Archive for September, 2012

ZCB 4.3 now available; ever easier cloud backup!

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Past few months have been really busy around here. After releasing Zmanda Cloud Backup (ZCB) 4.2, which had a brand new purchasing option with a new cloud storage provider (Google), we had our task clearly cut out: make ZCB even easier to understand and use. So we got back to our laundry list and picked up a few items our users were requesting the most. The result is our latest release 4.3, available for download to all current and new ZCB customers.

So what’s new? Well, quite a lot:

A brand new help portal

Before we deep dive into the product improvements, let me introduce you to our new help portal:

This portal is available at http://help.zmanda.com and has all the documentation available in an easily searchable format. So whether you need any help in configuring ZCB or getting through a technical issue, please search this portal to see if your question has already been answered. We plan to constantly add to the knowledgebase, so please leave us your comments on the pages there!

Encryption made easier

We added a new, user friendly encryption method: Passphrase based AES 256 bit encryption. As compared to our current PFX based encryption method, this method is easy to get started with. Just create your encryption key using a strong password:

AES encryption

and begin using it with your backup sets:

AES encryption use

As with our PFX encryption method, you own your encryption key completely. It is never transferred to Zmanda servers or to cloud storage. What’s great is that you can change the encryption key whenever your security policies want you to (just make sure you save a copy for future restores!).


Interruption-free data protection for laptops

If you are using ZCB to backup laptops, you will get two significant benefits by using ZCB 4.3:

  • When you lose network connection (say when you step out of a WiFi zone), you don’t have to worry about your ongoing upload tasks. These tasks will resume as soon as you get a network connection (on Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 2008 Server) or at the next hour(on Windows XP or Windows 2003 Server).
  • While adding backup schedules, you will see a new option to wake up your computer (if it happens to be sleeping or hibernating at the scheduled backup time) to run the backup job:

wake up computer

Feeling unlucky? Verify your backups!

Moved your external or network drives around? Or simply need reassurance that your cloud data is safe and sound? ZCB 4.3 includes a new “Verify Backup Data” operation which can check the health status of your backups. To run this operation, go to the Report page, right click on a backup run and select the Verify Backup Data option:

verify backup data

If all is well, you will get this reassuring message:

verify backup data result

And if ZCB finds something out of order (we hope not!), you will see this message:

verify backup data result fail

If you see the above message, check the Details column of the backup runs to know the exact error.

Manage your cloud data better

Many ZCB customers value the flexible retention policy provided by ZCB for your data. To keep your costs low, it is important to configure desired retention policy before you start backing up. This will ensure that as your data grows older and stops being valuable to you, it is automatically removed by ZCB from the cloud. But what if you forget to set retention policies before backing up? In that case, your data will keep getting accumulated on the cloud forever, taking up valuable cloud storage space.

Also there may be cases when your backup policies change (for example your old Excel reports prove to be more valuable than you earlier thought and now want to retain them for 1 year instead of 6 months) and hence you need to change the retention policy of backups you have already made.

To support such cases, ZCB 4.3 now has a new operation which you can use to change the retention policy of already run backups. Just go to the Report page, select your backup runs (you can even select multiple runs), right click on them and click on the Change Retention Period option, as shown below:
change retention

This will bring up a window where you can change the retention policy as you desire:

change retention 2

Note that ZCB allows you to set independent retention policies for local backups and cloud backups.


Delete your old, unnecessary backup data easily

Sometimes you just want to delete backups older than a particular date. This may happen when you didn’t set retention policies or you just wish to free up some cloud storage space.

With ZCB 4.3, now you can delete such backups in a single shot by using a new handy option in the File menu:

purge all backup runs before

This will bring up this window with self explanatory options:


purge all backup runs before window

Just provide your preferences above and all older data belonging to your computer will be deleted from cloud. Like other deletions from cloud - this process is irreversible, so take caution!


Locate a backed up file and restore it quickly

If you are looking for a specific file (say a meeting document from 1 year ago), it is super easy in ZCB 4.3. Just select your backup set, go to Restore tab and click on the “Locate a Backup File” button:

locate a backed up file

In the next window, just type in what you remember from the desired file name (such as “team_meeting”) and hit the Find button. ZCB will then show you all the matching file names along with the most recent time of their backup. You can select the desired file from the list and restore it in a couple of mouse clicks.


Backup one computer, upload to cloud from another

If some of your computers (such as an old Desktop at your home) don’t have necessary internet bandwidth to finish cloud backups, now you don’t have to leave them unprotected.Using ZCB 4.3, you can upload the backup data of such computers from a different computer that does have a better internet connection (such as a server in your office).

The steps to do this are described here and can be particularly valuable to finish the upload of large backups (such as the first full backup).


Other important improvements

In addition to many bug fixes and usability improvements, ZCB 4.3 also features:

More robust backups to your network drives

While storage clouds provide unparalleled reliability, network drives are an excellent way to store your backups locally for faster restores. But unfortunately due to fluctuating network conditions and changing user demands, network drives are prone to read/write errors.

ZCB 4.3 has a retransmission mechanism to handle such cases better and hence should result in more reliable backups to your network drives.

Mixing of Differential and Incremental backups is now possible

Before 4.3, you had to select either of the two backup levels - incremental and differential for a backup set. But in 4.3 you can combine these together in the same backup set.

The benefit? For starters you can implement hierarchical backup strategies such Grandfather-Father-Son scheme which provide strong redundancy and quicker restores. The combination allows you to reduce your cost of cloud storage while keeping your backup windows to a minimum.

As always, please let us know your comments and feature requests at zcb@zmanda.com.

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-Nik