Backup to Amazon Glacier for Very Little

(Only the cost of the Amazon Services.)

I began to accrue a lot of backup expenses on my S3 account lately and adding those on top of the cost of running my own virtual EC2 instance, I started to look for ways to cut costs. A big part of the cost was my large backup volume that was being managed by JungleDisk. This worked well, and was trust-worthy but I wondered if there was a more naunced approach I could take.

The easy answer to all of this is simple. 5 bucks a month for crash plan is a way better way to do this. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, just go do that. The only problem with that is I’m not sure I totally trust crash-plan. And I enjoy running things like this for myself.

So, I trimmed down the number of directories that Jungle Disk will backup to S3 way down. Then I set up a new vault in Amazon Glacier. Then I found CloudGates, that service allows me to setup an FTP server that will forward uploaded files directly on to Amazon Glacier (or S3). And, allow me to request a Glacier archive for download, then grab it from the same FTP end point when it’s ready. It’s a pretty neat hack.

It’s important to note that Amazon Glacier is a super-slow long term archive system. Storage in it is cheap, but retrieval is costly. It’s perfect for redundant off-site storage that you need just in case, but hope to never actually use.

FTP backup is something that’s been done forever. There is a simple way to do those backups for free on windows with a script. I’m using a free program called Cobian Backup to run the backups, and it’s very robust. I now have my photos, videos, and music all being backed up to the glacier service through FTP. It’s there for the very unlikely event that I lose the physical NAS in the house where all the backups are sitting right now on a mirrored disk array.

So, all my files are sitting on a hard-drive in my computer. They are backed up weekly to a NAS which keeps everything redundantly on 2 disks. Then I have the large bulk of files important files backed up to Glacier in big 7zip files. In addition I have a smaller portion of my important documents backed up separately to Amazon S3 for immediate access in case of emergency. And of course we use a free account with Dropbox to keep our active working documents sync’d across 3 computers and stored on the Dropbox servers.

That’s a lot of redundancy, and I expect my backup costs to drop down to near Crash Plan levels. I feel confident that I can recover from hard-drive failures quickly and easily with my local backups, and I feel pretty confident that with some time and about $30 I could pull down everything important from Amazon Glacier onto a new machine.