Backup Update


I wrote about my computer data backup plan a few months ago, noting that:

1.  any backup plan is better than none,
2. most tech-savvy people who backup over think it and go overboard, usually with redundancy overkill, and
3. all you really need to back up are photos, music, data files (documents, scans, etc.), and videos, but you should have a safety net.

I have never restored a complete hard drive from a backup, because on the rare occasions I’ve lost a drive, I’ve taken the opportunity to do a clean install of the operating system, and imported only the stuff I still needed.  Yes, everyone should do a complete system backup, but primarily for redundancy and as a safety net.  I backup both my Mac and my MacBook Pro to a Synology NAS device, via Time Machine.  Again, I can’t imagine a scenario in which I’d restore an entire drive, but it’s so easy to do a Time Machine backup, and it’s good to have a full (and redundant) backup, just in case.  Another approach would be to clone your hard drive to network device or an external USB drive via Carbon Copy Cloner (a great and easy to use app).

But when I need to find something I’ve lost, the first place I look is my content-specific backups (e.g., the backups of certain files, not the Time Machine backup of the entire hard drive.).

The migration to the cloud is changing the conventional wisdom on backups, making some traditional backup techniques unnecessary, and providing many options to put data in many places.  It’s far too easy these days to scatter your digital bits all over the internet, but it’s better to be deliberate about how and where you backup your data.

Let’s take a look at the categories of things to be backed up, because that will show what’s easy and what’s not, what’s taken care of more or less automatically as we migrate to the cloud, and what needs help getting there.

Photos: There are a million ways to automatically backup photos to the cloud. DropboxApple’s Photos app (which is what I use), Google Photos, Flickr, Amazon, etc.  So photos are easy- just pick one and stick with it.

Music: There are half a million ways to back up your music to the cloud, assuming you own some of the music you listen to and haven’t gone all-in on streaming (most of my music is played via Sonos playlists comprised of Spotify streaming tracks (lots of good music can be heard via that link) and some old, hard to find stuff I have on the network.  The cloud-based choices for storing owned music include Amazon, Apple Music, and Google Music.  I use Google Music to store in the cloud and access my owned music, and so should you.  It will accept a huge library (50,000 song limit) and it’s easy to access it via computers and devices.  Mac people are genetically predisposed to try to make the Apple solution work, but Apple Music is a train wreck, so avoid it for now.

Data files: Now it gets a little more complicated.  There are lots of options, but you have to know where your documents are, so you know what folders to back up.  Mac users can keep documents, spreadsheets and other iCloud enabled  files in iCloud (that’s what I do), but there are always lots of other files that don’t naturally fit into the Pages/Numbers/Mac app iCloud workflow (for me, most notably song files for new songs I’m working on and scanned documents, as I’ve been paperless for close to a decade).  I back that stuff up to my Synology NAS via Carbon Copy Cloner.

I don’t want to gloss over an important issue mentioned above. To do an effective targeted backup of data files, you have to know where they are.  This means creating, managing and being disciplined about the folder and storage structure on your computer.  By way of example (any logical approach will do), here’s mine.


The circled folders contain subfolders where I keep all of the associated data files.  The stuff in there comprises the data I want to backup, one way and another.

Everyone who uses a Mac should be syncing their contacts and calendar via iCloud, which will take care of backups for you.  To the extent you aren’t keeping your contacts and calendar online via one service or another, (a) why in the heck not?, and (b) make sure the associated data files are located in one of the data folders backed up as described above.

Videos: Here comes the hard part.  Videos are both important (especially home movies, etc.) and large (I have 600 GB of home movies).  Unlike photos and music there aren’t a horde of free or close to free options to automatically and effectively back them up.  Previously, I backed up my movies to Amazon Glacier, via Arq (see the prior post for more details).  This worked fine, and was cheap. I’ve never had to recover videos from the backup, but I know that one of the trade-offs with Amazon Glacier is the delay and time it takes to recover data. When Amazon released Amazon Cloud Drive– unlimited cloud space for $60 a year, that seemed like a perfect place to store backup files.  $60 a year is even cheaper than Glacier.  When Arq released an update that supports Amazon Cloud Drive, I decided to give it a try.  I switched my Arq preferences to back up my Movies folder to Amazon Cloud Drive.  A week later (600 GB takes a while to upload), my videos are residing happily on Amazon Cloud Drive.

In sum, do a complete back up of your computer for redundancy, let the cloud-enabled app you choose handle your photos automatically, put your owned MP3s in Google Music, and organize and backup your other data files to either Amazon Cloud Drive via Arq or an external or network drive via Carbon Copy Cloner.

Easy peasy

Amazon Cloud Drive: Just a Bit too Good to Be True


I’m a committed and active Amazon customer.  I buy just about everything from Amazon, and I back up my Mac to Amazon Glacier via the powerful (and often overlooked by tech pundits) Arq.  So when I saw that Amazon has upped the ante in the cloud wars by offering unlimited cloud space for $60 a month, I was interested.  I back up many hundreds of gigabytes to Amazon Glacier, and it costs me around $8.00 a month.  $60.00 a year, even plus tax, would be a cost savings.  But the bigger advantage would (or should) be accessibility.  Glacier storage is dirt cheap, but the files are not easy accessible.

I’m not bothered by the lack of a true Mac app for Amazon Cloud.  Sure, there’s an app, but it’s mostly a front end for the web interface.  There’s no sync, selective or otherwise.  But that’s OK, because I don’t think Amazon is trying to fill the exact same need Dropbox does.  Rather, I think Amazon is positioning itself as off-site storage.  A place to put things to get them off your computer and in the cloud, not onto all your computers and the cloud.

There are four things people need to save and store.

Music: There are many good and some free options.  I use Google Play (which just greatly increased the amount of songs you can store from a too small number of 20,000 to a plenty big enough number of 50,000, which makes it feasible for long-time music buyers like me).  iTunes Match is a possibility, and there are others.  Amazon Cloud Drive does a pretty good job with music, but I tried it before, and it lost out to Google.  So there’s nothing new to make me change my plan (and the thought of re-uploading all those songs that I finally got in place and organized in Google Play gives Google a bit of a moat).

Photos: Again, there are a lot of options, but the battle for photos in the cloud is still being fought.  I’m hoping that the best thing about the new, cheap Amazon Cloud Drive will be free or cheaper iCloud space when Apple releases its forthcoming Photos app.  I’d love Apple to solve the photos in the cloud problem, because I manage my photos in iPhoto.  If it doesn’t, Amazon may be the answer.  But as a Prime member, Amazon will already store my photos for free, so I don’t need an Amazon Cloud Drive plan for that.

Miscellaneous files:  Unlike space hogging photo and video libraries, there is a benefit to syncing miscellaneous files, so you can access them and work with them everywhere.  I don’t have a lot of text files and miscellany that I need to offload to the cloud.  Some of it is of a nature that I want to store locally, via Time Machine and Carbon Copy Cloner.  The stuff I do want access to everywhere (Word files, Pages files, Hazel rules, etc.) is handled very well via iCloud (mostly) and Dropbox (for some stuff).  I don’t see Amazon Cloud Drive as a player in the document storage, sync and access game.

Videos:   OK, here we go.  I have hundreds of videos.  Films I made back in the day. Home movies.  Photo slide shows.  Currently, these make up the bulk of my massive Amazon Glacier repository.  It would be a little cheaper to store them in Amazon Cloud Drive, and they would be easier to access.  All I need to jump in with both feet is the ability to view them from their cloud based home.  But no.


Is this the end of the world?  No.  Do I understand why Amazon doesn’t want to bear the cost of being my private YouTube?  Sure.  Does this make me rethink my video storage and archival work-flow.  Yep.

It sounded just a little too good to be true.

Editing in the Cloud: The Killer Feature that Gives Google Music the Cloud Advantage

googlemusicI was pretty excited when Amazon beat the crowd that matters to the cloud with the Amazon Cloud Player.  Since I buy all of my music from Amazon, it is convenient to have my music purchases sent directly to my Amazon cloud, for immediate playing, and downloading only as needed.

I was so excited, in fact, that I bought a bunch more cloud space and began the arduous process of moving my huge music collection to the cloud.

But there was a little problem.  Like many audiophiles, I am pretty anal where my music tags and artwork are concerned.  If I see a mislabeled genre or mixed up album cover, I need- who am I kidding, I simply must have- a way to quickly fix it.

On the Amazon cloud, that’s not all that easy to do.  Amazon doesn’t (yet) provide a way to edit song or album details from the cloud.  You have to download the songs you want to fix, delete them from the cloud, fix them locally and then re-upload them.

That’s sort of a drag.  Figuratively and literally.  I also find Amazon’s music uploader less than elegant and not very reliable.

With Google’s recent introduction of Google Music, there is a new competitor in the cloud.  While it’s early,  I think I slightly prefer Google’s look and feel.


But probably not enough to outweigh the ability to send my Amazon purchases directly to my Amazon cloud.  However, I quickly discovered a feature that tips the scale decidedly in favor of Google.  It’s much more appealing than Lady Gaga.  It’s the ability to edit from the cloud!





At the end of the day, the process to get my new music from Amazon to Google Music is pretty simple, and automated.  I configured Google Music Manager to monitor my Amazon download folder, and automatically upload whatever shows up there.

I agree that Apple may one day deliver a cloud-dominating knock-out punch, but that may take some time, as you can never count out the innovation adverse music industry (as an aside, I get a few dollars from BMI every quarter or so, and I still can’t abide the obstacles these organizations keep tossing on the path to access).  They may be trying to protect someone’s income, but I’m not certain it’s the songwriters’.

In any event, I’m pretty excited about Google Music.  The 20,000 song limit will prevent me from moving all of my music there (at least until cheap extra storage becomes available, like Amazon offers).

But as of now, it’s leading the race to become my default music manager.  Stay tuned, however, because the race is just beginning.

Bad Experience With Omakase

I noticed Dave Taylor’s post the other day about Amazon’s Omakase Links Program.

omakaseBeing a long time, but highly uninvolved, Amazon associate, I decided to check it out. I searched all over the place for my Amazon associates log-in information, and once I found it thanks to the wonder of X1, I logged in and went to work.

It took me about 5 minutes to add all the details and configure my Omakase links into a professional looking box that fit nicely in one of the outer columns of this page. I added the code to my blog template and, presto, there it was. I noticed no lag in page loading, and the featured items seemed to change nicely each time the page reloaded.

Then I noticed something strange. Almost all of the featured items were sex-related. There was a playboy video and a bunch of what looked and sounded like soft-core porn fiction. I clicked on a few of the links to make sure they led to Amazon, and they did.

This was the case even though when you configure your Amazon links for the first time, you have to agree not to post anything improper on the page where the links display.

Now I am no prude (far from it, actually), but I have never ordered anything even remotely similar to those items from Amazon and I have never once posted anything on this blog that might confuse some algorithm into thinking that those items are consistent with my readership.

In the interest of fairness, at least one blogger is satisfied with Omakase. Of course she gets the random welding books, while I get the ones with scantily clad women on the cover (which might be fun to read, but not to display on your blog).

After reloading the page a few times to confirm that those items were in permanent and frequent rotation in the featured items, I removed the Omakase code from the page.

Omakase is a neat idea in theory, but Amazon needs to figure out what is and what isn’t appropriate to display on a family-oriented, tech and music blog.

So long Omakase. I hardly knew you.

Amazon S3: Not the GDrive Killer Some are Claiming

That whacking sound heard throughout the blogosphere today is the sound of Amazon whacking Google and the rest of the online storage players about the head. Amazon has released a very inexpensive online storage service that some are saying will change the online storage game.

First, the good. The service is very inexpensive. $0.15 per GB-Month of storage used and $.20 per GB-month of data transferred.

So lets say someone wants to host all their data with Amazon and serve it to their web page. Maybe 20 GB of data and 30 GB of bandwidth (transfer). That’s $3.00 per month for the storage plus $6.00 for the bandwidth, for a total of $9.00 a month. That’s an almost unbelievable price.

I signed up early this morning, and will play around with the service this weekend and report my impressions.

But this is not the GDrive and Box.Net killer some are saying it is.

Because this service is in no way, shape or form designed for the consumer to back up his or her data or media files. It is aimed at developers.

To consumers, FTP is hard enough. Soap is for the shower and rest is what you do when you’re tired. So while developers will find Amazon’s service irresistible, consumers will still look to other consumer-oriented services that make the management of online storage easier and more intuitive.

And of course by consumers, I also mean small and medium businesses without a dedicated IT department.

So while I’m excited about Amazon’s new service, let’s not get too carried away about its effect on the consumer online storage industry.