December 28, 2015

Tarsnap is an online backup service for BSD, Linux, OS X, and other “unix-like” operating systems. I started work on Tarsnap in 2006 when, as FreeBSD Security Officer, I was worried about the security of the information (such as unreleased security advisories) on my laptop; this resulted in a design for a backup system which inspired the tagline “online backups for the truly paranoid”.

Tarsnap would never have existed without FreeBSD for another reason: As the name suggests, the Tarsnap software is based on the standard UNIX tar utility, and to that end I started development using the excellent bsdtar utility which was developed within FreeBSD in the preceding years. If I hadn’t been able to reuse code from a tar utility, it would have taken me years longer to launch Tarsnap; and both the license (BSD) and code quality (excellent) of bsdtar were crucial to my ability to reuse it.

As well as reusing code from FreeBSD in the client software, Tarsnap relies entirely on FreeBSD for its server infrastructure. In addition to being easy to maintain and administer, FreeBSD’s separation between the minimalist and internally-maintained “base” system and third-party “ports” code has proven to be extremely useful when responding to security issues: For the recent “shellshock” vulnerabilities, for example, I merely had to confirm that I had never installed bash from the ports tree. If bash had been installed on any of Tarsnap’s servers, it would have required a much more time-consuming process to audit all of the ways that it might have been used — and that process would have been required even if the eventual conclusion was that bash had never been used.

Tarsnap Backup Inc. is proud to support FreeBSD, both through my personal work (most recently, maintaining the FreeBSD/EC2 platform) and through its place as a Silver sponsor of the FreeBSD Foundation; and Tarsnap has directly benefited from projects and events which the FreeBSD Foundation has supported. Giving back is not merely an act of charity; it is truly an investment which yields an excellent return.

– Colin Percival, President, Tarsnap Backup Inc.