Backing Up to the Cloud and More

Post by Mark

A few days ago a friend asked me how I backup my computer files and I realized its a subject other people might be interested in. Everyone should have some sort of backup and if you aren’t backing up your files then you should get on it asap. My setup is a bit complicated just because I’m extra safe and super paranoid about hard drives failing and files getting deleted. So, I currently have all my data backed up to the following:

In my house:
2 x 1TB External Hard Drives
10TB Synology 5-Bay Server (pictured above)

Cloud Storage:
Apple iCloud
Amazon Glacier
Microsoft OneDrive

For those of you who don’t know what Cloud storage is, it’s basically storage over the internet.

Home Backup
First just to give you an idea of what I’m doing at home in terms of backing up. I have two Macs, my main workstation which is an iMac, and my MacBook Pro laptop which I use mostly for browsing the web and working on client designs every now and then. I don’t backup my laptop since I don’t save any files on it but my iMac on the other hand gets backed up daily onto two external hard drives. Why two? Because in case one drive fails, I have a backup drive. What doesn’t get backed up onto this hard drive are my clients design files. I do freelance branding work and all my clients files are stored on my 5-bay server. The reason for this is so I could access them from both my computers at home and also access the files from anywhere over internet (my server is connected online). The server has 5 drives but 1 drive is a safety net, so in case one drive fails on the server, the 5th one saves the day and I don’t lose any of my clients work. So when it comes to backing up locally at home I’m pretty much doing ok, but I also feel a lot more comfortable knowing all my important files are also saved to the Cloud.

Apple iCloud
The only important files my iMac has is my iPhoto library that contains nearly half a million photos. Basically nearly all the photos I’ve ever taken since my first digital camera. Because I’m pretty paranoid about losing the photos, other than the two hard drives the photos get backed up onto daily, I also back my photos onto Apple’s iCloud. That way in case my house burns down, I still have access to my photos. The reason I am using iCloud and not another service is because its one of the few ways to retain the file structure of the image library. It’s also the easiest way of backing up my photos to the Cloud.

Amazon Glacier
Now another thing you should know about me, I hate deleting files, I have nearly every file I’ve created or downloaded since the late 90s. I guess I’m a digital hoarder of a sort. I don’t have any use for these files anymore other than for nostalgic reasons and so these files are located on my home server which I can access anytime I’m looking for anything specific. Just to be safe I’ve also backed up these files onto the Cloud. They aren’t files that get updated and they aren’t files that I need access to frequently so I’m using Amazon’s Glacier service to back them up into the Cloud. Amazon offer a number of Cloud options, Glacier is their cheapest one but comes with limitations like it takes 3-5 hours to retrieve a file from the Cloud. But since I only need to retrieve data in case of a server failure at home, that isn’t a big deal. How cheap is Amazon Glacier? $0.007 $0.004 per gigabyte per month, so around 100fils a month for 70GB.

Microsoft OneDrive
Finally, I use Google Drive to backup all my clients branding work. I have my home server setup to backup all my clients files onto the Cloud every 30 minutes. This has a number of benefits. For one it’s a safety measure, in case something happens to my server at home, my clients files are safe in the Cloud. The second benefit is in case of a power outage. Last year I faced a number of long power outages in my neighborhood and during one incident I was working on a clients project. I ended up having to push back a deadline (I never pushback deadlines) because my iMac switched off and so did my server so I didn’t have access to the files. If I had my files on OneDrive as well, I could have just gotten on my laptop, connected online and gotten access to my clients files and continued working on them. The reason I’m using OneDrive and not Google Drive for this is because I get 1TB of storage with my Microsoft Office monthly membership. I could use Google Drive, I have no personal preference they’re both great.

So what should you use?
I don’t think there is one solution that fits everyone, it really depends on what you want to do and what you want to backup. Mac users will probably find iCloud the most convenient but because it doesn’t give me much control I actually find iCloud super complicated to use. I barely understand how the whole iCloud photo sharing/backup system work and I’m constantly worried I’ll click on a wrong button and end up wiping out all my photos. So iCloud freaks me out that way.

Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive would probably be the easiest for majority of users. Everyone has a Gmail account so you already have Google Drive and if you’re legally using Microsoft Office, then you also already have OneDrive. You can use both these services like external hard drives where you just drag and drop folders and files onto them or use software to automatically backup your files daily or as often as you like onto them. At the very very very least, if you’re not backing your stuff onto the Cloud you should be backing up your files onto an external hard drive. It’s super easy to do, on Mac’s you just plug in a new empty hard drive and it will ask you if you want to use it as a backup drive, that’s how easy it is so there is no reason why you shouldn’t be backing up your files.

Let me know if you have any questions.


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33 comments, add your own...


  1. Raz says:

    1. Are you using spinning hard drives or SSDs in your 5-bay NAS?

    2. Who do you call for tech support – I mean it looks like setting up the local back up and making it available online securely must’ve required some technical expertise.

    • Mark says:

      1) spinning hard drives
      2) nope I’m pretty much a total geek when it comes to this stuff

      • Meshx86 says:

        Synology products are user friendly and does not require magic to setup.

        Their support are quite great actually, i had a bad luck with WD RED NAS drives (4TB), 2oo5 failed within the first 2 months, although i setup as RAID 5 (SHR1), synology support remoted into my station and was able to recover all the files out of the corrupted volume.

        After learning from my mistake:
        1. never all your drives from a same place/batch
        2. setup RAID6 (SHR2) if you’re paranoid.

        its good to note, that Synology comes with a nice Surveillance server that supports many IP cameras out of the box, you get 2 cameras free, more than that you need a license.

  2. Slaymaan says:

    Personally, I use google drive for sync’d storage. But for backup, nothing beats Amazon drive, unlimited storage for $60 a year.

    Right now, have about 3TB of stuff there.

  3. GMR83 says:

    I noticed you didn’t mention Dropbox. Got a beef with it?

    • Mark says:

      I use dropbox for accessing files across different computers, but you can’t use dropbox for backing up your hard drive.

      • Meshx86 says:

        There is a cloud client for synology that would sync other cloud services (One Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc).

        So if you use that in work, that would save you bandwidth by mapping those sync folder to a shared drives.

        • Mark says:

          I know, thats what I use. Technically you can back up your drive to DropBox but isn’t practical since the backup copy would also be on the same computer you’re on so you essentially have another copy of your drive on your same drive.

  4. Fahed says:

    Save yourself and get a 10TB NAS as a single drive……saves you space, power and cost.

    • Mark says:

      yuk, why would I want to do that? Usually when you offer someone an alternative option you’re supposed to offer them a better alternative not a worse one.

      I LOVE my Synology, not only has it been extremely reliable, saved my ass a bunch of times but I’m also running so many different softwares on it from Plex, to Sonarr to whatever..

  5. Buzz says:

    I have a Synology 4 TB NAS, but I mainly use Dropbox nowadays. The thing I love about it is its Drop ‘n Play app. I have a ton of music in Dropbox and the app allows me to seamlessly play what I want on my iPhone anytime anywhere. I can also share playlists with anyone simply by sending them a link.

    • Mark says:

      the way you’re using DropBox makes sense, you’re making your files available on different devices. But its just not a good option for backing up your computer.

  6. Quintin says:

    Hey Mark.

    so i don’t get why Amazon Glacier is actually more expensive than amazon cloud drive?

    Amazon Glacier – $0.004 per gigabyte per month ( as stated on (https://aws.amazon.com/glacier/)

    $.0.004 x 1000 = $4 monthly.

    on my cloud drive i have 86TB of data backed up it cost me $59 per year for my 1 account. the limit for cloud drive unlimited is 100tb.

    Amazon Glacier at 86tb a month would cost $344 (Annually $4128)

    Amazon CloudDrive $59 per year.

    • Mark says:

      You’re comparing two completely different payment systems thats why.

      Amazon Glacier is pay for as much as you need. So if like me you are using only 70GB of space then you’re paying only 150fils per month.

      With Cloud Drive you’re paying $59 a year but it doesn’t matter if you have 50GB or 50TB.

      So for me Cloud Drive would be much more expensive. Also need to check why I’m paying $0.007 instead of 0.004, might be able to drop down my cost to just 100fils a month.

  7. Yousuf Maimoon says:

    I m not that heavy on the data that i have, but I take photos and I am creeping up on 1TB with my photos. This is excluding all the videos that I have saved and other documents. (all of this on a single 2TB un-backed-up drive).

    Work files are already backed up on google drive

    I only have a macbook air, Please suggest a backup plan for me.

    • Mark says:

      How are you backing up your work files to Google Drive? Are you using a third party app to automate the backup?

      If your photos aren’t stored in Apple’s Photos app then you could back them up to Google Drive as well.

      Only reason I”m using iCloud is because ALL my photos are in the Photos app and the Photos app stores and organizes the files in one file under harddrive>user>pictures called Photos Library. From what I read if I backup that file to a non mac format drive, then it messes up the formating. So my options were to either find a cloud backup service that uses mac servers or use iCloud.

      • Yousuf Maimoon says:

        My photos live in Adobe Lightroom.
        No backup right now. For anything
        Documents that are backed up to google drive take 2gb of space and live on my local drive and get synced via drive app. That’s about it.

        Please help

  8. Anon says:

    I use Crashplan

    https://www.crashplan.com/en-us/

    US$60 unlimited storage for one computer.

    Works in the background and have actually recovered my data once when my laptop crashed. Lifesaver!

  9. Chuck says:

    Interesting coincidence, I have one of these devices for sale over at the Kuwait subreddit here if anyone is interested:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/Kuwait/comments/64nazu/for_sale_synology_ds416play_network_attached/

  10. paul says:

    Mark, I have a subscription with Crashplan.com, it backup everything on my computer (570 gb now ) and all the files are encrypted. also, it maintains all locally deleted files on the cloud and allows you to backup to 3 locations at a time.the whole thing is 60usd/year.
    what do you think of this setup? Have you used this service?

  11. Omair says:

    How much are you paying for icloud ? and for how much space (for all photos).

  12. j Black says:

    Tresorit

    http://Www.tresorit.com

    Based out of Switzerland. Most secure cloud storage on the market.

  13. prof says:

    backup’s are useless if your files are infected and if you dont know how to restore the backup. One should also do a test of the backup you create. Now what I would like to know what type of protection (firewall,AV,) you guys put on your machines.

  14. m.bahrani says:

    1. What software do you use for backing up External Hard Drives?
    2. I have a big headache with my 300 GB photos. Organizing and backing up. any suggestions ?


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