Cloud Storage and Backup – a reflection

You only have to lose one important essay, sermon or video for backup to move from something that never mattered to THE most important thing you have ever done. In my time, I have lost so much material, misplaced or overwritten stuff that I sometimes feel like weeping over the genius insights which have been lost to the world forever – I know you might not believe me on that, but to be sure as you will never know, I must assure you that every insight was like a fine pearl…

I have countless CDs and DVDs burned with material, and now about a dozen external drives of varying sizes and purposes, and believe me, when they fail, things are really catastrophic, as a Tb of data goes west. It was not so long ago that the drive with all my video work on it failed. Luckily I had a backup of that backup (paranoid, you see and not without reason) and I only lost some stuff made in the previous couple of months. It still hurt, and the replacement drive still cost a hundred quid to replace.

The other problem is that external drives are still limited in size, the 500mb which was more than adequate is now useful for little more than transferring data, the 1Tb is almost full and I am starting to eye 2Tb drives. This is amazing when I think that my first hard disk was 10mb – goodness me, you can hardly do a PowerPoint presentation in 10Mb these days.

So, with the increasing availability of broadband and a fast connection at home, I have begun to use Cloud storage more and more. This coincides with the use of collaborative file sharing in my (parish) administration.

For such collaborative work, the backbone of our operation is Dropbox which can be a free account of 2Gb. Folders are shared with various colleagues and it has been excellent in the moving of data from one PC to another. Elsewhere I have documented a workflow to deliver liturgy from PC to tablet via Dropbox so you can lead from the Tablet. It is a sync service, so replicates the files from one place to another, and has effectively replaced the ‘My Documents’ folder on each PC (in the PC properties you can direct Windows to look in the Dropbox folder as a default as My Documents). This is the best cloud solution available.

However, with many folders being both live and collaborative, they are at risk of being deleted by accident or design. I lost some early files that way at the hands of others. My solution was to write a little robocopy script to copy the contents of my Dropbox to the network, and as it just overwrites and updates,

This is the spell you need:

robocopy /R:0 /E /W:5 /FFT /COPY:DT /XO /XD $RECYCLE.BIN “#RECYCLE BIN” .dropbox.cache

I have this as a scheduled task each night.

However, the paranoia remains, so recently I have tried and taken up CrashPlan which provides continuous offline backup. There is a free service, but for $6 a month I have taken up CrashPlan+ which will backup a single PC with unlimited storage and unlimited versions. This means that if I want to restore the version of a document I saved over, I can retrieve the exact version I want from the backup. Their tech support is excellent, but a feature of their system is that if you do a system refresh of Windows, it will create a new backup set, which I had to get their Excellent tech team to merge for me. I really like this solution and the media integrity is no longer a problem. As I back up the whole user folder, this means that everything in my Dropbox folder is backed up continually. I highly recommend this.

However, not everything I want backed up is on a single PC, what about the stuff on the Network? – I use a Network Attached Storage Device with 3Tb of data on it, with another Tb (that’s 1000Gb or 10000Mb roughly) and so the only solution was until recently to keep buying more external drives.

But now I have discovered Bitcasa – this provides effectively a cloud-based external drive. It does not replicate files between systems like Dropbox, but keeps them in the cloud, so you can download them as you need them. For $10 a month (that’s about £7) you have unlimited storage – and they mean unlimited – terabytes, petabytes even with they claim versioning as well! Now this is not something which happens automatically, so I have redirected my robocopy script to update not to the network but to the Bitcasa drive as an additional backup to CrashPlan. I am currently transferring the 5Tb or so of data, which will take time but provide much peace of mind.

If you want to try bitcasa for free (10gb which is very generous), then try this link:  http://l.bitcasa.com/Rd6204jc which will benefit me (thank you)

I have been impressed by the speed and response of the system, but have so far found the Android client to be prone to crashing on my Nexus – hardly an underpowered tablet.

There are times when having two backups is the sensible option: and I still use memory sticks and Microsoft Skydrive for backing up as well. I still email documents to myself so there is a copy on Gmail. You can never be too careful…