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Off-site Backups and Amazon S3


After losing two hard drives in rapid succession, I figured it was time to start giving some serious thought to my backup plan. I have been rsyncing my documents, pictures, and active projects folders to my local Debian server for a while now so neither drive loss was that critical, but it drove home the fact that while I like to think my systems are bulletproof, there’s no such thing. At that point, I decided I needed a robust off-site backup plan.

I started looking at the various free services that were available. I tried a few of them, but the biggest drawback was most locked you into a proprietary application for performing backups. The notable exception here was Omnidrive, which I used for a while and liked, until they upgraded their software and it stopped working on OS X. The other major drawback to the free services was the available space. Most providers only give you a gigabyte or two for free, and then charge you beyond that.

Since I was going to have to pay to get the amount of space I needed, I started looking at real offsite backup providers. I found several that offered what I was looking for, but none were within my price range. While researching the various options, I came across Rob Rohan’s article about how he used Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3 for short) as a back-end for a server backup plan.

After looking at how much (roughly) it was going to cost per month, I started using S3 last month as my primary off-site backup destination. I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome at this point. I followed Rob’s technique for the most part, but skipping the database backup stuff since I don’t need it (but I might start doing it, you know, just in case). The first backup took forever of course (we’re talking almost 5 gigs being pushed up my cable connection), but the subsequent sync operations fly.

And the price? Well, my first monthly bill was $1.42, broken down thusly:

  • $0.15 per GB-Month of storage used – 2.478 GB-Mo – $0.37
  • $0.10 per GB-all data transfer in – 4.632 GB – $0.46
  • $0.18 per GB-first 10 TB/month data transfer out – 0.097 GB – $0.02
  • $0.01 per 1,000 PUT or LIST requests – 55653 Requests – $0.56
  • $0.01 per 10,000 GET and all other requests – 46 Requests – $0.01

As you can see, it makes for a very cost-effective backup solution.

Some apps I found useful for working with S3 (Note: OS platforms listed after each app):
Jungle Disk – Windows, OS X, Linux
S3 Browser – OS X
Cockpit – Windows, OS X, Linux (requires Java)
S3Sync – Windows, OS X, Linux (requires Ruby)

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