My search for an online backup service

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I’ve been trying to find a good online backup service for several weeks now and I’m choosing hubiC for now. I found out about them recently because they were on the front page of Hacker News.

My needs are pretty simple. Most of my configuration, scripts, software and documents are backed up online in appropriate places where I don’t have to pay any extra, and all of that amounts to less than 1 GiB of data.

My personal images, videos and music are a totally different beast. They take around 60 GiB, which is not much considering what other people have, but more than what’s available for free in most services. They are backed up in a personal hard drive, but I’ve always felt the need to keep a copy off-site that would be safe from home disasters.

A homemade solution could be a hard drive at a friend’s house that could be accessed remotely with rsync or a similar tool, but I don’t like the idea of bothering anyone for this. Maybe I’ll look into it in the future. Ideally, I’m also looking for a solution that preserves my privacy.

For this simple situation, these are the solutions I considered and what I perceive are the pros and cons.

  • Flickr was the first option I considered. The main advantage is having 1 TiB of space for free. On the other hand, videos are limited to 30 seconds and images have to be uploaded unencrypted. The process of uploading the existing images from the web interface was a bit clumsy when I tried it some weeks ago. They could only be uploaded in groups of 20 or so, which needs constant interaction. Music cannot be uploaded.

  • Dropbox is nice because it’s popular and would allow for local encryption before uploading. It has some proprietary clients but allows access through a web interface. So far, so good. Price is $10 a month in the 100 GiB plan, which leaves the price at $0.10 per GiB, or $0.08 if you choose yearly payments. It’s not a bad option and they have additional plans that scale linearly for 200 GiB and 500 GiB.

  • Mega, the service by Kim Dotcom is also similar and has nice prices. Forgetting about their native client-side encryption for a moment (because you can encrypt the files yourself before uploading), their plan of 500 GiB for €8.33 a month is very competitive (around $0.02 per GiB). It has bandwidth limits but as far as I know they’re more than enough for backup purposes. The bad side is Kim Dotcom himself. You never know if they’re going to take that service down like they did with Megaupload and you risk losing your online backup. I doubt that’s going to happen this time, however.

  • Amazon Glacier. At barely $0.01 per GiB a month it’s one of the cheapest options when talking about pure storage. Note these storage costs scale with the real usage instead of providing a fixed-price plan with a given amount of available space. However, it’s more technically oriented as all they give you is an API, even if there are free and open source tools that ease using it. For example, I’ve read good things about git-annex, which lets you combine Glacier with other personal storage solutions and uses git as the storage backend. Also, boto is a Python library for AWS that has a Glacier module and can be used to build custom applications. None of that would free you from Glacier’s weird retrieval fees and mechanisms, which are its main disadvantage.

  • rsync.net is technically one of the best solutions, in my humble opinion. Your storage space can be accessed with standard Unix tools like rsync, SSH, SFTP, etc. Support is excellent, or so I’ve heard, and you speak directly with engineers. From my perspective it’s what I’d like to have in an ideal world. However, their prices are not in the lowest ranges. With available discounts you can get as low as $0.10 per GiB a month, which is on par with Dropbox. Prices are for real usage, more or less. You request the specific volume size you want and they make the space available for you. It can be increased or decreased with some granularity.

  • Tarsnap is different but excellent too considering technical aspects. Encryption is integrated in the service and performed client-side. The remote end has no chance of decrypting your personal data. This is not just a promise. The client tools are CLI and open source, and the service is managed by Colin Percival, the FreeBSD security officer. The problem is price. Based on Amazon S3, you are charged for real usage and bandwidth, at $0.30 per GiB each.

  • Finally we arrive at hubiC. I chose it because the prices are ridiculously low, at €1 a month for 100 GiB it’s about as cheap as Amazon Glacier, without its disadvantages. Unlimited bandwidth as far as I know, and access with a web interface and proprietary clients (Dropbox style) for the main platforms. The service is run by OVH, a big French hosting company, and seems to be trustworthy.

My modus operandi with hubiC is tarballing and encrypting picture sets locally and then uploading those to their service. So far I’ve uploaded around 7 GiB of data and will jump to one of their paid plans, if there are no surprises, as soon as I reach my free limit of 25 GiB.

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