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Setting Up Remote Backup

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What with the coronavirus and all, many in my office are working from home these days. We have been using Retrospect (version 16.5, Mac) for some time now. I set up remote backup according to the directions at https://www.retrospect.com/en/support/kb/how_to_set_up_remote_backup. Rather than uninstalling and reinstalling with the server.txt and pubkey.dat files in the installer, I simply placed those files where they were supposed to go on my laptop, created a Remote Backup Clients tag on the server, and tagged one script (my own) with that tag. The script backed up my laptop remotely with no issues.

Adding others, however, now has me concerned. I planned to send the server.txt and pubkey file (now renamed pubkey1.dat; it seems like they are supposed to be named sequentially, perhaps?) to another user and have him test it, but I added him and a couple of others to the Remote Backup Clients tag on the server prior to him placing the files on his client, to get a head start. One of the scripts I tagged as remote began to run, under my script. I stopped it immediately and removed all the remote backup client tags other than the one.

I went back to the docs, and it doesn't make clear how you are supposed to do set up more than one. The image in the doc shows one script, labeled Remote Computers, with what looks like one source. Are my remote computers supposed to somehow be grouped into one script? That seems odd. Or can I label each individual proactive script as a member of the Remote Backup Clients tag, and if so, what do I need to do to make sure they are differentiated so that my script doesn't pick up someone else's source, as appeared to happen this morning?

Is sequential numbering of the pubkey required? If so, do I need to somehow note which source got what number? Or do I just need to not check the remote backup client tag on the server till everything is in place on the individual client? Do I need to uninstall each client and reinstall with the key and server info inserted into the installer? Or is there something else I need to do?


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With regard to the use of Tags in Remote Backup, you are first of all the victim of inadequate documentation.  On pages 40-41 of the Retrospect Mac 16 User's Guide, there is an explanation of manually-created Tags.  However at the bottom of the list in the Sources tab for a Script you will find disclosure triangles for Tags and Smart Tags.  Tags disclose a line for each one you have manually defined per pages 40-41, and you click the checkbox on that line to include the volumes or Favorite Folders you have assigned that particular tag.  Smart Tags—which are not defined anywhere in the UG—are automatically populated by the Retrospect "backup engine" (being what I might describe as "smart-as*ed") as you define Sources; in the past they have included All Clients and All Local and All Shares.

Evidently Remote Backup Clients is a Smart Tag added as part of the new Remote Backup feature.  "ProactiveAI Script" in the Knowledge Base article says


To enable remote backup for a ProactiveAI script, select the "Remote Backup Clients" item on Volumes and save on Windows or—on Mac—[my improved punctuation] select the "Remote Backup Clients" tag under Sources and save that selection. When a remote client contacts the Retrospect engine for a backup, the running ProactiveAI script will accept the connection and begin a backup, assuming the destination is available.

But that paragraph assumes you want to backup all those volumes using a single Proactive script.  (No doubt, when  Product Management added the Remote Backup feature, their vision was that an administrator in London would keep a "backup server" running all the time so that Sally in Shanghai and Alfred in Adelaide would have their machines backed up Proactively whenever those machine connected to the Web.) But, as you say in the OP, that's not what you want to do.  What you need is a way of defining a non-Smart Tag for a particular public-private keypair, so you can use that non-Smart Tag in a Proactive script instead of Remote Backup Clients.  Unfortunately I don't know what that way is.

Therefore what you need to do is to create a Support Case for a feature request.  Here's why and how to do that.


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  • Alanna changed the title to Setting Up Remote Backup

Thanks, David, I will do that. The odd thing is, I sent out instructions (with sequentially numbered pubkey.dat files) to four of our developers, just to see. Two of their laptops backed up - once. Two other developer laptops have not been. My laptop started a second backup, but seems to have made very slow progress. (Started yesterday at 6:15 PM, still running, so it says, now on "building the snapshot.") For all five of these scripts, I did not check the "remote backup clients" tag on the Scripts/Sources tab, but I did check the one I created in the Sources/Tags tab. I may wait till Monday to submit the request, as our Proactive scripts are set to run M-F, so perhaps more will "be found" and run after early Monday morning.

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Alanna and other administrators of installations scared of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that produces COVID-19 infections),

This first of two posts deals with your OP-expressed desire to have a separate ProactiveAI script for each subset of office-mates working from home.  If you want a separate script for each subset of "client" machines merely so that the subset can be backed up to a different destination, there is an answer given over the phone to me by the North American head of Retrospect Sales on Thursday—a Storage Group destination.

I upgraded my Retrospect Mac "backup server" from 16.1 to 16.6 Thursday evening and created a Storage Group, whose single member is on the spare space on on the portable HDD I was going to be recycling Saturday morning.  The Storage Group is named "Media Set Groupie" (I thought I should have "Media Set" instead of "Storage Group" as lead part of the name), which caused a folder with that name to be created on the portable HDD.  Inside that folder is a zero-byte marker file named "storagegroup".  I then ran a Recycle Backup script (I don't do Proactive), whose source was the Macintosh HD on my "client" machine "David's MacBook Pro", and whose destination was that Storage Group.  This created an empty inner folder named "1-Media Set Groupie", and another—when I ran the Backup—non-empty folder named "David's MacBook Pro-Macintosh HD".  Inside the non-empty folder is another folder named "1-David's MacBook Pro-Macintosh HD", which contains the usual .rdb files and .session file.

(The reason for the preceding paragraph is that the Retrospect "engineers" who wrote this Knowledge Base article illustrated it with screenshots of the GUI from their Retrospect Windows alpha-test runs; for 30 years they couldn't arrange adequate beta-testing.  Those showed the names of their at-home machines and volumes, which for seeming security reasons they obscured with the digital equivalent of Magic Marker in the screenshots.  So the KB article doesn't visibly make it clear that a Storage Group is merely a container for a Backup Set (Retrospect Windows' term for Media Set) for each client-volume backed up, and maybe there's a California law against publishing a screenshot of a folder 🤣 showing what's described in my above paragraph—which would be needed to depict what the Retrospect Mac "backup server" does because its GUI has less detail than Retrospect Windows' GUI.)

On Friday I ran a Copy Media Set script, copying "Media Set Groupie" (per the KB article, "For transfer in Retrospect for Mac, a Storage Group can be treated like a media set")—meaning "1-David's MacBook Pro-Macintosh HD"—to a Media Set in spare space on the portable HDD whose last daily backup was Friday morning—which I then put in my bank safe deposit box.  So, using Copy Media Set with a Rule (p.169) that Includes only a particular Source Host, you can get beyond the Storage Group limitation that Member n-for-every-component-Media-Set (i.e., where n=1, "1-clientname-drivename") must fit—even when Recycled—onto the same destination volume.

You should upgrade to Retrospect 16.6, because that point release fixes most of the Storage Group bugs.

P.S.: You should upgrade to Retrospect 17.0.1, because that point release fixes even more Storage Group bugs.

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Alanna and other administrators of installations scared of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that produces COVID-19 infections),

This second  of two posts deals with your OP-implied requirement to have a separate ProactiveAI script for each subset of office-mates working from home.  If you want a separate script for each subset of Remote Backup "client" machines so that the subset of machines can be backed up in parallel with other subsets of Remote Backup "client" machines, I'm afraid you are Sh*t Out of Luck with Retrospect Mac 17.0—as evidenced by your OP.

You'd want to have more than one ProactiveAI script using Remote Backup running in parallel if you can't back up all Remote Backup "clients"  with the desired frequency and within the time-frame they are accessible to the "backup server".  Let's assume that each such "client" takes 0.5 hours to back up, and you want to back up each such "client" daily.   That assumption puts a limit of 48 "clients" that can be backed up with a single Remote Backup script, even if all such "clients" are connected to the Internet 24 hours per day.  (That my assumption is not unreasonable is borne out by the fact that my 2016 MacBook Pro takes about 0.5 hours for a No Media Action backup, even though its connection to my Mac Pro "backup server" is over an in-the-apartment MoCA cable connection.)

The remainder of this post is informed speculation as to why you can't have more than one ProactiveAI script using Retrospect Mac 17.0 Remote Backup, based on my reading of this sub-Appendix of the Retrospect Mac 17 User's Guide, which seems to be an updating—to incorporate Automatic Onboarding on Retrospect Management Console— of this 2018 Knowledge Base article.  Other administrators should feel free to add posts to this thread correcting any part of my speculation that they believe is incorrect.

The reason you're SOL is a kludge in the 2018 design of Remote Backup:  Every "client" machine that is a candidate for Remote Backup must have the Tag "Remote Backup Clients", either assigned automatically by checking the "backup server" Preferences->Clients checkbox "Automatically add clients using public keys" or assigned manually in Sources—as you did.  Any ProactiveAI script that does Remote Backup must have that exact Tag "Remote Backup Clients" as a source.  So any ProactiveAI script that does Remote Backup is going to back up all such sources.  Since a particular Retrospect script is not multi-threaded—unless its destination is a Storage Group, by default all those "Remote Backup Clients" will be backed up one-by-one in an Activity Thread.

IMHO the kludge was introduced with Remote Backup in 2018 because the original customer use case for Remote Backup was for—e.g.—a company with its main offices in Britain that has a few salespeople such as Sally in Shanghai and Albert in Adelaide, each of whom has files on his/her laptop that the company's backup administrator wants to be sure are backed up on a "backup server" running 24/7 in Britain.  Since Sally and Albert are in different time-zones from each other, they're presumed not to have their laptops connected to the Internet at the same time, and since the company has only a few such remotely-located salespeople, it's OK to back them up via a single ProactiveAI script.   As you can see, that kludge creates problems when a massive number of employees in the same time-zone start working from home because of COVID-19.  But having a Storage Group as a destination fixes those problems, at the cost of the kludgey Storage Group GUI (soon to be fixed?) described in the post directly above.

IMHO what you should do, Alanna, is to submit a Support Case for a feature request that would treat a manually-defined Tag that has the prefix "Remote Backup Clients" as indicating it is eligible for Remote Backup with a script that specifies a Tag with that prefix.  Thus an administrator could manually define the Tag "Remote Backup Clients A", and create a ProactiveAI script specifying "Remote Backup Clients A"  as a Source that backs up only those "client" machines defined with that particular full Tag.  Here's why and how to submit a Support Case for a feature request.

BTW, I received an e-mail today inviting me to attend a 30-minute webinar on using Retrospect Backup to protect desktops and laptops for remote employees.  The e-mail includes the following paragraph:


VPN Backup 

Optimized for remote employees on VPN that you want to protect with an on-site Retrospect Backup instance. Retrospect Backup works seamlessly with virtual private networks (VPNs) with automatic agent discovery and protection capabilities for remote employees, and you can quickly onboard new remote employees using Automatic Onboarding on Retrospect Management Console.

I was surprised to find that a preceding sub-Appendix in the latest version of the Retrospect Mac 17 UG discusses VPN Backup, even though the cumulative Release Notes through 17.0 do not mention that feature.  Either this has been a "seekrit" feature until now, or someone in Product Management "jumped the gun" in documentation for a soon-to-be-released 17.1.  VPN Backup has the same kludge as Remote Backup, except that the literal Tag is "Automatically Added Clients" instead of "Remote Backup Clients".  A problem with Retrospect backup over a VPN was mentioned most recently in this 2017 post by the highly-experienced Lennart_T; my Verizon-provided FiOS router (I don't run a firewall) does not allow Internet port forwarding to port 497.

P.S.: The main difference of the UG sub-Appendix on Remote Backup from the KB article is that the "updating" inserts the use of Automatic Onboarding, which requires the Management Console Add-On.  That boosts Retrospect's price (minus ASM) by 30% to 20%, depending on Edition.  Color me cynical.☹️

P.P.S.: At the webinar the head of North American Sales, who was giving an introduction for the head of Tech Support's presentation, said there will be a new release "within a couple of weeks".  The release will be mainly bug fixes, but may include a few new features.  I submitted slightly-shortened versions of the 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th paragraphs of this post as "questions".  Of course they didn't get answered during the webinar—which lasted an hour and only skirted VPN Backup, but the head of North American Sales phoned me back afterwards—I urged him to get the kludge fixed as part of that release.

P.P.P.S: Yes, Alanna, AFAICT you do need to uninstall each client and reinstall with the key and server info inserted into the installer.  Automatic Onboarding does that for you, but this UG Appendix sub-section tells you how to do that without being budgeted for the Management Console Add-On.

P.P.P.P.S: A Proactive script isn't multi-threaded unless its destination is a Storage Group, so revise last sentence in fourth paragraph and add a sentence to fifth paragraph

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