I just plugged in my 4th external hard drive today – the 1TB My Book Essential Edition. That brings my total external storage capacity to about 2TB – which is pretty good considering most people don’t have ANY sort of backup solution. But as I was […]

I just plugged in my 4th external hard drive today – the 1TB My Book Essential Edition. That brings my total external storage capacity to about 2TB – which is pretty good considering most people don’t have ANY sort of backup solution. But as I was plugging in the new drive I came to a realization that my backup solution was actually only a 50% solution to my backup needs.

The hard truth is hard drives fail. Manufacturers quote a lifespan of approximately 5 to 10 years. But most of us know that estimate is about as accurate as Apple’s estimated battery life. So although I have an entire row of hard drives, if one of them were to fail I would be “fraked.” (No, I can’t believe I said that either)

So in order to truly sleep soundly at night I moved my most sensitive and important data online. I looked into a number of different solutions including Mozy, Box.net, and even a manual upload using my Dreamhost account – but none of those solutions met all my needs. I wanted something simple to use and a solution that could grow depending on my changing backup needs.

Jungle Disk Desktop 2 seems like the best solution for the job right now. Although the price might turn some people away (read: it’s cheap but not free) the pricing structure allows you to pay for only what you use since the application uses Amazon’s S3 internet storage service. After the one-time purchase of $20, this translates into $0.15 per GB-Month of storage used, $0.10 per GB of data uploaded, and $0.17 per GB of data downloaded. For my current needs I’m paying about $1.95 per month for storage and pennies each month to upload new data.

The best feature of Jungle Disk Desktop is the fact that your Jungle Disk mounts just like your iDisk – allowing you to access your files directly from the Finder. Drag and drop, copy and delete. You can use your Jungle Disk just like any other hard drive.

Jungle Disk Desktop 2, which was just released this week provides some welcome upgrades to the previous version. Perhaps the biggest change is the user interface. The new backup preview dialog so you can see exactly what will be backed up and the selection dialog makes it faster and easier to set up automatic backup.

The new version, which is a free upgrade to previous users, also includes a number of other upgrades and new features including:

  • Better “bucket” management – Jungle Disk uses Amazon’s “bucket” structure to store files. Amazon S3 itself doesn’t have a built-in notion of directories or folders at all. Because of this, it is up to each application that uses S3 to decide how to use buckets to store files and folders. The new bucket features allow you, among other things, to encrypt your data without having to re-upload your data.
  • Support for connecting to multiple buckets at the same time
  • Support for multiple backup jobs with independent scheduling
  • New command line options to integrate with external task schedulers and batch jobs
  • Expanded bandwidth limiting feature

I’ve used Jungle Disk primarily to backup my iPhoto library – the most precious 13GB of data I own. However, due to the changing nature of the iPhoto library, I opted to purchase the optional Jungle Disk Plus service which allows you to make block-level file updates – uploading only the changed portions of your large files. It also gives you web-based access to the files (even via iPhone) and the ability to resume uploads of large files where they left off. The Plus service will run you an extra $1 per month, but I think the savings in both bandwidth cost and time are worth it. Every week at a given time, Jungle Disk scans my iPhoto library file for changes and uploads them. That’s it. It’s that easy.

Of course, if you’re uploading a large amount of data it’s going to take time. As I write this post I’m backing up an additional 6GB using my cable internet connection at 360 kbits/sec. According to Jungle Disk it’s going to take approximately 1 day and 13 hours to finish uploading. But if you’re performing incremental backups quietly in the background or in the middle of the night, this shouldn’t be an issue.

After using Jungle Disk for a few weeks, I have to say I’m impressed. It’s proven to be the easiest, most convenient, and most affordable solution for me. It quietly backs up my data in the background and I feel safe knowing that my data is floating around inside Amazon’s data cloud. Combined with my external hard drive backups, I can now sleep soundly at night knowing my family photos are backed up.

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  1. I have choosen to go to someone like HostMonster who gives me unlimited storage for $7.00 a month and then setup a webdav.

    All jungle is doing is a webdav connection also. While there is no monthly hosting with Amazon S3 it is also not guartuneed. What happens if they have a hardware failure. At least with using a hosting provider, they are backing up the server with they backup solution, and they guaruntee that backup.

    I like Jungle, and use it for some things, but in the end my backup is three fold. 1. Local HD with TimeMachine, 2. Local HD with CarbonCloner (for bootable backup weekly). 3. Backup to external webdav location. I have already had a crash on my MBP and it was nice that my WD Passport (which dropped in water) was not my only backup… I reloaded with discs, and pulled evertyhing down via FTP from my webdav server and done. PERFECT!

  2. @David:

    Thanks for the comment. I may try your method with HostMonster or something similar. I’ll look more into webdav stuff.

  3. The Jungle Disk software and S3 service is a good option too. Decisions, decisions. I just wish my upload speed wasn’t so slow.

  4. I use Jungle Disk along with external drives. Seems that JD is a lot less problematic than what I’ve read about Time Machine.

  5. The new interface is greatly improved! The old method was much more challenging to determine just what was going to be backed up. To the point about HW failure above, according to the S3 design information, it was setup to avoid single-point of failure scenarios so any loss due to HW fault should be extremely rare.

  6. I’m using S3 for some time now using several tools. Currently using Cyberduck for lagre file backup. I’ve got a script installed, much like rsync, to make a daily sync/backup of the important stuff. It’s called s3sync and is a small ruby program. I’ve documented my efforts on my blog for everyone to read here: http://diymacserver.com/backup-using-s3-from-amazon-on-leopard/

  7. Apple Briefs | Welcome to the Jungle (Disk) Monday, June 30, 2008

    [...] Apple Blog reviewed Jungle Disk 2 today. Jungle Disk is an online backup system built on top of the Amazon S3 Storage Service. [...]

  8. I recommend you to get ReadyNas NV+ and you will sleep better.
    It works with Mac, Linux or PC. Easy to setup and its easy to upgrade. You will need to get few hard drives that’s fits your data if you have in future more data files than you only need is to get extra hard drives.

    In my opinion External drives are good when you moving with your laptop. But if you have desktop than time to think in big.

  9. @David – Read the EULA for your webhost very carefully. Most include language that says you shouldn’t be using them for personal backup storage, and they’re not liable if they delete such files (or, in general, lose files) on the server to make extra room. I imagine they might take notice when you break 15+ Gigs like I do with Jungle Disk. You do pay for storage on S3, though. And you’re using the exact some service that Pownce.com is using, among other very large sites.

    I’ve been distrustful of webhosts since I’ve lost data on Hosting plans with two very reputable hosts. You should always have a backup of what’s on a shared server.

    JD’s on-the-fly encryption is the best selling point. It allows you to enter keys that only you will have for encryption, as well as change said key and add the old ones to a key library.

  10. Just thought I’d point out to Paulius that NAS is not an alternative to OFF SITE backup. Jungle Disk gets your data OFF SITE – because -what if you (God Forbid) have a break-in, Fire, Earthquake, Flood….. and loose that NAS. I think JD is a great solution. Hopefully, Amazon will be around for a long time and all of us can sleep easy.

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