple:

1) apt-get install openvpn

2) scp the following files (which were created on the server during the OpenVPN server install process above) from server A to the client, into the /etc/openvpn directory: 

ca.crt
ta.key
client_hostname.crt 
client_hostname.key


3) Customize client.conf:

# cp /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/sample-config-files/client.conf /etc/openvpn

Edit client.conf and specify:

remote X.Y.Z.W 1194     (where X.Y.Z.W is the external IP of server A)

cert client_hostname.crt
key client_hostname.key
tls-auth ta.key 1

Now if you start the OpenVPN service on the client via 'service openvpn start', you should see a tun0 interface when you run ifconfig:


tun0      Link encap:UNSPEC  HWaddr 00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00  
          inet addr:172.16.0.6  P-t-P:172.16.0.5  Mask:255.255.255.255
          UP POINTOPOINT RUNNING NOARP MULTICAST  MTU:1500  Metric:1
          RX packets:2 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:2 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
          collisions:0 txqueuelen:100 
          RX bytes:168 (168.0 B)  TX bytes:168 (168.0 B)

You should also see routing information related to both the tunneling network 172.16.0.0/24 and to the internal data center network 10.10.10.0/0 (which was pushed from the server):

# netstat -rn
Kernel IP routing table
Destination     Gateway         Genmask         Flags   MSS Window  irtt Iface
172.16.0.5      0.0.0.0         255.255.255.255 UH        0 0          0 tun0
172.16.0.1      172.16.0.5      255.255.255.255 UGH       0 0          0 tun0
10.0.10.0       172.16.0.5      255.255.255.0   UG        0 0          0 tun0
....etc

At this point, the client and server A should be able to ping each other on their 172.16 IP addresses. From the client you should be able to ping server A's IP 172.16.0.1, and from server A you should be able to ping the client's IP 172.16.0.6.

Create static route to tunneling network on server B and enable IP forwarding on server A

Remember that the goal was for the client to access server B on the internal data center network, with IP address 10.10.10.20. For this to happen, I needed to add a static route on server B to the tunneling network 172.16.0.0/24, with server A's IP 10.10.10.10 as the gateway:

# route add -net 172.16.0.0/24 gw 10.10.10.10

The final piece of the puzzle is to allow server A to act as a router at this point, by enabling IP forwarding (which is disabled by default). So on server A I did:

# sysctl -w net.ipv4.ip_forward=1
# echo "net.ipv4.ip_forward=1" >> /etc/sysctl.conf

At this point, I was able to access server B from the client by using server B's 10.10.10.20 IP address.

We've just started to experiment with this setup, so I'm not yet sure if it's production ready. I wanted to jot down these things though because they weren't necessarily obvious, despite some decent blog posts and OpenVPN documentation. Hopefully they'll help somebody else out there too.



July 26 2010

15 Web Alternatives to Popular Desktop Software

Web applications have come a long way. They used to be amateur imitations of their desktop counterparts, with only one or two functions and not at all practical. But my, have these web apps grown. Web apps these days have become so powerful and useful that in some cases, they’ve begun to replace desktop software.

Desktop programs are great and all, but they don’t provide the same benefits as web apps that make use of cloud computing. With most web apps, you only need a browser and an internet connection to access all your data online. That beats having to install annoying programs any day. To give you a better sense of how useful web apps have become, I’ve compiled a list of web tools and apps that can very well replace some desktop programs. I hope you take the time to try them all out. You’ll be surprised how well they work.

Without further ado, here are some great web alternatives to the popular desktop programs we all love.

Sliderocket

Replaces: Microsoft PowerPoint

SlideRocket

SlideRocket

Sliderocket is a fully functional presentation web app that allows you to create, manage, edit, and share presentations on the fly. It offers many of the same features present in PowerPoint and then some. Sliderocket is an awesome tool and if you want to read more about it, take a look at our in-depth review of Sliderocket.

Acrobat.com

Replaces: Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat

Acrobat

Acrobat

Acrobat.com is a suite of web applications by Adobe that replaces your office suite. The online suite includes services like Buzzword, Tables, and Presentation which replace Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint respectively. Acrobat.com also offers other features, allowing users to convert files into PDFs, hold online meetings, and collaborate with one another. All of its services are free (with some limitations), but users can subscribe to different plans for more features. Check out the pricing section for more details.

Aviary

Replaces: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Soundbooth

Aviary

Aviary

We have already covered a list of online image editors, and of that list, my favorite would have to be Aviary. The Aviary web suite offers powerful tools that allow you to edit images, vectors, and even audio! Take a look at the huge list of the tools included in their suite:

• Phoenix: Image Editor
• Toucan: Color Editor
• Myna: Audio Editor
• Peacock: Effects Editor
• Raven: Vector Editor
• Falcon: Image Markup
• Roc: Music Creator. Check out our in-depth review of Roc.

Mint

Replaces: Quicken

Mint

Mint

If you’re still using Quicken to manage your money, it’s time to toss it out and move on to the better solution: Mint.com. Mint is a very popular personal-finance tool that allows you to keep track your credit card transactions, balance your budget, and create charts or graphs to help you visualize your spending. Mint is the free and secure way to manage your money online. In fact, Mint has been so successful that the makers of Quicken and TurboTax purchased it in 2009. What are you waiting for? Hurry up and sign up!

Kongregate

Replaces: Desktop Gaming

Kongregate

Kongregate

Forget about your desktop gaming – why waste space when you can play awesome games online? Kongregate is an online gaming community with a library of over 30,000 flash games. Not only do you have access to a variety of games, but you can also gain points, chat, and unlock achievements for the games you play. Developers can upload their own games and even make money off ad revenue for their games! If you’re looking for more online games to replace desktop games, take a look at our game roundups.

JayCut

Replaces: Video Editing Software

JayCut

JayCut

JayCut is a very easy to use and powerful online video editor. With Jaycut, you can create videos with the same tools used in desktop programs. Add clips, transitions, audio, effects, and more with their simple UI. When you finish editing a video, you can choose to download it or export it directly to YouTube. Export up to 20 videos a month with 2GB of storage under a free plan, or pay monthly for a better plan.

WobZip

Replaces: Unzipping Software

WobZip

WobZip

Have you ever tried to open a compressed file only to find out you don’t have the right unzipping software to do the job? In comes WobZip, an online tool that helps you uncompress your files. It supports a variety of compression formats, including the popular ZIP, RAR, and 7z formats. You can upload a zipped file from your computer or direct WobZip to a URL. The best part? WobZip will scan the files using BitDefender to make sure there isn’t a nasty virus lurking around.

Zamzar

Replaces: File Conversion Software

Zamzar

Zamzar

Instead of downloading dozens of different programs to convert a file, you can always use the Zamzar, the free online file conversion tool. Can’t open a crucial .docx or .pptx file and your boss is screaming in your ear? No problem, just upload and convert your files using Zamzar. Zamzar supports dozens of image, document, video, and music formats and is the only tool you will ever need to convert files.

Hulu

Replaces: TV Tuner Software

Hulu

Hulu

I’m a cheap guy who spends all his time on the computer. How could I watch my favorite TV shows without leaving my computer? Well, I could purchase a TV tuner and install their lame software or I could head to Hulu.com and watch my favorite shows for free. Hulu is a website that offers streaming video of popular TV shows and movies in the US. It is ad supported, but allows you to watch your favorite shows from the comfort of your computer. Although Hulu is a U.S. only website, there are ways to access Hulu from outside the U.S.

Meebo

Replaces: Desktop Chat Clients

Meebo

Meebo

With Meebo, you can chat with your friends from anywhere as long as you have a browser and an internet connection. Meebo is an online tool that allows you to login to any major IM network, including AIM, MSN, GTalk, and Facebook. You don’t even need to create an account, just input your IM information and you’re ready to go. If you take the 20 seconds to set up a Meebo account, you can login to multiple accounts at once. This sure beats downloading and managing three IM programs at once, doesn’t it?

TokBox

Replaces: Video Chat

TokBox

TokBox

TokBox is an online video chatting app that enables you to chat with up to 20 people for free. There are no downloads required, just sign up and start a video chat! Invite your friends via social networks or IM and set up a chat in just minutes. TokBox is free to use, but if you’d like more options, you can sign up for monthly plans. TokBox may be free, but you’re going to need your own microphone and webcam.

Moof

Replaces: iTunes

Moof

Moof

You may have a huge iTunes library, but what happens when you go out and forget to bring your iPod along? Moof is the solution. Moof is another web app that streams music online, but I think of it as an iTunes alternative. You can export your entire iTunes library as an .xml file and upload that to Moof, so you can have a full backup of your music online. Where does Moof get all its music from? Youtube. Yeah, I know, it’s a little disappointing, but the quality isn’t that bad. Don’t like Moof? Check out our roundup of the top apps for music streaming.

ESET Online Virus Scanner

Replaces: Anti-Virus Software

ESET

ESET

While the ESET Online Virus scanner is a great alternative to Anti-Virus programs, you shouldn’t literally replace your Anti-Virus program. Think of this tool as a backup tool, in case your Anti-Virus software malfunctions. Made by the folks that brought you NOD32, the ESET online scanner uses the same threat signatures as NOD32 and allows you to scan your computer from your browser. It may take a while, but after the scan, suspicious files will be quarantined for you to restore or permanently delete. A great tool for your security toolbox.

Bitlet

Replaces: BitTorrent Client

BitLet

BitLet

When you don’t have access to a BitTorrent client on your computer, you can use the BitLet app to download your torrents. BitLet is a Java based file sharing protocol that allows you to download torrent files from your browser. Just upload a .torrent file from your computer or direct BitLet to the torrent URL and it’ll do the rest for you.

iCloud

Replaces: Operating System

iCloud

iCloud

We’ve already covered dozens of web alternatives to desktop software, but why not go a bit further and include a web app that replaces your entire operating system? Meet iCloud, the future of operating systems. iCloud is a very slick web operating system that gives you access to hundreds of built in applications, including an office suite, a media player, a chat client, nifty games, and much more. You have 3 GB of free storage and can opt to buy more if needed. You can get everything you need in this web OS. For those of you interested in Web OSes, be sure to read our article about other operating systems that utilize cloud computing.

Conclusion

As the world turns to cloud computing, we’re only going to see more and more web apps that function like their desktop counterparts. I’ve only listed a few of the web alternatives to desktop software, and I’m sure there are many more out there. As these web applications become more powerful and appeal to the masses in terms of functionality, we may soon see a decline in desktop programs as we all move towards the web and the cloud. Is this the end of desktop software? Who knows, we’ll have to wait and see.

Do you use any web apps in place of desktop programs? What do you think is going to be the future for desktop programs? Share your comments below!

Like the intro. image? Get the high resolution vector at GraphicRiver.net by author iqbalbaskara.

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl