HFS Storage Protect backup over VPN

Remote backup using the HFS Storage Protect service over VPN

Users of the HFS Storage Protect service may back up even when they do not have a physical or wireless connection to the University network.  This may be done via a University VPN. There are, however, some important caveats and features of this method of connection, and we strongly encourage you to read the sections below.

Please note that the HFS CrashPlan service is usually much more suitable for backup from outside the University network, and does not require VPN

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  • To use this service you will need first to install VPN software, ideally the IT Services VPN client (some University units also run their own VPNs, which we have not tested but which may also be suitable). The VPN client must be running if you wish to download, install or use the HFS Storage Protect software (for backup or restore) when not connected (either physically or wirelessly) to the University network.
  • The service is designed only to support the backup and restore of critical University data for users, whether they are connected to the University network or over VPN from anywhere else.
  • The configuration of Storage Protect must be carefully considered and where possible a limited set of data should be backed up. When backing up over VPN, we ask that you only back up your important data, rather than selecting the whole machine for backup. There are two ways in which you can do this, which are not mutually exclusive:
    • When you run a manual backup, be selective in what you wish to back up. For how to run a selective manual backup, please see our instructions for doing so on Windows, Mac, Linux, where you will find information on how you can choose certain files for backup rather than select your whole machine.
    • You can set the backup software to exclude all files from backup except for one or more key folders, as described in our section on how to exclude everything from backup except a specific directory/folder. This is more efficient than the aforementioned method of repeatedly having to choose which files to back up, although it is less simple to set up. Please note that excluding data from backup means that it cannot be backed up with Storage Protect, and that we do not retain data that has been excluded in this way.
  • If you selected at registration time (or subsequently) the option to run scheduled backups (and if you have not set up exclude rules as specified in the previous point), then you will find that, should a scheduled backup happen to run, the software will try to back up your whole machine. Such a backup, if run from outside the University network, may be extremely slow. You can prevent scheduled backups from occurring by removing your backup schedule.
  • Normal data retention limits apply, i.e. we require that your backups be kept up-to-date and be no more that 90 days old. If you suspect that the nature of your location will prevent you from backing your data up within a 90-day period, then we strongly advise you to contact us at hfs@ox.ac.uk to ask for a temporary suspension of the deletion policy for your account. We will require your name, the relevant Storage Protect nodename, and the period of time for which you are requesting an exemption.

The key issue when backing up or restoring using the HFS Storage Protect service from outside the University network is the speed of the connection whilst you are running the VPN software.  In some broadband packages, the upload speed may be a third or even a quarter of the download speed: this is important to note because data being backed up is by definition being uploaded.  You may therefore wish to try out backing up with Storage Protect and assess the backup speed.  If you need to back up gigabytes of data you may find that this is only possible over a wired or wireless connection on the University network.  Once your initial backup is complete, you can thereafter back up over VPN for the small incremental backups of files as they change over time.

It also worth noting that, as part of the backup process, an HFS Storage Protect server sends a list of files which have been previously backed up to the machine performing a backup. This list is then compared with the files found on your disk(s) to determine which files have been changed, created or deleted. Thus, if you select one or more directories for backup which contain millions of files, a list of all these files will need to be downloaded every time you run a backup, which can take a substantial amount of time.

Connecting to the HFS Storage Protect service via external networks (through VPN) can be error-prone for a number of reasons. If you experience problems initiating a VPN connection then:

  1. Ensure that your VPN connection is functioning correctly. Check for your problem in the IT Services VPN help page and work with local IT support or University IT Services network support to ensure that VPN is working before attempting to use the HFS Storage Protect backup service.
  2. Verify that you are connected via VPN by checking that your reported IP address starts with "129.67.116.", "129.67.117.", "129.67.118.", or "129.67.119.". Any other address indicates that the VPN connection was not established. You can find out your IP address by means of various online tools or by googling the question, 'What is my IP address?'.
  3. After a VPN connection has been started, if you experience problems connecting to the HFS Storage Protect server then please look for the relevant error message in the HFS knowledgebase and if necessary contact us at hfs@ox.ac.uk.

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