Backup, backup, backup. You put enough effort into your audio files to protect them. Spend time thinking about your backup strategy. Make sure it works! And part of any effective backup strategy includes offsite backup. Online backup services provide the easiest way of doing offsite backup. Here are 10 of your best options.
What is your backup strategy? In his book Digital Assets Management for Photographers, Peter Krogh explains his now-famous 3-2-1 Rule for backups:
- You should keep 3 copies of any important file
- You should have the files on 2 different media types, to protect against different types of hazards
- 1 copy should be stored offsite.
Why offsite? Because some hazards that destroy your computer might also destroy your backup. Think of fire or flood or theft. Unless your backup is stored in a different location, you're likely to lose both your computer and the backup.
When I worked in a data center for a bank in the early 80s, we did offsite backups the hard way. We crammed heavy reels of tape into huge suitcases, secured them closed with padlocks and strong leather belts, then struggled to to carry them down the street to the next branch. It must have looked hilarious. These days online backup services make the process easy and automatic.
So in this article we have a brief look at ten of your best options for offsite - online - backup. But first, a few thoughts about how to choose the best option for you.
Which Option Is Best for You?
Which online backup solution is best for you? It depends. Everyone's needs are different. But here are some thoughts to help you start making your decision.
Most space for free
If you don't need a lot of space for your backup, you're likely to be tempted by the free accounts offering the most space. Here they are:
- Box.net (see special offer below) - 50 GB
- Gobbler (free while in beta) - 25 GB
- Amazon Cloud Drive - 5 GB, upgraded to 20 GB for one year if you purchase an MP3 from Amazon
- Sugarsync - 5 GB
There are three gotchas you should be aware of here. First, to get Box.net's free 50 GB for life, you need to sign in with their iOS app before December 2nd. And their free account won't include automatic backup - you'll need to back up manually. Secondly, Amazon's Cloud Drive also won't back up automatically. All files are uploaded manually. And third, while Gobbler's 25 GB are free while it is in beta, it's not clear what they will be charging once it is out of beta. And they currently only support Macs.
Best bang for your buck
If you're after more space than the free options offer - say a couple of hundred gigs - then you'll want to know which plans offer the most value for your dollar. While most plans are between 10-20 cents for gigabyte per month, three plans get below the ten cent mark:
- Box.net - 3 cents/GB/month
- Dolly Drive - 6 cents/GB/month
- Amazon Cloud Drive - 8 cents/GB/month
Two others to keep your eye on are Gobbler, who haven't announced what their prices will be after beta, and Carbonite, who offer unlimited backup for home users at a reasonable price. (Their business plans come in around 10c per gig.)
Absolute maximum storage
Finally, if you want to back up absolutely everything to the cloud, then most plans being offered just won't do it for you. But their are four services whose maximum storage limits are impressive:
- Carbonite - unlimited (home plan)
- Amazon S3 - unlimited
- Dolly Drive - 2 TB
- Amazon Cloud Drive - 1 TB
Firstly, these raw figures don't tell the whole story. Once you use a service for some time, you'll discover some things you love or hate that you didn't realize when you signed up. For that reason, I encourage you to comment! If you use an online backup service, please let us know how it is working out for you.
Secondly, there is only one service that was recommended in all three lists above: Amazon Cloud Drive. It has a generous free plan, the gigabytes you pay for are cheap, and the plan with the maximum storage gives you a terabyte. It's definitely worth considering. Just be aware that to upload to the service you need to use a Flash web interface to manually upload your files.
Thirdly, only one of these services was specifically designed for pro audio, and that option is still very new - Gobbler. But since it's free to use while in beta, why not take it for a test drive - if you're a Mac user. And make sure you report back your findings in the comments.
Now, let's have a look at those ten options.
- URL: www.carbonite.com
- OS: Windows, Mac
- Summary: "Automatic online backup with anytime, anywhere access."
- GB/free: 0 GB
- Yearly cost: $59 per year per computer (unlimited backup)
Comments: The unlimited home plan is appealing, but is for only one computer. If you have three or more computers, you will want to consider their business plans.
- URL: www.gobbler.com
- OS: Currently Mac OS X, Windows support is coming soon
- Summary: "An indispensable service for backing up, sending, and organizing PRO AUDIO"
- GB/free: 25 GB
- Monthly cost: Free while in beta
Comments: The only online backup solution designed specifically for pro audio. And it does more than backup. It is still in beta, and details about pricing once it is out of beta are unclear.
3. Dolly Drive
- URL: www.dollydrive.com
- OS: Mac OS X
- Summary: "Finally use Apple's Time Machine in the cloud! Your entire degital life backed up wherever you are."
- GB/free: 0 GB
- Monthly cost: $3.00 for 50 GB, $5.00 for 100 GB, $7.00 for 250 GB, $13.00 for 500 MB, $22.00 for 1 TB, $40.00 for 2 TB
Comments: This is a great way to get online backup if you already use Apple's Time Machine. And they add 5 GB each month for free, so your storage space grows as you use the service.
4. Amazon Cloud Drive
- URL: www.amazon.com/clouddrive
- OS: Anything that supports their Flash uploader
- Summary: "Store your music, videos, photos, and documents on Amazon's secure servers."
- GB/free: 5 GB, which is upgraded to 20 GB for a year if you purchase an MP3 from Amazon
- Yearly cost: There are plans for 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 GB. Each costs $1/GB/year, so the 20 GB plan costs $20/year.
Comments: While the storage details of Amazon Cloud Drive are impressive, the experience is not. Files need to be manually uploaded to the service using a Flash web interface.
5. Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3)
- URL: aws.amazon.com/s3
- OS: There are apps with S3 support available for most operating systems
- Summary: "Amazon S3 is storage for the Internet. It is designed to make web-scale computing easier for developers."
- GB/free: 0 GB
- Monthly cost: Pay only for what you use - from $0.14 per GB
Comments: There is very little hand-holding if you decide to use S3 storage. Amazon provide very little in the way of interface or instructions - it is a professional, industrial-strength tool. But there are plenty of apps that can give you access to S3. It's used extensively by Envato for storage, and is also the storage solution Dropbox use.
- URL: box.net
- OS: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
- Summary: "Share, manage and access all your business content online."
- GB/free: 5 GB. This is upgraded for life to 50 GB if you log in from the iOS app before December 2nd, 2011.
- Monthly cost: $15.00 for 500 GB
Comments: The free service does not include desktop sync. To get this you need to update to a business account, which is $15/month/user.
- URL: www.dropbox.com
- OS: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android
- Summary: "Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere."
- GB/free: 2 GB
- Monthly cost: $19.99 for 50 GB, $19.99 for 100 GB
Comments: This well-known app syncs your files between computers, and also does basic version control.
- URL: spideroak.com
- Summary: "SpiderOak provides an easy, secure and consolidated free online backup, sync, sharing, access & storage solution for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux (Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora & openSUSE)"
- OS: Windows XP or newer, Mac OS X, Linux
- GB/free: 2 GB
- Monthly cost: $10 for 100 GB on unlimited devices
- URL: www.sugarsync.com
- OS: Windows XP and newer, Mac OS X, many mobile OSs including iOS and Android
- Summary: "Access all your data anytime, anywhere, from any device."
- GB/free: 5 GB
- Monthly cost: $4.99 for 30 GB, $19.99 for 60 GB, $14.99 for 100 GB, $24.99 for 250 GB
- URL: mozy.com
- Summary: "Protect your music, photos, and other computer files with Mozy."
- OS: Windows XP or newer, Mac OS X for only $5.99 a month."
- GB/free: 2 GB
- Monthly cost: $5.99 for 50 GB (1 computer), $19.99 for 125 GB (3 computers)