I have a decent physical backup plan for my existing desktop and files, although primarily I’m interested in the safety of our family photos in digital format, the best of which are also shared to my website in full original size. So I haven’t felt the need for a separate cloud-storage option for those. Other files are either backed up through email or on other backup drives.
But one downside to backup drives is where do you keep them. Some people take them to their office. Some people have “backup buddies” the same way they exchange house keys with neighbours. Or they store them with family. And still there are those few souls who follow some good online advice and keep them with their important documents and jewelry in a safe-deposit box.
There are some unfortunate souls who say, “No problem, I keep my backup drives in a fire-proof safe” and think that actually keeps them safe. First of all, “fire-proof” is not the same as “heat-proof”. While paper is safe up until 451 degrees Fahrenheit, more or less, your hard drives will melt LONG before that. Plus, many of those safes are fire-proof but not water-proof. Fires in homes attract firefighters who soak the entire house, often deluging the safe with tons of water. The end result is a perfectly safe set of contents that never caught fire but did melt and sit in water. Neither are good for backup drives. And some of the safes come with guarantees — where the guarantee is just that they’ll refund the purchase cost of your safe if you lose everything on your drive. That first word of your child? Gone. But they’ll give you a couple of hundred dollars to make up for it. Maybe.
I admit that I have been burned in the past from not having a regular enough backup schedule, and that can still happen (I don’t do daily backups for instance). But for the most part, I won’t lose much anymore. At the moment. But my files are growing with my astrophotography work and a bunch of my current photo gallery work. So a home for my disk drives is in order, but it needs to be something that I can access regularly to do swap outs with new backups or it doesn’t work.
I have two good drives for that, small, portable, and capable of one set of backups from my desktop, Andrea’s desktop, Jacob’s desktop, and my laptop. With a bit of room to spare. And then I have a big multi-terrabyte drive that can hold lots of things, plus Network-Attached-Storage that I don’t use properly as it’s kind of slow. I don’t have an off-site location to store things with friends or family that would work, nor do I want to take it to work (although I have in a pinch). No, what I need is a paid storage option.
Enter the Safety Deposit Boxes
The most obvious solution is to get a safety deposit box that I can access easily and swap the small drives out. Or put the big one in it. The question is cost vs. the cost for a cloud storage option capable of holding everything.
While having an SDB used to be a sign of “adulthood” in a sense, it is now more like “Okay, Grandpa”. People put bonds in them (I have none), jewelry (I have none), house and will documents (kept with the lawyer), and other investment certificates. If you DO keep investment stuff in it, it is theoretically tax-deductible as an expense on said investments. I also don’t have coin collections or important business contracts. It really is just about my disk drives.
Almost every SDB is big enough to hold business size envelopes. 5″ wide is a relatively standard dimension, 24″ long, and of varying heights. My small drives are less than 4″ in width so would easily fit. My larger drive is more like 5.5″ x 6.5″, and 3″ thick. Not a great option to find a cheap box to fit. On the other hand, some banks give you a free box if you have your investments or accounts with them and maintain over a certain balance. We use a virtual bank (Simplii) so that doesn’t help, and others with CIBC don’t come with any freebies.
Looking around, I see:
- Scotiabank: $55/year for their smallest box which would hold the small drives; the larger drive would necessitate one at $125/year;
- TD Trust: Free if you meet certain requirements, or $60 for a small, $100 a medium, but size isn’t clear, could require a large for the big drive, $150/year;
- RBC: $60 for small, $90 for medium;
- CIBC: $60 for small, unsure for medium;
Apparently credit unions are often a bit cheaper although I don’t see obvious choices nearby. And then there is the off-site storage option. Places like Dymon Storage also rent them. And while they are supposed to be “cheaper”, they aren’t when it comes to the sizes I need. For example, Dymon has one size for $120 a year (and right now, if you ACT NOW!, you get 3 months free). But there’s no minimum when you sign up, $10 a month, easy access, etc. You can even insure the contents, which you can’t do at the banks. Although proving your claim is always a challenge, but I digress.
So they’re in the middle on cost between a small and a medium box, right? Not really. They’re actually a really good deal because they have decent security and access like they have for the rest of their stuff, but the box itself is 12″ x 12″ x 12″, much bigger than the basic ones at the banks. It basically holds a banker’s box size set of files. That would run you well into the $200+ range at any bank. But it is WAY more than I need.
Which means I’m in the small box option of around $60 somewhere. Or finding an alternative.
Enter the cloud servers
As I said above, I don’t particularly want to go the cloud storage route as my files are too big a collection, now representing more than a terrabyte of info. Which includes:
- Data Drive 1 — astronomy info, creative stuff I’ve done with memes and graphics for websites, etc., documents going all the way back to my university days, all carefully organized, along with some key work things I kept, my ebook collection, music collection, some learning materials, materials about photography, backups of my website content, and, last but certainly not least, all my writing. Total size: 374 GB.
- Data Drive 2 — mostly photos and pictures, photobooks, videos, apps I’ve installed, a backup of my music folders, and a small clipart collection that I use with my graphics. Total size: 869 GB
- Data Drive 3 — this is mostly current stuff, bookmarks, and my “current” photo repository, which much of Data Drive 2 will migrate to over time. Total size: 35 GB.
Overall, that’s 1.278 GB of data that I would rather not pay to store as the plans get expensive above 500GB-1TB. There is some redundance built in, so maybe call it 1.1 GB in active data, but still. And it is that 1 terrabyte limit that will bite me in the heinie.
If I go with Apple, for example, their 2TB plan is $12.99 a month. Or $156 a year, although cheaper with some annual discount in there, I believe, and shareable across the family. It’s certainly a viable option.
Google Drive could be an option, although I don’t really like it for these types of things, I find it clunky. It is $13.00 a month. $139.99 annually (as I said, there’s a discount).
Microsoft One Drive is great at only $6.40 per month, but only 1TB. Pooh.
Dropbox Plus is an obvious option, but at $12.99 a month for 2TB, not ideal.
Sync.com offers a $5/TB option, but you have to have a minimum of two users so a TB each or $10/month.
Box.com offers small storage plans (100GB) and $7 / user per month, minimum 3 users. Umm, how about no?
Pcloud gets good kudos but have a $350 LIFETIME charge, but who would commit to that? Monthly is $8 with annual discount applied for 2TB.
Egnyte sounds great at $8 for 5TB except that is per user, minimum 5 users. So $40 a month. Again, how about no?
Opendrive is probably the best deal for growing data, as my astronomy is going to do for bytes. Open drive is $10/mth with unlimited storage. Not the most feature-rich though. And it has some strange wording about not storing media libraries there, although that could be more about cross-listing “public” libraries more than backups.
And then it gets complicated
You see, I have Amazon Prime, so that is already paid for. And with it comes unlimited storage for full resolution photos. Like all my astro data to come. But Amazon wants $125 for 1 TB of non-photos…so all my photos would be free to backup, but not other files. They start at $25 for 100GB. Which I would over-ride in about 10 seconds.
They also have a limit of 5GB of total video storage, but beggars can’t be choosers. Particularly if, for example, I was to use Amazon Prime for all my photos, maybe my videos, and another online tool for my other documents. A hybrid online solution. Not as neat, but potentially cheaper than an SDB or any of the other options.
I don’t really know yet. I have a couple of other things to work out. But if I could do online storage of my photos and videos with Amazon as an “extra” for free, and then “deposit” my harddrives at some place like Royal Bank which is two blocks from my house for $5 a month, that’s not a bad solution. I don’t think I’m ready to go all in on cloud storage. At least not until I get around to sorting those extra digital files a bit more into docs and other. My biggest worry is astrophotography. It won’t take long for large files to start overwhelming any of my existing solutions.
What do you do?