Thursday, January 28, 2010

Online Backup Options for the Home Computer

Another New Year's resolution I'm willing to share: Find a way to archive digital photos that I can live with. Do I want to do prints and end up with a basement full of shoe boxes at the end of my life? Do I want to leave them on the computer? Do I want to order photo albums? (I do not scrapbook, so that's not an option.) I came to decide that I like the idea of saving my photos (and only ordering prints when I want), but I didn't like the idea of keeping them just on my computer. And, while we're at it, why not backup all my files (not just photos) because I haven't really been doing that either. Confession: In the past I have backed up my computer once a year onto CDs. Pathetic, I know.

Professional archivists will tell you it's best to have three copies of your data: One on the computer, one on an external hard drive or something like that, and one off-sight. Online backup is a great off-sight storage option.

Yesterday I spent way too much time on the computer looking into online backup options for home computers. In an effort to make sure time wasn't spent in vain, I'd like to share what I found.

There seems to be a gap in the online backup market for home users. For instance, most online backup services charge $55+ per year for unlimited online backup. I think it's a pretty good deal, especially for home users who backup more than 25 GB. The gap is for those who want to store smaller amounts: 3-20 GB. Why pay the same $55 a year if I'm only storing 5 GB and the next costumer is storing 40 GB for the same amount? (BTW for users only interested in storing less than 2 GB, offers this service for FREE.)

Here's an interesting option I found for closing that gap. Pay for only what you use. In the internet storage world, I'm talking about storing your data on a cloud. Here are a few companies that offer cloud storage: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Zoho, Rackspace... just to name a few. I settled on Amazon. Why? Because I already have an account with them and I trust the company. Amazon offers a service called Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service), charging just 15 cents per GB stored per month. For someone interested in storing, say 10 GB (me) per month, that would cost a little over $1.50 per month X 12 months = Just over $18 a year!

Okay, so what's the catch? There is a catch. In order to upload and download files, Amazon S3 users will need a S3 client installed on their computer. This client just acts as the middle man to move your stuff and make it user friendly. (These clients are only about 5 MB, so they don't take up a lot of precious space on your computer.) There are S3 clients you can buy for a one-time fee (around $30) and S3 clients you can download and use for free. I haven't found a free client that offers an automatic backup feature, but all of them offer syncing (which is basically manual backup).

I chose to look into three Amazon S3 clients: Cloudberry Explorer (Free), S3Fox (browser based-plugin for Firefox-Free) and Jungle Disk desktop edition ($2 per month).

In case you are wondering what my criteria was for choosing these services, here they are in order of importance:
  • Cost
  • Ease of use
  • Features
  • Popularity (good reviews)

Here's a little bit of info on each of them:

Cloudberry Explorer: This is freeware. I downloaded it yesterday and I have 18 days before it expires. I can always go and download it again for free in 18 days, but I must say this is turn off to an otherwise very user-friendly interface. Cloudberry is for Windows only. It offers file syncing, but not automatic backup. Cloudberry Explorer does have the capability to work with Windows Powershell (a task-based command line shell) to automate tasks like auto backup, but you have to be savvy enough to write a script. I'm not. Customer support can be attained through their blog and forums. You can purchase Cloudberry Backup for a one time fee of $29 to assist you in scheduling automatic backups of your files. I downloaded a free trial (15 days) and will try this.

S3Fox: This is a Mozilla Firefox plug-in. It's a fast download and can be found in the Tools menu of your Firefox browser. This is a great option for those with Macs, Linux or Windows operating systems. This is Free and will not expire, although you will likely have to download updates. Offers syncing capabilities, but not auto backup. In essence, the user must manually initiate syncing. Support is offered on their web-page through FAQs and email.

Jungle Disk Desktop Edition: Not free, but has an auto backup feature for $2-3 a month. Like S3Fox, Jungle Disk is cross platform, something I'm always keen on since I have some serious anti-windows leanings that I might give in to someday. (If I did this, it would be just about as expensive to go with and unlimited online backup plan for $55 a year, so I didn't bother exploring this option.) However, this option could still be cost effective for some, which is why I bothered writing about it.

In the next two weeks I will be using Cloudberry Explorer and S3 Fox (and maybe one other as I continue to read up on free S3 clients) to up upload and then sync my files manually. I'll be posting updates as I learn more about them. And in the end, I'll pick one of them to stick with. All my files that I will have uploaded to S3 with different clients will still be there when I decide to switch clients.


  1. I think you have proposed good and inexpensive options.
    For businesses with higher stakes if they loose their data make sure everything is safely tied up.
    I am using SOS Online Backup. Has obviously other benefits than some of the services you have selected. (

  2. Their is another good backup service, It's called

  3. This is a really useful list. Thanks for sharing!

    I have used several backup solutions for years, and I recommend Handy Backup, it's easy and reliable backup solution for the home computer, and works great...

  4. This is another online good backup service, It's called


Thanks for commenting! I love a discussion. If you plan on including a link in your comment, make it appropriate. I will not post comments that include links that I think may be malicious.