Online backups with Dreamhost

In the age of digital media, many people must be gathering huge amounts of precious digital files – photos, home videos, documents etc. I have 15,000 digital photos and hours of digital video stretching over 10 years. Its precious stuff – kids being born, walking and talking for the first time. You know the thing. Irreplaceable.

But what do you do when your REALLY precious digital stuff is now 80GB of compressed data? How do you back it up securely and reliably so it is NEVER, EVER lost. Imagine trying to explain to your wife/husband/kids/family/parents that it’s all gone? There is no room for excuses.

The obvious solution is to make regular copies to a USB drive. But that only goes so far. What happens if your house is burgled, burned down, flooded? The solution is off-site storage. Businesses have been doing it for years. Sending their backup tapes to a secure location – just in case.

That’s fine in business where its people’s job to organise these things but what about the home environment? If you’re anything like me you’re never going to remember to keep updating your off-site backup or rotate the USB drives. Which means your backup will become old, out of date – and worse – may not work when you need it.

One alternative is to store your backup files on the Internet somewhere. That way you can access the files from anywhere when you need them and you can automate the backup process so you don’t have to remember. Even better, many ISPs don’t charge for UPLOADS so it doesn’t cost you anything to send your files. It only costs if you ever need them back.

The problem is there’s lots of providers out there but NONE of them let you store lots of data – I mean 50 GB or more – without paying stupid monthly fees. Frankly in some cases you could fly there for less! So while it’s a good idea in theory, in practice the costs are prohibitive.
I faced this issue a couple of years back. While searching for a solution I came across Dreamhost. They were offering unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth for a fixed monthly or annual fee. “Great” I thought. I’ll just dump my backup files there each night and all will be good.

And all was good until recently the good folk at Dreamhost caught up with me and reminded me of the fine print in their terms of service. But to my surprise they didn’t just kick me and my backups off their servers. Instead they suggested I take up a new service specifically for the storage of backup data. I think there must have been a few of us doing this….

Now with each web site hosting subscription, Dreamhost offer one FREE “backup user” account. The backup user can store up to 50GB on their servers for free! Yep that’s free. All you need to pay for is a web hosting account – you don’t actually need to have a web site, you get the backup user anyway. The backup user account is on a dedicated backup server (i.e. not on a shared web server). The data is not backed up or archived – it’s already a backup by definition – so there’s a chance they will lose it. That sounds bad, but in practice if you setup an automated process to update your files every night, if data goes missing it will be replaced the following night anyway.

Even better, you are not restricted to 50GB. Excess storage is charged at US$0.10 / month / Gigabyte. Yes that’s 10 cents per month per gigabyte. Want to store 100GB – US$5.00 a month!! Oh and they only charge you for the days you use the excess – get that!

Compare that to XDrive and everyone else in the online storage space.

Access to the backup storage is via ftp, sftp, scp or rsync. Very cool for making scripts!

I love this system. Currently I have almost 100GB of gpg encrypted zipped tar files stored on their servers. I pray I never need to use them but it’s good to know they are there.

Dreamhost literally are the cheapest online data storage service provider on the Internet.

1 comment to Online backups with Dreamhost

  • Federico Buroker

    For the same reason you wrote here that I’m still keeping a backup storage for my files just in case I can’t access the clouds. You just feel helpless when these third party sites are down and having a safety net will save you from all those frustrations. Unless there’s a 99.99% uptime all the time service out there, I’ll have to hold on to the old way of doing things.

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