Today, Paul Boutin has a piece in Slate explaining how easy it is to back up your data using a Maxtor external hard drive. Here’s the case in favor of it:
My solution: Maxtor’s OneTouch III Turbo Edition, which comes with a minimum of 1 terabyte—1,000 gigabytes—of storage. OK, it costs $500, but if you’ve got loads of videos and music you don’t want to lose, that amount is worth it. Maxtor has a reputation for reliable drives at reasonable, if not rock-bottom, prices. The thing certainly looks reassuring—it resembles a metal and plastic vault and has the heft of an oversize brick.
The OneTouch III’s guts are heartening too. It contains two separate hard drives, configured to run in parallel. This is called a RAID configuration, something that’s common in professional data centers but not on desktop computers. The dual drives offer an extra layer of security. By default they’re interleaved as one super-fast device that reads and writes data from both drives at the same time, sort of like drinking soda with two straws. But you can also configure them as mirror copies of each other. That way, if one copy gets damaged, the other will work as if nothing happened. If you’re really worried about your BitTorrent trove, this is the way to go. (No, Maxtor won’t give you a pile of cash if the OneTouch loses your backups. But they do warranty the drive, and “go with the Maxtor, end of discussion” was a typical response when I asked my IT pals for advice.)
I was going to write a blog post comparing the advantages of backing up to your own storage device to those of backing up to Amazon S3, but the more I think about it, the more I think that there are very few advantages to buying an external hard drive these days, assuming you can find the right software to enable you to back up your data to S3 easily. For the $500 you spend on your hard drive, you can use a huge amount of the Amazon S3 service, and you don’t have to worry about one more device hanging around on your desk, paying for its electricity, or replacing it when it breaks or becomes obsolete. Plus with S3, you only pay for what you need. So if you only really need to back up your iTunes library, you pay for a few gigs of storage, not for one full terabyte of storage in the form of a hard drive.
I am notoriously bad about backups, so I’m using this as my excuse to improve myself. Here are the main things I need to back up:
- My iTunes library (on a Mac)
- My digital photos (on a PC)
- My Keychain data (on a Mac)
- My Password Safe data (on a PC)
- My blog data (on a server running Linux)
- My wife’s iTunes library and her email (on her Mac)
- My wife’s photos (on her Mac)
There’s probably some other stuff as well, but once I have backups working, it should be easy to add more data into the mix.
I’m going to try to create a series of blog posts describing my progress through setting up S3 for backups.
Signing up for S3 was easy. I already have an Amazon account and an Amazon Web Services account. I clicked on the signup button, told Amazon to use the credit card and address I already have on file, and I was done.
Once I had S3 set up, I wanted to access the storage space just to get the lay of the land. I learned about S3Fox, a Firefox addon that provides access to S3 via Coding Horror. I gave that a try, and it seemed to work fine. I also downloaded a standalone application, S3 Browser, which appears to work as well.
I decided to start by backing up my Keychains. Apple provides documentation on where to find them, and uploading them to S3 via S3 Browser was simple enough. Eventually I want to set things up so that I can periodically synchronize that folder with S3. For now, just having a backup of the Keychain is good enough.
Next installment: Backing up my iTunes Library.
Update: Jason Levine on the hidden cost of online backups.