Are you Protected?
I’ve always thought that my backup solution was good enough to protect me, but with a recent spate of burglaries near where I live, and having had our own garage broken into I began to think that perhaps I’m not as protected as I thought.
My current backup solution utilises Mac’s built in Time Machine backup which writes to an external mirrored NAS drive, thus all of my images are on 3 separate disk drives. Surely that’s enough? It certainly should protect me from hardware failure and accidental deletion, but what of burglary or fire for that matter. The shiny NAS drive next to my iMac would surely be a target for any toe rag, and fire, well that wouldn’t discriminate between my kit. In the past I’ve also performed an export from Lightroom of my finalised images onto a separate external USB drive which occasionally I update and take to work – the problem with this is just remembering to bring the disk home, and then remembering to perform the export and then remembering to take it back to work – I’m a bit hopeless really !!!
So I’ve been looking for a better solution thinking that storing some of my images online must be the right way to go. But here I have a problem – living in the UK and in the country means my ‘super fast’ broadband connection means I have 1.4Mb. This really rules out a full online backup solution like CrashPlan or Mozy – plus those solutions are quite expensive. What I really wanted was somewhere that I could just dump my finalised images – this way I can keep the size down – which is important for upload speed – and also the cost of online storage. Even just storing the finalised images though is going to need a large amount of diskspace – my images as TIF format are around 50Mb each, even compressed they’re ~35Mb. That means using free services like Google Drive, Dropbox and the like are all out of the question unless you go down the route of purchasing space. I also looked at storing my images on Flickr in a separate account – but restoring files individually would be a real pain.
But I may have found the answer – Amazon recently launched their archiving service called Glacier. Unlike online backup solutions, Amazon Glacier service is essentially just very cheap online disk space – how cheap? Well if you copy your files to the US then its $0.011 USD / Gb / month. There is no charge for the actual upload. There’s no limit on how many files or how large your archive is. Amazon work out how much space you use and charge you monthly. As I say Amazon’s solution is not a backup service – its intended for organisations to store archival data for long periods of time usually without needing to get the files back, and here’s the thing – if you do need to download your files then it costs more to download them – up to 10Tb of data – then the cost to download the data is $0.12 USD / Gb / month – also the files are not available immediately – they may take up to 4 hours to prepare for download. Now the download cost is more – but for me I’m, only going to download the files – if my local backups are somehow compromised – so I’m happy to accept the additional cost – and to put it into perspective I have 32Gb stored at the moment – that’s going to cost me $3.84 USD – I’m a cheapskate but I’m happy with that!
So currently I have 32Gb of data stored and my estimated yearly cost for this is $3.84 USD – for that I think I will also store the original RAW files too !!!
The Amazon service is meant for commercial organisations and therefore they have not provided a client for performing the uploads / downloads, instead they provide an API that can be coded against. Its pretty simple to code against – but luckily we don’t have to. There’s a couple of clients available – the first is a Windows only client called Fast Glacier (www.fastglacier.com) and there’s Simple Glacier (SAGU) (http://simpleglacieruploader.brianmcmichael.com/) that supports both MAC and WIndows. Both clients are free.
Setting Up Amazon Glacier
So Amazon Glacier is the solution for you, but how do you set it up? Well its really simple. First of all go and sign up for the service – http://aws.amazon.com/glacier/ and click the Sign Up button. If you’re already got an Amazon account you can login using your normal username and password. You will need to put in your personal details and tick the box agreeing to the standard terms – hit the Create Account and Continue button. You will now be asked to enter your payment details. On the next screen you’ll be asked to accept a small charge to your credit card – signing up is free, although Amazon do charge your card $1 USD and then refund it back again to check the validity of the card. Once you’ve done this then you’re ready to go.
Now you need to install your Glacier client, either Fast Glacier or SAGU. Even though I’m an iMAC user – there was just no way my paltry broadband would allow me to upload 32Gb – well it would but would take a month or so to upload !! So instead I chose to do the initial upload from a quicker network using a combination of Starbucks and work !!! So I’ve installed Fast Glacier on my laptop, rather than the iMac.
Installing both clients is simple – just download and follow the instructions. Once you’ve installed them you need to configure the clients with your Access Key and Secret Access Key. You can get these from your AWS Portal https://portal.aws.amazon.com/gp/aws/securityCredentials. Get the Access Key and enter that into your client and in the portal click the Show Key link and cut and paste the secret key and put that into your client. Now you’re configured and ready to use Glacier.
The recommendation from Amazon is that you create a vault and add your files to that vault – moreover they suggest that you zip up your files into a single file. I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules here, what I have done is create a vault for each year – so currently I have 3 vaults 2010, 2011 and 2012. You also have a choice on where the Vault resides – there’s a couple of US options, one in Ireland for the EU and one in Asia, the storage costs are marginally higher for Ireland ($0.011 USD / Gb / Month), I just chose the US – although its probably slightly slower to upload. I then export each of my finalised images by year as TIFs to compressed zip files – I’ve included around 30 finalised TIF files per zip file which works out around 1.2Gb per file for my shots. I think it’s better to upload a few smaller files than one huge file.
My initial upload of 32Gb has taken me a few days to complete from various networks, but now I have that base, I should be able to upload on a monthly basis to keep up to date – I’ll probably do this from home and probably run via SAGU from my iMac.
So I now finally feel safe from fire and burglars; the initial upload has taken some time, but now I’m up to date the incremental uploads should be manageable – even on my slow link and as for the cost well its almost none existent, I’m now about to upload shots from earlier than 2010, plus my wedding photos (all of them) plus various holidays. It’s still not going to cost much more than $10 USD a year – I’d say that’s pretty good value for money and peace of mind.