Moving to HP Cloud DNS Services

Update 2016-10-20: Since writing this article HP has shutdown their cloud offering. I now host my DNS at Cloudflare and it works great!

The other day I got an email that said something to the effect of “HP Cloud DNS is now ready to rock and roll”… or something like that, and one of the biggest things I hate managing is DNS servers. So I figured what the heck, it’s cheap and it’s cloud so why not try it out.

My first impressions are that the service is pretty awesome, this site is already resolving dns requests to the HP Cloud servers… and its literally only been an hour or so since I set it up. When I say “set it up” I mean start to finish… I didn’t even have an HP Cloud account 2 hours ago.

Since pictures are probably worth at least 2000 of my words lets walk though the setup from start to finish. After creating an account, and confirming my email information I logged into the main control panel where I found a list of the different services and geographical locations of where services are offered, in that list was DNS under the Global Geography…naturally I clicked Activate.

dns_service

After activating the service a “Manage” button appears.

dns_manage

After clicking Manage I was instantly presented with a “Domains” page with very little instructions on what I should do, but I put in JPaul.me for the domain and my contact email address then clicked “Create New Domain”.

dns_create1

It created my domain instantly and added it to the list on the right, from there I could click on it to manage the DNS records.

record1

I wont bore you with a screen shot of each record I needed to create, but as you can see it was pretty straight forward. When I got done it looked like this:

records

So that’s pretty much it on the HP side. If you are a super smart person you will have seen that the DNS server names are listed at the top of the page, and hopefully you have worked with DNS before otherwise you might not know that those are the servers you need to add to your domain registrar information. So now that I had this side completed, I copied all of the DNS servers and headed over to GoDaddy and changed my DNS servers to the HP Cloud DNS.

godaddy

After about 20-30 minutes the authoritative servers were listed as the HP Cloud servers and … well you got here… so they must be working 🙂

Overall I would say that the HP Cloud DNS servers are easy to setup and seem to be very quick (at least quicker than mine were), If all goes well I plan to move over the other domains I manage so that I can remove my DNS VM’s from my cluster and just use the HP Cloud.

As for pricing you can check their official site, but it is currently listed at 35 cents per domain and 55 cents for the first MILLION queries per month. If you are wondering how many queries a site like this might get in a month (like I was) you can install dnstop on your DNS server. From that utility I was able to determine that my DNS servers were handling about 25000 queries per day so approximately 750,000 per month. So total I’m looking at 90 cents per month for this domain ($1.45 worst case). Not too bad for a globally redundant DNS infrastructure.

The only recommendations that I would give to HP is to add in some “help” bubbles along the way… Not everyone that will use the service will have the experience to get through the steps on their own. A “Mr Clippy”, like Office 97 had would be super… just make sure I can turn him off 🙂

As always I will report back any changes in service quality, or issues I run into.

Cloudberry Online Backup Review

If you are looking to push your small business or even just your personal laptop backups to the cloud, Cloudberry‘s Online Backup product might just be what you are looking for!

Cloudberry offers several backup products for almost any situation, from a single laptop to a Microsoft Small Business Server to your standard Windows server… they do it all. From what I have seen they have built in VSS support if you want to use it, but for my use case I left it off as I just wanted to push my documents and pictures to the cloud.

The three editions include Desktop, Server, and Enterprise. Below is the feature comparison and price comparison table, so far I have only tested the desktop edition but plan to test out the server edition soon.

CloudBerry Online Backup Editions
CloudBerry Online Backup Editions

For my testing I used two types of storage… one of which Cloudberry doesn’t do a huge job of promoting… just a simple CIFS share. The other type of storage I used was an Openstack Swift cluster running here in my home lab. Both worked great, and I am really looking forward to digging in to OpenStack and Swift in the future for this and other uses.

So easy to setup your mom could do it

Seriously, it is really easy and the download is under 10 MB in size. After downloading you run the installer and click next through a typical windows program installation. After installation has completed you must activate the software, a license key is emailed to the address you provide when you purchase.

Activation After Installation
Activation After Installation

After activation we can use the Backup Plan Wizard to create a backup job.

Backup Plan Wizard Welcome Screen
Backup Plan Wizard Welcome Screen

Step 1. Select Storage Type

The first thing you need to do is select which type of storage service you want to use. In this screenshot I was using a simple CIFS share, in subsequent tests I selected OpenStack instead of CIFS.

Select Storage for Backup Plan
Select Storage for Backup Plan

The only part of the CIFS process that was not clear was the authentication portion. In this wizard there is no place to put a username or password. But after the wizard is finished I will show you where to put those settings.

Step 2 – Storage Account Setup

No matter what type of storage you plan to use, you will need to setup the account information the first time. For CIFS you have to enter the display name and the path. As you can see there is no place for credentials (which my CIFS share requires), but fill in the path and we will circle back to the credentials in a bit.

No credential options, but places for Path and Display Name
No credential options, but places for Path and Display Name

Step 3 – Name your Backup Job

Pretty Simple step… just pick a name

Job Name
Job Name

Step 4 – Pick Simple or Advanced Mode

Simple or Advanced Mode
Simple or Advanced Mode

Note this is also where you force VSS to be used.

Step 5 – Select what you want to backup

Pretty easy step, just pick what on your desktop or server needs protected.

Use the tree view to select what you want to protect
Use the tree view to select what you want to protect

Step 6 – File Filtering

This isn’t required, but you can filter what files you do and do not want to backup. This might be a great option if you want to make sure not to backup music or something.

Filter Options
Filter Options

Step 6 – Compression and Encryption

Here we can select options to compress and encrypt our backups, since I’m going to local storage on a CIFS share i only chose to encrypt my backups and not to compress.

Compression and Encryption options
Compression and Encryption options

Step 7 – When to get rid of old stuff

As with everything we have to put a limit on the amount of history we want to keep… well i guess we wouldn’t have to, but chances are we will want to. That is done in this step.

 

Purge and Retention Options
Purge and Retention Options

Step 8 – Schedule your backup

A common step for any backup software.

Tell it when you want it to run
Tell it when you want it to run

Step 9 – Notifications

This is one thing that I really like about the Desktop product… it doesn’t make me use my own mail server… in fact it wont let me use my own mail server. For a corporate user this would be annoying probably, but for me or a home user it makes setup quick and simple.

Where to send notifications.
Where to send notifications.

Step 10 – FInish

After Clicking next on the notifications page you get a summary page that will allow you to review your settings before clicking finish. (Very Veeam like 😉 )

CIFS Credential Setup

Remember I said the storage account wizard did not have a place to put CIFS credentials… well after some digging I finally found where to put them.

  1. Click Tools from the main Cloudberry Backup window (at the fop)
  2. Select Network Credentials
  3. Click Add
  4. Put in the path (i just put in the CIFS server in \\server ip format
  5. Enter username and password and click test

That should take care of it. I’m not sure why they didn’t put that step in the wizard, but im sure a future release will make it more streamlined.

Monitoring a Job

So after you create a job we obviously want to know how to monitor the jobs

From the main window of CloudBerry Backup Click the “Backup Plans” tab and you will see all of your jobs listed. You can expand the jobs to see which ones are running and what their status is.

A Running Backup
A Running Backup

If a job fails there is a link that appears in the “Last Result” area that lets you know what files were not able to be backed up and why.

Restoring a File

Probably the most important part of a backup product is to be able to successfully restore files that were backed up. So lets take a look at the procedure to restore some files.

First Click on the “Restore Plans” tab and you will probably just see a white screen since you have not restored anything yet. Click the Restore Wizard at the top.

Step 1 – Select whether or not to save the restore plan.

I guess if you are dumb enough to delete the same file over and over… you might want to save the plan.

One time restore, or save the plan.
One time restore, or save the plan.

Step 2 – What version should we restore

Sometimes you don’t want the latest version, so here you can choose which one to restore.

Pick a version of the files you want to restore from.
Pick a version of the files you want to restore from.

Step 3 – Select the files you want to restore

Just like when you were selecting what to backup, here we select what we want to restore. If its not in the list… it wasn’t backed up…

Pick Which Files to restore
Pick Which Files to restore

Step 4 – Where to restore to

Next we need to specify if we want to restore to the original location or somewhere else. I picked a new folder on my desktop so I could easily file my file.

Pick where you want the file dropped off at
Pick where you want the file dropped off at

Step 5 – Uh Oh! did you remember your encryption password ?

Enter your password if you encrypted the backup job

restore5
Do you remember your encryption password

Step Finished – After that we just need to view the summary step and then click finished. And the job will run and dump off your files where you told it to.

Cloud Storage

I did test Cloudberry out with a local OpenStack Swift Cluster that im running as well, and I’m happy to report that it worked just like advertised. The only hang up’s that I had were finding out the right URL and credentials to use so that I could authenticate. But after figuring that out I was all set…. I’m sure if I were more experienced with Swift, as well as if i had setup swift from scratch and wasnt using a canned developer setup it owuld have been much easier too.

Overall I like Cloud Berry a lot, and it has been running on my personal laptop for over a month, and at this point I am just trying to decide if I want to put together an OpenStack Swift Cluster at the colo and start using it for family and firends backup as well, or if I should just use Amazon Glacier or one of the many other commercial storage platforms out there.

Oh and one last note, If you are using Amazon S3 Cloudberry also has the option to archive backups to Glacier for long term cheaper storage as well… very cool.

The Cloud and ITaaS: Why you and your dad still have a job to do!

This morning as I prepare to meet with a coworker to discuss cloud pricing and what our company intends to offer I was thinking about why a company would want cloud (or ITaaS) services. The feed back I normally get is that most IT people are gun shy about the idea because they think that they will be out of a job after moving the servers to the cloud. While management likes the idea because they see less Capex and just an Opex. So I was trying to come up with a really cool way of explaining why you… the IT person… will still have a job even if you move to a cloud infrastructure.

I like to relate situations to other things that most people have had experience with in order to better explain them. Somehow while thinking of a way to explain why the cloud isn’t going to take your job I thought of playgrounds and parks. Let me explain.

When I was a kid mom and dad along with my aunts and uncles all had small play equipment in their yards. Sometimes it was just a swing set (which was boring) and sometimes they were the more elaborate ones with slides and a small tree house looking area. It’s safe to say that the play ground equipment in the yard also changed over the years, after all wood deteriorates and metal rusts, and sooner or later it needed replaced. Overall though those swing sets got me by, somehow I managed to always be entertained while out there. I’m sure my dad and uncles were less enthused though, because they were the guys who had to maintain that equipment… and buy it… and mow around it….you get the point. (btw the home play set represents your private servers at your job and you and your dad are the “IT guys”, but I’m sure you picked that up already)

Now lets think about a public park. Normally there is a really cool playground with small pebbles or mulch surrounding everything so your kids don’t get hurt. Sometimes there are benches where parents can sit and watch their children play too. Where I grew up the town did a great job of maintaining the equipment and even upgrading it with more features through out the years. It was also right by the baseball fields and public swimming pool too, so it was easy to get to and use. The bottom line is that I still got to play… even though I didn’t own it. Sure my parents paid taxes, which in turn bought all that stuff, but without other families paying part of the bill the community as a whole would have never had that awesome of a playground. Plus lets look at it from my dad’s perspective… HE DIDN’T HAVE TO MOW AROUND IT! Nor did he have to build it, or maintain it. All he had to do was pitch in on the bill, and to him it was still a win because his kids still had fun. (if you haven’t already figured it out… the park and public playground is the cloud 😉

Lets go back to thinking about IT now because you might be thinking but wait… our dad is now out of a job because we won’t need the play set at home. But lets think about it, just because we don’t have a swing set in the yard doesn’t mean there still isn’t grass to mow and trees to trim. Plus you have to remember that dad isn’t the only IT person represented here, you ( the kid playing) is also representing an IT person too. There are still operating systems to install, applications to maintain, and user problems to worry about. The cloud is just freeing up your time from maintaining infrastructure and giving it back so that you can handle the day to day stuff and working on more projects.

Anyhow that is my stupid little explanation of why you’re still going to come to work every day even if you migrate all your servers to the cloud.