Each Friday Calvin does a great job here giving us tips on backing up and while I feel that I have a good backup workflow, I recently started checking out cloud based backup solutions. I really didn't have much interest in cloud based solutions before simply because internet bandwidth just isn't fast enough to make backing up to the cloud a viable solution for most people. However, I decided to give it a try for my OFFSITE backup. In other words I still don't feel that a cloud based backup service is fast enough for my regular/daily backups, but I do feel that it's a good option for an offsite (in case all hell breaks loose) copy.
Today I backup my server to an external hard drive. I have two backup external hard drives in fact. However, one of them is always offsite at the bank in a safe deposit box. This way if disaster strikes at home (fire, flood, theft, alien attack, etc.) I can still go to the bank, pick up my drive and restore everything to a new computer/drive. It's the offsite copy that I began to wonder if it could be stored in the cloud.
In theory once the initial cloud backup is complete my offsite backup would be more current than the one I have now in the bank. I would like to rotate my offsite backups weekly, but in reality I don't get to the bank every week. Backing up to the cloud would be a continuous process and therefore my offsite backup would always be as current as my local backup within a few megabytes/hours.
How long does it take to backup over the internet?
Backing up gigabytes of data over the internet can take months! That's right! I said months, not weeks, not days, but months. Even if you have a super fast upload speed via your ISP (most people dont'), you probably don't want your backup sucking up all the bandwidth from your daily use of the internet. Also ISP's are starting to get cranked when people abuse their bandwidth allotment. For example, Comcast has a 250GB per month bandwidth cap. Once you exceed that they could throttle your speed down or even charge you more. With this being the case you don't want your backup to the cloud using up all of your bandwidth for the initial backup. With this in mind you need to be able to configure your cloud based backup service bandwidth to use as much or as little bandwidth as you want.
Is there another way?
I went with CrashPlan.com for my cloud backup solution. They have an unlimited storage plan at a reasonable price. They also offer something that the other providers don't offer and that is the option of having them send you a hard drive to do your initial backup! The idea is you get the drive, follow the instructions and backup your whole drive. Then you return the drive to them. They copy/clone the drive to their enterprise class servers and you then begin backing up from that point in time. This is the way to go especially for people with limited bandwidth. There is a cost to do this! You are effectively "buying" the drive. However, it's the fastest way to get all of your data backed up online.
Access your files anywhere
Not only does having your files backed up to the cloud give you an offsite backup in case of disaster, but it also lets you access them from anywhere on the internet you happen to be. Just log into your CrashPlan.com account and download anything from your backup drive.
How long does it take to restore?
Your download speed is much faster than your upload speed in most cases. So restoring should go a lot faster, but it could still take days depending on how much data you have to restore. For example, it takes over 24 hours to clone my 1.5 TB of data locally from drive to drive over Firewire 800. So imagine how long it would take to download 1.5 TB over the internet?
No worries – They can send you a drive! Just like they can send you a drive to backup to, they can also send you a drive to restore from if you need it.
The Bottom Line
Any backup is better than no backup! While I don't yet recommend a cloud backup to be your only backup, it's certainly worth investigating as your second/offsite backup. I went with an unlimited family plan so that I could backup both my main server drive and the iMac that has all of my music, movies, TV shows, etc. I have a sizable investment in music and time (ripping my CDs/Movie DVDs) that I want backed up offsite. CrashPlan is running in the back ground backing them both up as we speak.
CrashPlan also has the unique ability to allow you to backup to a friends computer at no cost.
One more thing…
Dolly Drive – I just got back from Macworld Expo and one of the companies there has figured out a way to offer cloud backups via Mac OS X's Time Machine. It's an interesting concept. You would set Time Machine to backup to your Dolly Drive account and be able to use the Time Machine features, restore, etc. if you ever needed them. It will be interesting to see how this works and they will have to come out with the ability to send you a drive to do your initial backup to just like CrashPlan.
Backup offsite today, so that you don't need these guys tomorrow!