Setting up CrashPlan using VMWare and FreeNAS

I’ve had CrashPlan on my list of apps to get installed in order to better backup my system data that isn’t already installed on a NAS.  The FreeNAS forums allude to difficulty involved in properly setting up and upgrading CrashPlan as it isn’t extremely straightforward, plus getting clients to connect to a FreeNAS-based CrashPlan instance also seemed hacky (mentions of changing config files, etc).

I gave the server install a try and dealt with a number of missing driver dependencies, issues with bash properly running, and a bunch of other annoying things.  Then I decided to try a different way.

Crashplan has clients for Windows, Linux and Mac.  In addition to FreeNAS, I also have a VMWare server that is already running an instance of Windows that is providing a few services that weren’t available in other OSes.  I decided this might be the easiest way to go.

One downside to this is I didn’t want to store the backup data on the VMWare server.  The volumes on that server aren’t as large, and while it is setup with RAID volumes, they don’t currently have the 2x redundant backup that my volumes on FreeNAS currently take advantage of.

The easiest solution would be to mount a network drive on the FreeNAS server, but for some reason CrashPlan doesn’t allow a network-mapped drive to be a backup destination.

Fortunately we are running this in VMWare, and there’s more than one way to mount a drive.  What I ended up doing was creating another VMWare disk volume that is stored via NFS on the FreeNAS server.  This is then mounted as a “local” hard drive within the Windows VMWare instance.  The disk was created with 250GB space and thin provisioning, which should be more than enough for my needs.  And if I ever run out of space it’s easy to grow drives.

After this I was worried that the disk image might be replicated as a full copy in FreeNAS each time it detects that the file has changed, but it appears that snapshots and replication are able to keep track of differences and only use space required to replicate the changes.

So in summary, to avoid issues with running CrashPlan in a FreeNAS jail:

  • Run a Windows installation in a VM (I used VMWare)
  • Create a second virtual disk using the network storage as the disk location (if not on the same machine)
  • Mount this disk, partition, and format it like any other disk in Windows.
  • In the CrashPlan app within the Windows VM, set the new disk as the default location for CrashPlan backups
  • Enjoy!

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