I’ve had this recurring dream where I wake up to our house on fire. As I scramble out of bed, I yell to Kim, “You grab the kids and I’ll grab the external hard drive!!”
The point is that as our lives become more digitalized, the more important a backup solution becomes. We now have close to 23 GB of digital pictures on local drives at our home. The bulk of these were taken around the time each of our four children were born.
Tonight I asked Kim, “How much are those pictures worth to you?”
Up until now my backup solution has consisted of keeping a local copy on a hard drive separate from the operating system. Then each week I copy these same files over to a Maxtor Shared Storage that our three computers can easily access over the network. This is an adequate solution as long as at least one of the drives doesn’t fail (15% of external hard drives fail within 5 years) or are damaged or stolen.
I’ve been toying with the idea of adding a Windows Home Server to the mix on account of a friend’s recommendation. I manually handle some of the same tasks that WHS does automatically like imaging all three of my machines. Currently, I use Acronis True Image Home to take a weekly image. But I still run into the issue of having everything stored on a drive or machine at my home. And, although it would suck to have to reinstall Windows and all my applications, I’d be in far worse shape losing my pictures, documents and music.
So I’ve been researching online backup offerings over the past few weeks. I came close to going with Mozy which I still believe would be a good solution if all I wanted was backup and restore functionality. Mozy isn’t the best solution for those that want to share files or access them via web browser.
The Twitter crowd steered me into looking at backup solutions based on Amazon’s S3 Simple Storage Service. I wrote about this service a few weeks ago, but one feature that influenced my decision, was the “pay for what you use” pricing structure. I also like that Amazon is a big company that isn’t going to disappear one night with all my data. I trust they will be around for a long time.
I started by looking over the helpful list of Amazon S3 backup tools that Jeremy Zawodny put together. I asked my followers on Twitter what they use to narrow it down even more. After a number of recommendations from people I trust like Jamie Phelps and Marina Martin I decided to go with Jungle Disk. This is an interesting offering in that Jungle Disk charges $20 for their small and simple backup software that connects to the S3 service. Patience is required to get things setup properly, but I was off and running in ~30 minutes.
I’m currently backing up all my documents which consist mostly of Microsoft Office files. I’m also backing up my Outlook .PST file and all my digital photographs which takes up about 23 GB. Here is a picture of the current backup job:
The software is very easy to use if not very pretty. I don’t care how it looks as long as it works! As you can see, Jungle Disk estimates it will take another three days for the backup to complete. I am connected to the internet via Qwest DSL line with a 500-600 kb/s upload speed. I hardly notice it’s uploading files in the background even with three computers browsing the net simultaneously.
If you’re familiar with other backup programs you’ll find Jungle Disk very easy to use. On the configuration screen, I tell it which folders to backup. You can also select individual files. Here I’ve selected my Documents, PST file and photos directories:
One of the primary reasons I chose Jungle Disk was that it gave me access to all my files from a browser. It’s not fancy but it works. Here’s how it looks from within Firefox:
I hope I never have to do a full restore. But I feel I’ll be a lot better prepared now than I was last week when I was relying on a couple of consumer grade hard drives. That piece of mind is well worth the estimated $7 to $10/month the service will cost. I’ll post an update once I have everything backed up and restore a few directories. I don’t anticipate any problems given how smoothly things have worked so far, but time will tell.
I’m interested to hear what other backup solutions (on and offline) people are using.