This post bored me as I wrote it, but I’m publishing anyway in case it is useful to someone.
As I mentioned in my video archiving post, finding a good online backup solution was pretty difficult when dealing with files of the size required for my project. Mozy didn’t like my flaky connection and had poor support (they did give me a full refund), and Carbonite capped my bandwidth. I even emailed a popular hosting company asking them to consider offering a private storage solution that wasn’t against their terms of service. (The CEO politely sent a personal response, but told me not to count on it anytime soon.) I rejected CrashPlan at the time because I thought it was only a piece of software that let you back up to a friend’s computer, but after reading a recent review of it I’ve discovered that they’ll host your backups as well, inside a former bank vault. I’ll have to look into it in about a year when my current solution expires, which is LiveDrive.
LiveDrive is a bit more expensive than the other backup solutions I looked into, but it comes with some extra features. First off, it’s not just a backup solution. It’s hosted storage, which means they’re cool with you using it as extra space, and not just for backups. They even have a web interface where you can access your files or even choose to share them with others.
The Mac solution
They don’t have a Mac version yet, but they do have an FTP option, which I’ve decided is even better than a piece of backup software. Of course “better” doesn’t mean “flawless.” First off, it is FTP, and though I won’t pretend to be an expert in network security, I’ve not heard great things about FTP and security. They say SFTP is on the way, so for now I’m willing to accept the risk that someone may view or delete my backups. I’m just uploading video files and just backups, so it’s not like a hacker could mess with anything super confidential or essential. The other issue is that their FTP support is still in beta, which means that it is sometimes unavailable. A little bit of downtime is usually not a big deal, but when dealing with such long transfers, it can be frustrating if it’s being flaky at the time I’m uploading something, which right now is all the time.
Why did I decide FTP is “better?” First of all, it means that LiveDrive will always be compatible with my system. I can upgrade to Snow Leopard the day it comes out and not have to worry about it breaking my backup software. The other advantage of FTP is that I can decide to move my files around (to different folders or even different drives), without worrying about a piece of backup software freaking out and thinking that everything is different and re-uploading files that I’ve already backed up.
Update: I emailed LiveDrive about my FTP issues and they recommended FileZilla, which is free. It has an ugly definitely-not-born-on-a-Mac UI, but so far it seems to be working out well with the following preferences:
Connection -> Reconnection Settings -> Maximum number of retries: 99
Transfers -> File exists action -> Uploads: Resume
It looks like my connection gets reset by the server every hour, but the transfer is completed eventually. I’ll send my log to LiveDrive and see what they have to say.
The FTP client I’m currently using for these large uploads is an old friend to anyone who has done web development on a Mac. That’s right, I’m using Fetch. I first used it when I was in middle school, allowing me to access my school’s mirror web server from home. An FTP account was one of the benefits of being in [nerd alert!] the Internet Club. I usually use Cyberduck, which is free, for managing my website, but Fetch is the only client I’ve tried which has been able to successfully upload my large video files. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence (the uploads have failed with Fetch too), but at this point I’m willing to accept superstitious features if they get the job done. The good news is that if you’re using a Mac and you’re looking for a nice FTP client, there are plenty available. I tried a bunch and liked all of them. In fact, I think Fetch is the only one I would have passed on if it wasn’t the only application to complete the transfer. Its UI just feels a little clunky compared to the other solutions. The custom cursor was cute back in the ’90s, but I’ve moved on.
The service has been tolerable. Things got off to a pretty good start before I even signed up. I sent them an email saying something like “I want to upload files that are over 20GB each, I want to upload a bunch of them, and I don’t want my bandwidth to be capped. Is this something you can offer?” A few days later, I received a non-canned reply addressing all of my concerns. And they seem to be telling the truth. As far as I can tell, my bandwidth is not being capped on their end; I’m getting about what I get on other services with my same Comcast connection. Each two-hour video takes about 30 hours to upload when it works.
I have a pretty stable Internet connection now (my old modem was one of the reasons things didn’t work out well with the other services, but I was so disappointed in Mozy’s customer service that I’m not going back), but many of my uploads to LiveDrive do fail. Based on what I’ve read from others, and from my own stress testing (yanking the Ethernet cord out of my router) of the FTP clients, I think I can assume this is due to LiveDrive’s FTP service having problems. I hope this situation will improve in the near future.
Why this project is still worth the trouble
Oldest video I found: Christmas 1986. It looks like my parents recorded it over a tape they had been using to record TV shows. After the home video was over, I was treated to commercials for both the Magnavox VideoWriter and the Sega Master System.