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So you have your Box, Google Drive or SkyDrive account, but how do you automatically add files to them? They are quite useful for manually adding files to, but what if you wanted to use the storage space to back up your computer files? Well, there aren’t too many options, especially free ones, that allow you to do this.
In fact, I’m only aware of one and that is Duplicati. Duplicati is a cross platform (Linux, Mac, Windows) program that becomes the intermediate tool between your computer files and these backup services. Granted, these aren’t the only services that it can be used on, but they’re some of the most popular ones so I mentioned them first. Duplicati is easy to use and set up. Let’s jump in!
Setting Up Duplicati
Upon installing Duplicati, you’ll be welcomed with a Setup Wizard to get your first backup underway. You’ll want to check the option “Setup a new backup” and click “Next.” Other options on this screen are restoring files from backup without setting up Duplicati and restoring settings from a previous Duplicati installation.
Next you’ll want to create a name for your backup. Note that you can also add this to a group to organize your backups if you desire.
Now you will select the types of files you want to backup or, alternatively, you can create a custom folder list. For most, however, selecting the file types should suffice.
After selecting your files, Duplicati will prompt you to set up your password. This password is very important to remember as they will not recover it for you. Do I need to reiterate that? Apparently, they feel the need to.
You can either choose your own password or have Duplicati randomly create one for you. Either way, make sure you save your password in a safe place. You can also choose the encryption method. Unless you’re an advanced user, I recommend you leave that be.
Once you create a secure password, you’ll choose your cloud storage option. If you haven’t already created an account with one or more of these options (and actually even if you have), I highly recommend you read Tim Brookes article, Read This Before Choosing An Online Backup Provider.
At this point it’d be a good idea to check out the how to section on the Duplicati website where they have instructions for setting up each of the different cloud storage options. Had I done this first, I would have saved some time and prevented some frustrating error messages.
Basically what I did when setting it up for SkyDrive is I assumed that it wanted the full folder path (in my defense, it kind of reads like it wants that) so I was pasting the whole SkyDrive folder path or a path of a folder in SkyDrive that I wanted to backup to.
Needless to say, this didn’t work. Instead what you’re supposed to do is type in the name that you want such as “Backup,” “Duplicati,” “My Documents,” etc. Then you click the Create Folder button. Once it’s created click the Test Connection button to ensure it works properly. You should get a little message that says “Connection Successful.”
Now you have a choice: you can either click next and bypass all the “advanced” options, or check the ones you’d like to change. If you’re curious like I am, you can check them all. Then click next.
The first setting, and one of the most important is the scheduling. This one isn’t very advanced and really should be customized no matter your technical level. Simply chose the different options to customize when you want Duplicati to run.
Next, you can edit the cleanup options. One thing you don’t want is an abundant amount of backups taking up space. You only need a few at the most, so really this doesn’t need to be changed, unless you have something specific in mind.
This next option is limiting the backup itself as far as file size, upload and download bandwidth limits, etc. This definitely applies if you have strict regulations from your Internet Service Provider.
Editing filters can come in handy if there’s a specific file type you want to keep from backing up, or perhaps the alternative where you only want to backup specific file types.
Lastly, there are the override settings. This is for the truly advanced and both Duplicati and I recommend that you don’t mess with these unless you know what you’re doing.
Then you finish and run the backup!
Here is some helpful information from Duplicati about the first backup that will be run:
When Duplicati is creating the first backup it simply creates a full backup that consists of three different parts. The first part is all the backup files that are stored in a split archive. Furthermore, so-called signatures are stored. A signature is a short description of what a file looks like at a specific time. Besides the files and signatures a so-called manifest is stored on the remote server. The manifest file is a description of the backup and it is used to verify integrity of all backup files. To make sure that no one gets access to this data, all those files are encrypted before they are uploaded.
They continue on to explain what will occur when Duplicati is run a second time:
When Duplicati is run another time it creates (new) signatures of all current files that might have been changed in the meantime. The new signatures are then compared with old signatures that have been stored in the backup. The comparison shows if a file has been changed, and it also shows what parts of a file have changed. These changed parts are put into a new archive and stored on the remote server together with the updated signatures and a new manifest file. This is an incremental backup which is very bandwidth efficient as only those parts are transferred that have been changed.
These quotes were derived from the how to section, which I linked to earlier. The great thing about Duplicati is there is a bunch of information available to you about the product and it is actively being developed.
So where do you download? Simply go to the Duplicati home page and you’ll see the latest version to download in the form of a green button. I could link to the actual download page, but that link would be obsolete once it is updated.
Using Duplicati After Initial Setup
There’s really not much you need to change, but if for some reason you do want to change any settings in Duplicati, it is fairly easy and they can be accessed simply by right clicking on the Duplicati icon in the application toolbar. Here it is shown in Windows:
From here you can access the Wizard, which you were first prompted with upon installation. You can also edit more options, view the current status, and control what the program is currently doing.
Duplicati was first brought to my attention by MakeUseOf reader, Andrea, in a comment on Tim’s post about cloud storage versus cloud backup and how they differ (linked to previously in the article). I am quite surprised at the functionality and simplicity of Duplicati. I feel it’s an essential tool to have along side any of the popular cloud storage apps. Unfortunately there is one app that is missing from the Duplicati and that is Dropbox. Other programs that Duplicati backs up to are listed below:
- 1&1 SmartDrive
- Amazon S3
- Google Drive
- Strato HiDrive
- Telekom Mediencenter
Have you already tried Duplicati already? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Do you think using Duplicati will make your cloud storage applications more useful or have you created another system that works just as well? Share your thoughts in the comments below!