Thursday, July 12, 2007

Automatic Online Backups... made easy

So we all know we should backup our files, right? Especially these days when all our music and pictures are stored on our box, it's really more important for the personal user than ever.

Now, you could get a removable hard drive, and set up an automatic backup there. Fine. But what if you get robbed, and the robber takes that nice shiny drive sitting next to your computer? Even if it's hidden, what if your house burns down?

For me, it's pretty obvious you've got to go online with your backups. Not only are you protected if your house burns down, your data is backed up on servers by trained professionals. So a lot of things really have to get fucked up for you to lose your data.

Sure, there's the security concern. Fine. Some guy could look at your files. For me, I don't care. I don't have naked pictures of myself on my machine and I don't really have anything that's embarrassing or even sensitive info like my credit card number in my backup files. Sure, I guess I'm exposing myself to some amount of risk, but I generally trust these data center guys.

So... now that you're sold on online backups, what to do?

1. Sign up for Amazon S3

This is a data storage solution from Amazon. I won't get into specific numbers, but it's cheap. You can keep gigabytes there for pennies a month. The cost is so low that it would take about ten years of having the service before you'd have payed for an external hard drive, and we all know one hard drive probably won't even last that long. And there are open API's, which mean that applications can access your data (provided you log in with your password and key. Amazon's such a big company that I definitely trust my data with them. But now that we have it, how do we do backups? Well..

2. Get JungleDisk

JungleDisk is free, as in beer, and it sets up Amazon as a drive on your machine. So now you have a letter drive that's your Amazon S3 account that you can write data to. Sweet. There's some rudimentary backup stuff in JungleDisk, but it's only a 'full backup', which means every time it runs the backup, everything you specify is uploaded to Amazon again. Since you do pay (small) data transfer fees to Amazon, this isn't great. So...

3. Get Cobian Backup

A backup application that's free, as in speech and beer. It's a super easy application to set up a task to do nightly, weekly, whatever, backups. And you can do incremental backups. This is pretty key. It means it's only backing up what's been changed. So you save those Amazon S3 data transfer fees. Sweet.

Now all you gotta do is sit back and relax as you try that Vista install, knowing your data's always going to be out there in the ether somewhere...