Cloud computing and backups

I began putting stuff on the internet for fun and non-profit at some point in the previous millennium. In 2008, almost exactly 13 years ago, I registered this domain. After eight years of mostly uneventful but very slow shared hosting with a tiny company somewhere in Germany’s Wild East, I upgraded to a cheapo virtual private server (VPS) hosted by OVH, a French company that seemed less evil than The Big Americans. A VPS is a modern wonder: it is a very modest server, complete with processor, memory, disk etc., that is simulated alongside many others of its kind by a truly powerful server. It is the ghost in the machine, or rather the ghost of a machine, in the machine.

Running this site on the VPS was faster, and clearly more fun. I’ve failed as some things over the decades, including a stint as a failed sysadmin. Put differently, having a (virtual) server at my disposal led to some unproductive but interesting distractions, including the robot. From previous lives full of painful experience, I was well aware that it is crucial to have multiple off-site backups. And so I cobbled together some script that seemed to work reasonably well.

Everything was ticking along nicely (unless I messed things up because I had the urge to fiddle) until last week. On March 10, the virtual and the real hardware and everything it contained were spontaneously uploaded to the upper left corner of this image.

Cloud computing and backups 1

OVH lost half a data centre in a blast that left more than four million sites offline, many of them unrecoverable. Including mine, natch. So I remembered that half-forgotten script. Somewhat obviously, it had stopped working when I changed a password without thinking of the ripple effects that might have. Thankfully, I had lost only eight months of changes or so. And even those, I got (mostly) back thanks to the wonder that is the WayBack Machine.

All in all, I was stupid but lucky. Right now, I check that the backups work every couple of days. Knowing myself, I will completely have forgotten about this disaster in approximately 189 days from now.

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