05 January 2008

Backing Up to the Cloud

One of the downsides of digital media is that if you're not careful it's easy to lose what you have. With traditional photos, that shoebox might be disorganized but it will never crash and erase its contents. I've worried for a while that I might lose my family's photos, and on irregular occasions I've made backups to various media. Until recently, I used a spare USB drive and kept it at work.

But new services make it so easy and cheap to back up your data online, there's really no excuse not to. Amazon S3 is a collection of online storage that's remarkably inexpensive. It's designed for software developers so most of us won't use it "raw" - instead, you need client software that works as a front end of Amazon S3. I chose a program called Jungle Disk - it's currently just $20 for a life-time license, as many machines as you want and free updates. I works with Windows, Macintosh, and Linux, and I've tried it with success on the first two platforms.

Jungle Disk creates an online storage drive similar to a local file server. You drag and drop your files to and from the "JungleDisk". Once you've set up your account with Amazon, that's all there is to it. Of course if you have big files, it takes awhile especially to upload from a home connection, since those are usually provide a pitifully slow upload speed.

The cost of storage? Amazingly cheap. Fifteen cents per month per gigabyte to store, plus ten cents a gig to upload and eighteen to download. It's going to cost me less than $30/year to upload my entire collection of digital photos and keep them online - about what I used to pay to buy and process a couple of rolls of prints. I love it!

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