I’ve been using DropBox for years for my documents and miscellaneous files. I have several Google Apps for Business accounts that store my emails and shared docs and spreadsheets. The code I write is versioned and stored in GitHub. For the most part I live off the cloud already, the only thing missing was my large collection of family photos and videos, which totaled nearly 140GB.
iCloud is cool and all, and I love the way it keeps my little iPhone photos synced, but at $100 / year for only 55GB, this is a pretty expensive solution. I looked at a variety of different cloud backup solutions and found them to be ill-fitted to my needs. While many of them have plenty of capacity and are pretty affordable, they usually require a rather heavy backup application to be running in the background monitoring changes.
Amazon to the RescueI’ve always been a huge fan of Amazon Web Services and specifically Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service), a cloud based storage model. Amazon makes S3 incredibly resilient, providing a 99.999999999% durability rate. Though I’ve used Amazon S3 extensively myself as a software developer for my online services, I had never used it for storing personal data. Since up to 1TB of storage costs $0.095 / GB / month to store, my 140GB collection would cost me just a little over $13 / month to keep safe. That was a little steeper than I wanted.
Fortunately Amazon introduced another variation of S3 storage called Amazon Glacier. Designed to be just as durable as S3, with Glacier you cannot pull the data out very quickly without incurring some additional costs. This wasn’t an issue for me since this collection was really just a deep archive and backup to my backup. The advantage is Glacier is very affordable at $0.01 / GB / month. This meant my 140GB collection would cost me $1.40 / month on Glacier. Perfect!
Transporting the Files with ArqThe next challenge was getting the files up to Glacier from my Mac Pro. Amazon designs their services as something a programmer or systems administrator would access, not the average end user. I considered writing some scripts that would push my files up to Glacier but that seemed like too much work. Besides, it turns out somebody has already done that: Haystack Software’s Arq.
|Arq's Main Window|
One of the more reassuring features of Arq is that they have released the restore tool as an open source project on GitHub, providing some peace of mind.
|The Restore Tool is available as open source|
Restoring from Glacier Takes TimeIf you want the files to be readily accessible, then Glacier probably isn’t your best bet; you should use S3. Restoring even a single file from Glacier can take up to 4 hours before it even starts. This is one of the side effects of Glacier and why it’s best suited for deep, long term archiving, whereas S3 is better for files you need rapid access to.
|Glacier Restores require great patience|
Got a great cloud based backup / archiving solution people should know about? Drop a line in the comments. I’d love to know how others are handling this.