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How to Backup *All* of Your Data for Pennies per Month


Every so often when I’m out running errands on the weekends, I’ll catch a radio talk show dealing with technology (users call in with questions, etc.). I swear I can’t get through an hour of this show without the subject of data backup coming up at least once (or perhaps the entire hour will be spent covering different backup strategies). It’s safe to say that most people don’t properly backup their information and personal files, despite the myriad of available applications.

I think it’s because the solutions come in one of two forms:

  • Too damn hard to use.
  • Too damn expensive.

Sure, we all have those moments where we imagine our computer being caressed by a cup of OJ courtesy of the toddler of the house. We think “man, that would really suck – I should really backup my data somehow…”. The trouble is, that’s where it stops. Why? Because you’re either going to need an expensive piece of software or a frickin’ computer science degree to implement a proper backup solution. There really ought to be a middle ground that the average Aunt Mildred can figure out in a few minutes without having to sacrifice this week’s Mocha Mix. Well, folks, the happy medium has arrived.

Most folks don’t know it, but Amazon is just as much a software company as they are a purveyor of everything in the world ever. They have this nifty little service called S3 (short for Simple Storage Service) where you can store as much (or as little) data as you want for only $.15 per gigabyte (yes, that’s fifteen cents), plus $.18 per gigabyte that you transfer to/from their server. For example, I can store the entire contents of my iPod Video (60gb) for $9 per month. I can store all of my digital photos for less than a dollar per month (and spend just over a dollar putting them there).

The second half of this awesome solution comes in the form of a little application called JungleDisk. Essentially, it’s a front end for S3 that lets your storage look just like a folder in Windows or a mounted volume in OS X. There’s even a Linux version for all you neckbearded badasses out there.

Aside from the fact that it abstracts out all of the nitty gritty details of communicating with Amazon, it will also perform incremental backups of your data at scheduled times. So, say I upload 10gb of images yesterday and add another dozen new pictures tonight – JungleDisk will dutifully see what’s new in the “Pictures” folder and only copy up the new stuff. Pretty cool, eh?

JungleDisk will run you $20, but that gets you a license that’s good for life (and that you can install on as many computers as you want. This means that you can install JungleDisk on your work computer or laptop as well as any others and have all of your important information available anywhere you can connected to the Internet. Trust me, it’d be a bargain at double that price.

The beauty of this setup is two-fold: it’s dead simple to setup and use and it stores your data off-site. That last bit is an important factor that is rarely brought up in typical end-user backup discussions. You can have a stack of DVDs containing all of your digital photos and music, but unless they’re in a different physical structure, they’ll burn just easily if your house catches fire or be just as ruined if your house is flooded. With S3 + JungleDisk, your data is sitting comfortably in some datacenter (or probably multiple datacenters) throughout the US, far removed from most natural disasters.

Just to recap – if you want to store 5gb of data forever, it’ll cost you less than a dollar per month (along with the one-time JungleDisk license – did I mention in includes any future updates?). And your data is safe, secure (they encrypt everything) and available just about anywhere. And even if you’re one of these kids that loves to download all of the movies, television shows and music they can get their mitts on – you’ll find your monthly bill to be surprisingly low, as well.

So, if you want your data backed up regularly without spending a ton of cash, check out Amazon S3 and JungleDisk.

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