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Thread: External HDD vs Online Backup

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    External HDD vs Online Backup

    Right now onto my next question. As the title says, I do photography and want a place to backup my photos - is it better to backup to an external hdd or to some online place (I haven't got a clue who offers this sort of thing yet, but obviously I'm willing to pay for it if need be)?

    Thanks!

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    Re: External HDD vs Online Backup

    Both - you can never have enough backups

    Think about time to do backups as well - if you have lots of data (e.g. shooting in RAW) then it would take an age to upload, but relatively quick to copy to an external drive.
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    Re: External HDD vs Online Backup

    I use both methods - Live drive works well for the online backups and then a number of external drives for larger files.

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    Re: External HDD vs Online Backup

    I use both as well. I have 100GB of essential stuff that gets uploaded to the net all day long, with versioning and so on. That's also synced across all my machines, so I've got my music, documents and so on wherever I am.

    Then I have 6TB of offline backup that I obviously would never try to sync over the net. Besides, at £60 for a 2TB disk, it's a heck of a lot cheaper.

    Both methods have their merits, it's all about what you need. For me:

    Online is instant, so my backups are always up to date, and it's versioned and retains deleted files so in worst case scenario I should always have access to my files.

    But offline is far cheaper, so my backups cost whatever it costs to buy the drives. On the flipside, they're never up to date - usually within 3 months at best.

    The only other thing to bear in mind is that offline protects against fire/flood/theft which offline doesn't necessarily. I keep 2x2TB drives at another address at all times, which could be a few months out of date but I'd rather that than losing absolutely everything.

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    Re: External HDD vs Online Backup

    I've recently switched to Syncback as my backup software. 250,000+ files takes about 4 minutes to run a compare and maybe 4-5 minutes to copy/delete files so as to refresh the backup destinations. 1st backup is internal HDD, 2nd is NAS, 3rd is portable and 4th is home PC (offsite). Transport off-site is by portable but it could be by FTP after an initial full backup is transferred by portable. I also create and retain daily incremental backups going back 3 months to safeguard against deleting files I later decide I need to restore.

    If I worked at home then off-site would be my parents or other family PC because paying for 500Gb cloud storage isn't going to happen. Also my upload speed would make the initial upload to cloud extremely slow and I don't think I can drive round with my portable to speed things up.

    Cloud seems more geared towards a small number of very important files and not like a whole load of RAW photos but it depends what you are prepared to pay.

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    Re: External HDD vs Online Backup

    Hello Cotton Bottom! I'd just get a big external hard drive. But if you had fibre optic broadband the upload speeds are really good so you could at least get plenty of photo's backed up online too.

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    Re: External HDD vs Online Backup

    I think ideally you want both.

    Automated backup to the cloud is more reliable in the long term can't be forgotten, and won't be lost if you are burgled or your house burns down.

    External hard drives are much faster to backup and restore, but can easily be lost, forgotten or accidentally damaged.

    Personally, I do both using CrashPlan. There is a cloud backup component which costs between $2.50 and $12 per month depending on if you want unlimited or multiple computers or not, however unlike other cloud backup services there is also a possibility to backup to another computer for free with the owner's permission, so all the computers in my house backup to each other, which gives me a much faster restore if I make a stupid mistake.

    The backup to a friend can be over the internet, so for me the next step is to invite my Dad over for the day, and ask him to bring his PC. I will configure Crashplan on both computers to backup to each other, and do a first backup over the LAN, so that the large volume of data gets backed up quickly. Then when he takes his PC home future incremental backups will run over our broadband connections, so we get continuous backups.

    Seeing as you are a photographer, generating lots of RAW files, have you done the maths on your upload connection? For example my current ADSL broadband has a raw upload rate of 448 kbps, which works out as 4.5 Gb/day. I dare say that if you shoot lots of raw files you could easily generate more than that in a day, especially once you take post processing into account.

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    Re: External HDD vs Online Backup

    Cable connectivity does make a huge difference. I have around 600Gb upload to live drive at the moment but I have a 5mb/s connection which helps alot.

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    Re: External HDD vs Online Backup

    I am also looking at online options for primarily image backup.

    One thing I am wondering is whether webhosts offering "Unlimited space & storage" tend to make exemptions on how you use the space? I guess ToS will vary from host to host, but is there a trend?

    The other options I am looking at is Flickr Pro at $25 per year vs CrashPlan (twice the cost). CrashPlan sounds good since it can deal with not just pictures, but I am would like to ascertain a couple of things:

    1. Privacy: I see that data is encrypted before it is sent. On their end, does it just become one big archive, or would they be able to view file types?

    2. Backup format: The way they talk about number of computers make me think they are backing the whole thing, system files and all Is that what it does?

    3. Single computer license: I have several computers, but the data I want to backup are primarily stored in external drives. So I think that push come to shove, I can just go for the single licence option. But how does license transfer work if I upgrade my computer? Will it delete everything I had backed up in the old computer (including stuff from external storage)? And can I restore files on a new computer (obviously I wouldn't be restoring system files but just the stuff from the external storage)? How do they "ID" a particular computer anyway?

    4. Multiple computer license: Another option would be to split the cost with family members or friends. After all, that's what it was meant for. Are files between users kept 100% private from one another?

    Cheers.

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    Re: External HDD vs Online Backup

    Quote Originally Posted by TooNice View Post
    I am also looking at online options for primarily image backup.

    One thing I am wondering is whether webhosts offering "Unlimited space & storage" tend to make exemptions on how you use the space? I guess ToS will vary from host to host, but is there a trend?
    I don't think you have to worry. There are a number of cloud backup companines out there who offer unlimited backup, and I am fairly sure they get plenty of heavy users. I have never heard of anyone getting kicked off the service because they used to much. Unlike broadband, disc space is cheap, and the rate that you can upload stuff to their cloud is limited by your broadband. It would take the average broadband user about a year to upload a Terabyte of data, but the disc space to store that data would only cost about $50. So for even for very heavy users, the revenue from the user will be less than the cost of providing the service.

    Seeing as the argument above revolves around the rate that data is uploaded, What you may find is that the cloud backup services limit the rate at which you can upload data, so if you have a very fast connection you may find that you are limited to 100 Gb/Month of upload anyway.


    Quote Originally Posted by TooNice View Post
    The other options I am looking at is Flickr Pro at $25 per year vs CrashPlan (twice the cost). CrashPlan sounds good since it can deal with not just pictures, but I am would like to ascertain a couple of things:

    1. Privacy: I see that data is encrypted before it is sent. On their end, does it just become one big archive, or would they be able to view file types?
    I don't know how they store the data. I would imagine that each file on your system becomes one on theirs, though possibly very big files get split. The data is encrypted at their end, so they won't know the file contents, and probably not the file name or extension. They could probably guess something about the data from the range of file sizes.

    The data is encrypted at their end using a key that they are able to recover when you log in with your password. (Unlike spideroak who encrypt everything on your PC before transmission, but don't offer an unlimited service). The fact that Crashplan can decrypt data at their end enables them to offer a web restore service where you can browse through your backed up data on their website, chose the files you want to restore, and then download a Zip archive.

    Quote Originally Posted by TooNice View Post
    2. Backup format: The way they talk about number of computers make me think they are backing the whole thing, system files and all Is that what it does?
    Their backup tool has a GUI that lets you choose which folders to backup. By default it will only backup the "My Documents" folder for each user on windows machines, and equivalents on Linux, Solaris and Mac. You can chose other folders to backup, but there are some filetypes and folders that it will always refuse to backup, so even if you chose C:\ as the folder to backup, it would probably not backup your windows install.

    If you chose to backup a large amount of stuff then the first backup will take weeks to complete. My advice is to start by defining a small amount of very important files. You emails perhaps and let that backup. Gradually over time add folders to the backup set until you are happy that everything you want is backed up. That way your most important stuff has full incremental backups for the time it takes to upload everything.

    Quote Originally Posted by TooNice View Post
    3. Single computer license: I have several computers, but the data I want to backup are primarily stored in external drives. So I think that push come to shove, I can just go for the single licence option. But how does license transfer work if I upgrade my computer? Will it delete everything I had backed up in the old computer (including stuff from external storage)? And can I restore files on a new computer (obviously I wouldn't be restoring system files but just the stuff from the external storage)? How do they "ID" a particular computer anyway?
    There is a section in their FAQ about that. I have no experience in that area.

    Backed up data is not deleted at their end when you delete the local copy, so I doubt it would get removed if you disconnected the computer from the service so long as you remained a subscriber with a different computer. Data in their cloud is de-duplicated, so if you have multiple coppies of the same file, then it only gets uploaded once, so if you change computers but have the same files on the new computer, the backup will be fast because there will be no need to re-upload the same files.

    Quote Originally Posted by TooNice View Post
    4. Multiple computer license: Another option would be to split the cost with family members or friends. After all, that's what it was meant for. Are files between users kept 100% private from one another?
    No. There is only one account password, and anyone who has it can restore files from any computer. You would need to trust everyone you share the account with. I think there is also a limit on the number of computers you can use with the family plan.

    I think it is meant for multiple computers in one household under the responsibility of one administrator. For example at my home both my Wife and I have desktop computers and we share a laptop. If I wanted to I could subscribe to the family plan so all computers are backed up. Instead I have arranged things so that all the important files are copied onto one of the computers where they are backed up.

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    Re: External HDD vs Online Backup

    Thanks. One more question regarding how clever the system/software is. Suppose I have thousands of unsorted pictures in one or two folders. Soon I will want to sort them, perhaps by events. If I was to my unsorted folders now, and re-organise later, would the system need re-upload everything? Or would be it clever enough to know that all those files are the same, just organised differently?

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    Re: External HDD vs Online Backup

    Quote Originally Posted by TooNice View Post
    Thanks. One more question regarding how clever the system/software is. Suppose I have thousands of unsorted pictures in one or two folders. Soon I will want to sort them, perhaps by events. If I was to my unsorted folders now, and re-organise later, would the system need re-upload everything? Or would be it clever enough to know that all those files are the same, just organised differently?
    It's clever. If you move or copy a file, it knows that it still the same file, and won't re-upload it again. Same deal as if you upgrade your PC, and move your subscription and all your files to the new computer.

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    Re: External HDD vs Online Backup

    If your storing RAW files, the best all-round solution is to take 2 HDD backups and rotate them,keeping one at a friend/family members house.

    Then, if the worst should happen (house fire), you still have your photos safe at another location.

    Until we have fast uploads, large data and online storage is going to be a pain.
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    Re: External HDD vs Online Backup

    Quote Originally Posted by TooNice View Post
    ....

    One thing I am wondering is whether webhosts offering "Unlimited space & storage" tend to make exemptions on how you use the space? I guess ToS will vary from host to host, but is there a trend?

    ....
    Hmmm.

    In my experience, "Unlimited space & storage" is a marketing stunt.

    Consider a water company. You can have metered water, supplied on demand through a 10" mains pipe, or you can have unlimited .... supplied through a drinking straw that's been squashed flat.

    Storage costs to supply (as does bandwidth) so if it's "unlimited" there's going to be a catch, and my bet is that it's more than just that they're averaging out across high and low usage users. Be prepared, and expect to get roughly the service you pay for.

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    Re: External HDD vs Online Backup

    Bump to confirm that, it took a while, CrashPlan has started to seriously squeeze the straw.

    I signed up to CrashPlan a couple hours as the last post on this thread. At the time I was quite happy, as it was able to make decent use of my measly 1.3Mbit connection.

    After I came to Japan, my upload speed got a serious boost. Obviously with servers on the other side of the world, I was only getting a fraction of what my line is capable of. Still, 3-5Mbit was plenty enough.

    Sure, there were slower days, but they never went on for too long. Until last month. Since then, it's been fluctuating between around 70kbit-140kbit/s (hello ISDN).

    At first I wondered if it was an ISP cap, but I have access to two broadband lines, and they both have the same issue, while uploading elsewhere is much faster.

    Not sure how other CrashPlan users are finding it at the moment, but unless this is a short term issue, I can no longer recommend it

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    Re: External HDD vs Online Backup

    I haven't used it yet, signed up a while back when the price was stupidly cheap to test-drive it for a while. When I get round to it, I'll post up my experience.

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