Taking The Plunge: Jungle Disk 2

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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