Finally: Cheap and Easy (and Bullet-Proof) Backup

Wednesday Apr 25th 2007 by Mike Elgan

Admit it: you don’t back up like you should. But now there’s a system that so simple – and trustable – that it removes the hassle factor.

If you had an unrecoverable hard disk failure -- right now -- what would you lose? E-mail? Family photos? The report you've been working on? Your job?

I'm not here to lecture you about the need for backups -- you know you should do regular backups, but you probably don't. And I know why.

Backups suck.

The software is too complicated, and often dumps everything into a proprietary backup file you can't easily access or check. If you back up to the same disk as your data, you're dangerously putting all your eggs in the same basket. External hard drives aren't much better. I've owned three, and all have let me down in one way or another, either by suddenly failing, or constantly damaging random files. And offline storage isn't great, either -- it's expensive, and usually provided by some company you've never heard of, and that may go out of business tomorrow.

The Perfect Backup System

The ideal system would back up my files automatically and constantly, store off-site, cost very little, be totally secure, and let me look at, open, check and verify any file, any time. It would also be cross-platform, and back up to servers I trust completely. It should be fast and cheap. It should also let me back up from one system, and grab those files from another -- say, from my laptop.

Is that asking too much? Apparently not. I have found such a backup system -- finally!

Jungle Disk

A new application called Jungle Disk works as an interface to's super-secure and reliable Amazon Simple Storage Service (otherwise known as Amazon S3).

Jungle Disk puts a virtual drive on your computer that looks like any another hard drive.

Unlike "regular" backups systems, you can browse, open, check and confirm the validity of every file in your backup by simply opening the folder, and using the files as if they were on your local hard drive. They're not locked away in a cryptic, proprietary system.

The Jungle Disk application lets you set up automated backups, which looks for any file changes in the files or folders you specify, then backs up any modified files at the frequency you set. You set it and forget it.

Jungle Disk is currently in "beta," and is free for now. Once it launches, the company plans to charge a one-time fee of $20, or you can choose to pay $1 per month for as long as you use it.

Wait, "beta" backup software?

That's right, and it's not risky. Jungle Disk is just an interface to the S3 service, which is very secure, reliable and trusted.

Amazon S3

Amazon's S3 won a "Codie" award this month for "Best Storage Software Solution."

Amazon S3 lets you move, copy or delete file sizes up to 5 GB each, and you can store an unlimited number of files.

You pay for Amazon only for what you use, when you use it. It costs 15 cents per gigabytes for storage, and 20 cents per gigabyte of data transferred.

How to Use Jungle Disk

It's easy to get started. Just go to the Jungle Disk Web site, click "Download," choose the Windows, Mac or Linux version and install as you would any application.

The installation will walk you through the process of setting up and establishing the secure connection to Amazon S3. To pay, you can use your existing account -- the one you already use to buy books -- or create a new one.

Once installed, you'll notice a Jungle Disk mini-icon in your Taskbar tray (if you're using Windows). Double click on it to open, then select "Configure" from the File menu. Click on the "Automatic Backup" tab and choose how often you want backups made.

Now you're ready for anything -- your PC could be stolen, your house could burn down, your PC could be destroyed by a meteor. No problem! Just find another system, and all your files are there, safe and sound and ready to use -- Finally!

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