After realizing I have 100+ gb of online storage ready to go, I’m planning to backup all my digital photos. Today I have an external hard drive and some DVD-Rs with these backups, but I’m pretty sure all of my backups are still in the same physical location. Given that 19 fire trucks showed up for a fire drill at my apartment building a few weeks back, I think it’s time to do a little more robust backup-ing.
To get started, I’m backing up my iPhone photos — 2049 mb apparently across iPhone 1 and iPhone 3 GS. Unhappily, it looks like it will take a bit over 4 hours on my Comcast cable modem; the upload is running at ~77kb/sec.
Also, it occurs to me that backing up on multiple cloud providers is going to be pretty expensive in terms of time. Let’s say I have something like 15 gb of photos (I’m not even sure how much I have, to be honest — stored across 3 different computers and an external NAS). That’s something like 32 hours of uploading per cloud provider if all goes well.
Since I don’t really trust either 1and1 hosting (horror stories) or box.net (giving out free 50 gb personal plans — look at prior competitors like AOL’s Xdrive, which gave out 5 gb free in ~2007 or 2008, but then shut down), the most prudent thing is for me to upload all files to both providers; doubling my time to upload at 64 hours now!
Three further problems encountered tonight:
- The uploads don’t go very smoothly. The box.net Java bulk uploader basically froze up about 1/5th through — and there was no way to “restart” the upload. I switched over to the AJAXy magic uploader on their normal website, which works better (it detects stalled uploads and asks the user if they want to restart); however, I’ve had two files stall, and the FF7 browser crash once (with many assorted tabs open, but I think viewing iCloud’s Find My iPhone did it in). This means I’m manually babysitting the overall process (determining the last file uploaded and continuing it from there), and the 4 hours estimated time has now dragged on to 6 hours so far at only 2/3rds complete.
- Comcast limits to 250 gb per month combined upload & download. This isn’t great, since the last few months I’ve used between 50 gb to 100 gb per month; so far this month, I’ve hit 140 gb about halfway through the billing cycle. I don’t use BitTorrent or anything; I just constantly have streaming music running, watch Netflix HD a lot, and am an overall heavy internet user from morning ’till night. Now adding in another ~30+ gb of backups for the next few months, I should still be fine with Comcast, but it’s annoying to have to think about limits. Comcast state that the median user within the 99% segment of their users consumes approx 6 to 8 gb / month, which is pretty low given that a single HD movie on Netflix takes 2.3 gb per hour.
- Given that uploads are a little flaky, I’m wondering if I should zip files up under heavy compression and possibly with a little encryption. Encryption is nice for peace of mind in the case that my login/password credentials are somehow compromised, but also makes it such that (1) the online backup isn’t really easily accessible from any location in a casual manner (e.g. I just log on and get what I need — instead I have to unencrypt, etc.), (2) I have to redownload the entire zip file to extract out a single file, (3) I don’t think there is an easy way to ensure the file upload was successful (no way to compare MD5 checksums or anything), and (4) I don’t have a great way to ensure that I can decrypt the files after substantial time passes (passwords are forgotten, keys are lost, etc.).
All of these issues existed years ago when Streamload and Xdrive were popularizing online backups originally. I think we’re all more comfortable with this practice now, but I’m not sure we’ve substantially changed anything for personal users. (For companies, we’re talking about completely different mechanics — higher bandwidth available, servers are always running so no worries about the girlfriend shutting the laptop lid, and it’s less of a “once in a while” user-driven behavior as much as an always running mandate to keep data replicated.).
I’m wondering if the best recommendation for home bulk-file backup is still to go with a NAS at home, plus periodically dropping off an external hard drive at a friend or relative’s house.
PS: I’m aware there are some 3rd party software solutions out there which can interface with Box.net and also do multiple-cloud redundant backup, but I simply don’t want to do that. The basic tools provided by the service should be good enough to handle my genuinely simple & common use case.