Digital Life

Is it time to back up your life into the cloud?

As cloud storage becomes all but free, is it time to rethink your online back-up regime?

These days most people have turned to the cloud as an off-site back-up solution, perhaps combined with a home Network Attached Storage drive tucked away in their study. If you set up your back-up regime quite a few years ago, like I did, you might have been frugal with what you sent to the cloud – due to the cost of online storage and bandwidth limitations. Back-up tends to be set and forget, but it's worth revisiting your back-up plan every now and then.

Cloud Computing . Illustration Karl Hilzinger .colour cartoon / illo / illustration / toon / artwork
Cloud Computing . Illustration Karl Hilzinger .colour cartoon / illo / illustration / toon / artwork 

These days online storage is as good as free unless you demand terabytes. If you've held off on uploading big files such as home movies and disc images then it might be time to reconsider, but this could mean changing your cloud storage service. Starting from scratch is a major pain, so it's not a decision you should make lightly. Of course as cloud storage has become cheaper your home upload speeds haven't necessarily become faster, so you'll need to decide how practical it is to upload massive files.

I've got a lot of data tucked away in Amazon Web Services via Jungle Disk, where I pay about 12 cents per gigabyte per month (UPDATE: The JungleDisk website still says US12.5c per month, but my Amazon billing statement says US8.5c). A few years ago it was a pretty cost-effective way to store large amounts of data in the cloud, especially when you're backing up from multiple computers. Jungle Disk's desktop client offers a lot more flexibility when it comes to backing up and syncing your data than you will get from cloud sync services such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox.

Of course these days Google Drive offers 1 terabyte for $9.99 per month – so that's 1 cent per gigabyte. That makes it a tempting place to dump the photos and videos which are taking up the bulk of my storage space in Amazon Web Services. I'm already paying AWS more than $10 per month but I'm using a lot less than 1TB. The cost creeps up every time I dump photos from my camera. I'd like to bring that cost down and right now Google looks a lot more attractive than its peers – for $10 per month you'll only get 100GB from Dropbox, while OneDrive's cheapest paid plan is $25 per month for 50GB.

Like I said, I like Jungle Disk's advanced data management features and I'm likely to stick with it for backing up and syncing small files which change regularly, such as office documents. I don't like the idea of fragmenting my data across multiple cloud services, but I also don't like the idea of spending more than I have to. Using Jungle Disk to store all my photos is slowly getting more and more expensive.

Advertisement

Amazon Web Services is cutting data prices, but we haven't seen that flow through to consumer-grade services such as Jungle Disk. Amazon's archive-grade Glacier service can match the price of Google Drive at 1 cent per gigabyte per month, but it doesn't offer instantaneous access to your files. You might need to wait a few hours to retrieve your data, but I guess this doesn't matter if you're only using it to archive precious files such as family photos. Glacier support isn't built into Jungle Disk, but it is built into alternatives such as CrashPlan.

There are plenty of other cloud storage services to consider, from Box, Crashplan and SugarSync to Cubby, Mozy and Carbonite. If you're trying them out, my advice is to start with a small data set and test out the desktop software before you take the plunge. I need to take another look at the Google Drive desktop client to see if I'm happy with it (the fact you need to move files into the desktop Google folder is a pain, it's one of the key differences between back-up and sync services, but there are workarounds). You'll also need to crunch the numbers to see which service is most economical for your storage requirements.

What's your cloud back-up system? Do you upload absolutely everything? Which cloud solution serves you best?

 

52 comments