Being a photographer, I have a lot of pictures on my hard disks. Using a Canon 5D Mark II with it’s 23 megapixel sensor shooting in RAW doesn’t help. My main backup is two different NAS servers doing alternating TimeMachine backups every other hour, a feature added in Mountain Lion. This is great, because if one backup unit breaks down or gets stolen, I still have another copy on the other NAS. But what if both got stolen? Imagine the horror? So I’ve been searching for an offsite backup solution that’s cheap and just works. And now I think I found it.
Amazon has launched a new service called Glacier for storing files that doesn’t need to be accessed often. And the price per Gb is dirt cheap. So using this service would be perfect to use for my purpose. But to make everything easy, you need a backup program that supports Amazon Glacier for storage, and fortunately I found one.
Amazon Glacier is an extremely low-cost storage service that provides secure and durable storage for data archiving and backup. In order to keep costs low, Amazon Glacier is optimized for data that is infrequently accessed and for which retrieval times of several hours are suitable. With Amazon Glacier, customers can reliably store large or small amounts of data for as little as $0.01 per gigabyte per month, a significant savings compared to on-premises solutions.
Arq 3 Backup for Mac OS X
Arq 3 is a backup application that can do backup to Amazon S3 or Glacier. It doesn’t use Amazons server side encryption so the data is sent encrypted directly from Arq 3 itself. Haystack Software provides a command line utility called arq_restore on github enabling you to access your data without Arq 3, which is a nice touch if they should go out of business and not leaving you stranded with data you can’t access. An even better solution would have been to put a unencrypted compressed file containing the source code for arq_restore in every backup bucket.
Setting up the backup
The application installs a menu bar icon to make access to the application a breeze.
After getting registering for an account at Amazon, something Arq 3 guides you through, you just add the folders you want to have backed up.
You can select to store it in S3 which has faster access times but is more expensive, or choose Amazon Glacier with it’s lower cost but have slower access times.
You can exclude files and folders from the backup, or choose to not backup files that fit a specific search criteria.
One nice feature is the Budget preference. Here you can set up a cost limit so you don’t get any surprises when it’s billing time. Very handy!
You can set up the backup to slow down when you are actively using your Internet connection, set it for full speed or choose a specific bitrate for uploading. I have a 100/10MBit line and upload at full speed and the application seems very CPU friendly, something not all backup programs can brag about.
You can set how often the backup executes. There is options to set different times for S3 and Glacier. I wish that you could set this per folder also, but that’s an minor annoyance.
Be prepared that the first backup will take a long time. Of course this depends on the amount of data to backup and the speed of your Internet connection. But after the initial backup, only changes are uploaded.
If you need to restore, Arq will test your download speed, and then do an estimate of total cost for downloading your backup data. If you have a fast internet line, the restore could become very costly, because you pay more the faster you download. But there’s a built in function for setting the download speed manually, essentially throttling the download. You get a cost estimate, so if your not in a hurry, just enter a lower download speed value. You get an estimate cost for restore directly, so choosing how fast you want your data is easy.
The fear of loosing years worth of photos is something I hope this will remedy. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.