21 May 2006, 23:16

A better backup solution

Ever since Amazon announced their S3 online storage service for developers I’d been hoping that someone would come out with an app to take advantage of that service in a way that was aimed at end users rather than developers and it looks like that’s just happened. The recently released beta for JungleDisk is just such a program, providing an easy to use wrapper around Amazon’s storage service that adds no additional cost. The S3 service provides cheap, reliable, encrypted online storage space where you only pay for what you use each month, as opposed to most storage providers where you have to pay a flat fee for a certain amount of space, regardless how much you actually use. The rates are pretty nice too, just $0.15 per GB stored per month and $0.20 per GB of bandwidth used. However, it’s really intended primarily for developers to make use of in web apps and there’s no front end to it to just allow you to copy files over. That’s where JungleDisk comes in. It runs a WebDAV server on your computer that allows you to drag and drop files just like into a normal Windows folder, but it sends them off to S3 in the background. It works well, and in conjunction with two other programs I think it’s going to become part of my automated backup solution. The first other program is NetDrive, a WebDAV client that allows you to map a drive letter to JungleDisk’s server and access it as if it were a local disk. This means that you can now use folders on that drive to create folder pairs for syncing with Microsoft’s SyncToy. And since SyncToy can be set to run automatically, well there’s your automated backup.

As far as backups go, it’s probably about as reliable as you can get (at least for the cost anyway) because data sent to S3 is duplicated at several different physical locations. It’s for that reason that even though hard drives are dirt cheap these days (I’ve recently just crossed the 1 terabyte of total space line myself) it still makes sense to use this for backups of things that you want to be absolutely sure about. For example, my 5 gigs or so of photos. Using JungleDisk and S3 I can transfer those out for $1.00 of bandwidth and then store them for just $0.75/month. On the other hand for 60+ gigs of music it would be $9.00/month so I’ll probably still stick with just backing those up on an external hard drive.