I have just learned about a really awesome service – Backupify. This a really simple yet extremely useful web application for those of us who use plenty of web services. Backupify, as you have probably guessed from the name of it, does backups. It can backup your data from a whole lot of services – Gmail, Flickr, Delicious, Facebook, Twitter, and so on, and so forth. Backups are stored at Amazon’s S3 service. And you have an option of using your own S3 subscription if you have one. I don’t so I chose to use the one from Backupify.
As I said, the service is extremely easy to use. You just register for an account and then specify which of your online profiles should be backed up. There are options for daily and weekly backups and email notifications. Support for more services is in the works too. And the best part of it is that if you register today (before December 31, 2009), you’ll have a free account forever!
But if you were late for the free cheese, I’m sure the usefulness of such a service is beyond a few bucks that they will ask you for later on. Strongly recommended!
While reading yet another sad story of the data loss, I came across a really awesome picture. Whether you like it or not, it perfectly describes the disaster recovery plan and implementation in way too many companies.
The long story short : I lost my blog, as well as a few other web sites.
Here goes the longer version. I have been moving a whole bunch of web sites from my reseller hosting account at EuroVPS to a brand new VPS account at VAServ. Site by site, blog by blog, database by database. To keep things simple, once I made sure that the site was moved properly, I deleted the copy from the old hosting (after a week or so).
When I was almost done with the move and there were just a few more left, something really bad happened a VAServ. All company’s servers got compromised. The attackers gained control over thousands of VPS accounts across hundreds of servers, and then they deleted whatever they could. The effect of this was so devastating that it was extensively covered in the news.
According the VAServ, hackers utilized a security hole in the HyperVM software, which was written by LXLabs. Apparently, HyperVM is known for its poor security, but things never went wrong at this scale. (In other news, LXLabs founder was found dead in a suspected suicide a day or so later. And the rumour has it that the break-in had nothing to do with HyperVM, but was VAServ negligence)
Now for the most interesting part of the story – the lost data. How did that happen? OK, the company got hacked and all data was deleted. But what about the backups? It turned out, there were no tape backups. The only backups VAServ had were on the network storage. And, of course, that data got deleted by the attackers. Imagine that. Web sites, databases, emails, DNS records. Everything is gone. Well, not everything – they managed to recover some servers, but not all by far.
My sites were on one of those servers which experienced 100% data loss, and which had no backup. That was when I contacted EurVPS support and asked them to restore my recently deleted sites from tapes. After all, it’s better to lose a few weeks of work, rather than a few years. Guess what? It turned out, EuroVPS has no backups either. When I insisted, saying that backups are a part of my hosting plan, they corrected themselves and said that they have backups, but, as advertised on the site – weekly only.
Let me ask you a simple question. How do you understand the phrase “weekly backups on tape”? My understanding was that there’s a scheduled backup task (every weekend or so), which dumps data on tapes, and those tapes are moved out of the building somewhere. Eventually, of course, they are rotated (monthly, or annually, or so). But there is a certain period which you can go back to and restore from those weekly tapes.
It so happened, my understanding was wrong. Weekly tape backup means one backup within a week on tape. That is, there is no way to go more than one week back using tape backups. I was shocked a bit, but there was still a chance to get something. I clearly remember that I deleted two sites five days ago. I asked EuroVPS support to restore at least those. To which they replied that those two sites aren’t on the backups either.
What? How? Err… I know, of course, that the loss of data is my fault as much as theirs. I should have done my own backups, downloading them to my own machine. And I’m deeply sorry for not doing so. But on the other hand, having paid for hosting, I do expect uninterrupted power, redundant network connection, and properly organized backups. If that’s not how commercial hosting is different from home servers, than I don’t know how.
Currently, I am setting up a new VPS host, reconfiguring domains for the new IP, installing a bunch of WordPress blogs, and issuing a whole lot of apologies. Those things that can be recovered, will be recovered. Those things that were important and were lost, will be started a new. And those things that were not important and were lost, will remain lost.
Let this be yet another painful lesson on the importance of backups.
Does this look cryptic to you? Probably not. But I wanted to write something and thought that these two lines won’t be that obvious for everyone out there. So I decided to explain exactly what goes on.
Before I start, I have to say that these are not just any two random lines of perl code. These are very useful lines that provide a short and elegant solution to a rather common problem. Read on if you interested.