Digital life and backups

More and more of the data in our lives these days is in digital format, rather than plain paper or other physical media. The information we gather on our computers at home grows each day, there is a constant influx of it: new documents, emails, music, pictures, videos and so on.

Some years ago I started scanning every single letter or invoice that I would get. For the important stuff I am still keeping the paper version filled in  folders but most of it is now in digital format. It’s a lot easier and faster to work with it, if you need it. And of course a lot faster to search for something.  Of course ,when you have so much digital data then you don’t want to lose it, you need to back it up.

Some time ago I bought a small network server, a D-link DNS-323 NAS, and I put inside two 1TB hard drives in a RAID-1 configuration (which basically means the hard drives mirror each other). So if one drive fails, I don’t lose anything.  It sits on our home network and we use it to store all our documents, pictures, music and movies. You might think 1 TB is a lot or space but when you talk about movies and music, it’s not.

But what happens if the whole box breaks down ? Or gets stolen, or blows up,  or gets hit by a micro black hole, or whatever ? That will be a huge inconvenience and some data on it is  actually irreplaceable.  So I’ve been looking into ways of backing  up my stuff online.

There are many options out there, from using your own webspace, to dedicated backup services, to cloud backup, some free some not. They all have their advantages and disadvantages you have to take into account. For example today’s home internet connections are indeed fast and they get faster but that’s only the downstream. The upstream is usually a lot lower than that and that is exactly what you use when you back your stuff up online. In order to get around that, you have to upload only what is changed, so that you keep the transmitted information to a minimum.

Then of course, you want your information to be secure. You don’t want to depend on your backup provider on that, you want your data to be encrypted while it’s being transmitted and also while it’s being stored.

After pondering all kind of solutions I decided to go with Jungledisk. The software does incremental and encrypted backups and you can choose between 2 cloud storage providers. One of them is Rackspace Cloud (Rackspace actually owns Jungledisk) and the other one is Amazon S3. The advantage of cloud storage is that the data is not stored in a single datacenter, in a single location. It’s actually spread over more datacenters in different geographical locations, which means it’s a lot less likely to lose everything in case of a major disaster.

In the $3 monthly fee you have 5GB included but if you go above that, you only pay what you use. I chose to go with Rackspace as a storage provider and you pay $0.15 per stored GB and no transfer fees, which is really dirt cheap I would say. Jungledisk is cross-platform, having 32bit and 64bit versions for Windows, Linux and Mac. In my case I run it on my home Ubuntu server, where data from the home computers as well as from the NAS is backed up to the cloud. If you want you can also access your files securely over the web.

So far it’s working fine and I think $3/month for your peace of mind is not much at all.

12 Responses to “Digital life and backups”

  1. Radu says:

    Your other option would be to use off-site backup: use another disk that is regularly stored off-site (another building in another part of the city, a bank safe, etc.).

    The advantage is no cost for upload/download and much faster speed. The downside is low convenience: you have to remember to update the off-site backup often enough. It works better if you have 2 disks assigned for off-site backup that you rotate so that there is no time when you have all the disks in one location.

  2. Stefan says:

    [:en]Yeah, that works too and that’s actually what we used at my former company. But for home users that’s probably too inconvenient and the online backup is perhaps a better choice.

    Thanks for stopping by ;-)
    [:ro]Merge si asa, si de fapt exact metoda asta foloseam la firma mea anterioara. Insa pentru acasa este probabil prea peste mana, backup’ul online este probabil o alegere mai buna.

    Imi pare bine ca arunci un ochi pe aici din cand in cand ;-)

  3. Nadya says:

    I am wondering if you would be interested in reviewing a new CloudBerry Online Backup powered by Amazon S3 with friendly user interface, strong data encryption and scheduling capabilities. You can download your copy at

    CloudBerry Lab team

  4. inSecure says:

    Foarte interesant articolul, dar nu am inteles 3$ pentru 5 GB, si 0,15 pentru fiecare GB in plus ?

    Ar veni cam 3$ + 0,15×1000=150$(pentru 1 tera) pe luna ? Sau nu am inteles eu bine?

  5. inSecure says:

    Mi se pare cam scump, pentru backup la muzica/filme, dar pentru backup la baze de date, informatii etc, este ok.

    • Stefan says:

      $150 e scump evident insa nu am de gand sa imi fac backup la filme sau muzica. Momentan imi fac doar la documente, telefoane mobile, diverse setari, etc.

      Doar daca imi adaug si pozele ajung undeva pe la 9GB insa altfel nu depasesc cei 5GB inclusi.

  6. Stefan says:

    Eh, e vorba de convenienta. Nu stiu cui i’ar conveni sa adune zeci de DVD’uri in casa, care se pot zgaria, pierde, etc. Ca sa nu mai zic ca nu poti face nimic automat cu DVD’urile, spre deosebire de backup’ul online.

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