2 Ways to Backup Your Stuff

People often ask me for advice on how to backup their stuff. Here’s 2 options that I find can cover pretty much any use-case.

Option 1: Operate Out of a Cloud Drive.

Suitable for: people who have less than about 100 GB of files they care about. With more than this it can get expensive, and unless you have G Suite, hard to manage.

This option is really simple. Install a consumer cloud drive product like Google Drive, move literally all your files into it (everything in “Documents” for example), and from there on, use this as your root folder. Everything you do happens in Drive. Works great if you use more than 1 machine too!

Bonus: if you pay for G Suite, you can use the “File Stream” version Google Drive which means not all the files have to be copied locally, good if you have a smaller HDD.

Option 2: Backup to the Cloud

Suitable for: people who have a lot of data like photos or videos that would be expensive or cumbersome to store in a cloud drive.

With this approach, you buy a copy of Arq, and backup to a cloud provider. The trick is to use an enterprise cloud provider like Google ($0.007/GB/Month) or AWS ($0.004/GB/Month) rather than a consumer product. The reason is that most consumer products charge in buckets for example, 100MB to 1TB, and once you go, for example 101MB you’re paying for the next tier enterprise clouds on the other hand change less than a penny per GB, and it’s calculated per MB.

On AWS Glacier, a 3TiB backup is $12.28/month, and importantly scales linearly.  The main difference between AWS and Google is price, and speed to recover. AWS is significantly cheaper, but it takes 4h to start your backups, where as Google is instantaneous. So if you need your backups to be at-hand, use Google.

To use, simply select the folders to backup, and let it do it’s thing. You may wish to tune the upload parameters so it doesn’t soak your connection (you’ll notice if it does as everything will grind to a halt, this is also a good time to get an internet connection with decent uploads). This is more or less like Time Machine if you’re familiar with that, but in the cloud. It will store incremental versions, which helps to protect against accidental damage or ransomeware.  Obviously a cloud drive can also be used for daily documents that need to be shared.

What About Local Backups?

The problem with local backups is that they exist physically with your primary machine. If your primary machine falls due to fire, theft, flood and the likes, your backup is subject to the same event. Sure, offsite backups can fix this, but it’s quite a hassle to maintain. Cloud is the ultimate offsite backup, with the added advantage is that you don’t have to worry about data durability (e.g. RAID) as you do with personal backups.

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