Everyone should have a good backup strategy for their files.  With the proliferation of great cloud-based file storage services like Dropbox it has become very easy to set up a simple onsite / offsite backup system that is reliable and very easy to use.  The only remaining issue is how to deal with those huge libraries of media files.  I am thinking about music, photos, and videos.  If you purchase your external media from a service like iTunes then you probably don’t have to worry too much about backing up that media (although this is not always the case).  The real issue is your own photos, home video, and music that you have ripped from CDs that you bought.  Losing your music is a hassle, but not nearly as disturbing as losing your photos or videos.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
Roy Batty / Rutger Hauer, Bladerunner

You can store 200gb on Dropbox for $200/year, or 500gb for $500/year.  This is probably enough space for most people, but the price is high.  The problem here is that you are paying for an amazing service that provides versions and off-site backups, but is designed for working files.  All you really want is a cheap way to have a good backup of these files.  You don’t need to access them from anywhere, you don’t need them synced to multiple devices.  You just want peace of mind.

Enter Glacier, the new service from Amazon that is designed (and priced) specifically for this purpose.  Amazon already has a service to store files, and it is called S3.  The difference is that the files in S3 are redundant and always available.  Glacier files are stored “nearline” which means they cannot be accessed immediately.  If you need to access them, you have to make a request, and then they are brought back online for you to access – this can take hours or maybe even days.  So you pay a tenth of the cost, but you don’t have instant access to the files – which for this type of backup is just fine.

The best part of Glacier is that it is now integrated with S3.  There were already lots of programs that allow regular computer users to upload files to S3, but none for Glacier.  Amazon allows you to set a policy on your files in S3 so that after x days they are automatically moved to Glacier.  So you just upload to S3 and they get moved over automatically!

No doubt services will pop up soon (if they have not already) to make use of this service to provide cheap online backups of data.  But for now, there is a relatively easy way for anyone (with a reasonable level of computer skill) to take advantage of this service.  Here is how:

[h2]Set up AWS Bucket and Policy[/h2]
  1. sign up for a free AWS (Amazon Web Services) account at http://aws.amazon.com/
  2. log in and go to the AWS Management Console
  3. click on S3
  4. click on “Create Bucket” and give it a name, like “Personal Photos”
  5. once the bucket is created, go to the bucket properties and under “Lifecycle” click on “Add Rule”, then:
    1. name the rule “move to glacier after 5 days”
    2. check off “Apply to entire bucket”
    3. click on “Add transition”
    4. enter time period “5”
    5. click on “Save”
  6. this rule will move any files you upload to your S3 bucket in to Glacier after 5 days
  7. currently the standard storage cost for files in S3 is about $1/GB/month, which is a lot more than Dropbox; however, the cost to store files in Glacier is currently $0.01/GB/month which is $24/year for 200GB (vs $200 for Dropbox)


[h2]Upload your data to AWS[/h2]
  1. pull down the menu under your account name at the top of the AWS website and select “Security Credentials”
  2. under “Access Credentials”, create an “Access Key” (if one is not already there), otherwise, just use what is there
  3. record the Access Key ID and the Secret Access Key (click on the Show link)
  4. download and install a program that can browse and upload files to S3 on your computer (Mac users I strongly recommend http://panic.com/transmit/, Windows users just use Google to find something, here is a free one that I have not tried: http://s3browser.com/.
  5. in your S3 browser software, set up a connection to your AWS account using your Access Key ID and your Secret Access Key
  6. now you should be able to upload files to your S3 Bucket(s), this will take a long time, just set it running before you go to bed and let it run; I would just upload small sets of data at a time; a word of caution: if you have bandwidth limits on your Internet connection you should be careful to avoid exceeding these limits by spreading out your initial uploads over several months
  7. if you are using Transmit, you can also “Synchronize” folders from your computer to AWS – this is much better for me because I am constantly moving things around forgetting to file things, etc. and whenever I am not sure if I have uploaded all my photos, I can just run a synchronize job and see what is not uploaded; Windows users, I am sure you can find a program that will do the same thing

Good luck and have fun!

The piece of mind is well worth the cost of a few coffees each month.  Personally I used to burn my photos and video to DVD and leave the DVDs in a binder at my Dad’s house.   This was relatively cheap, but I only used to remember once or twice a year (if that).


Comments are closed.