In my recent article, Photo Workflow on the Road - A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Aperture, I talked about a few online storage options including PhotoShelter and Digital Railroad. A few days after posting the article a reader mentioned Jungle Disk as an alternative and I thought I would check it out.
Jungle Disk, it turns out, is an application built on Amazon.com’s S3 technology. Up until now I had only heard about S3 (Simple Storage Service). I had read a few short articles about it, and had seen it mentioned in a few of the blogs I read, but I had never really investigated it as a possible storage option for my work. So, yesterday I did a little hunting, and here is what I found.
Amazon’s S3 is a web service which was started to try and provide unlimited, redundant, online storage for small companies and enterprise clients. The idea was to make the same infrastructure that is used to power Amazon’s global e-commerce website available to others as an inexpensive and scalable alternative to the huge overhead associated with owning a system of web servers. For our purposes S3, coupled with an application like Jungle Disk, could make this same server space a viable solution for storing photos (or anything else we can think of).
Amazon’s S3 system provides a number of benefits. First of all, it’s cheap. Compared to Apple’s .Mac, and many of the leading competitors in the online server space market, S3 is the bargain basement. The current pricing structure is a pay-as-you-go at $0.15 per gig, per month, plus an additional $0.20 per gig of transfer bandwidth. This flexible system means that if you upload 10 gigs one time and left it on the server for a year you would only end up paying around $20 total. While I’m not a big fan of having to pay for bandwidth, you really can’t beat that price.
So, I decided to give it a go. I jumped over to the Jungle Disk website and read all about the application. Jungle Disk uses webDAV to create what looks like a network-attached server in your Finder menu. Much like the .Mac iDisk, with Jungle Disk you can see all your folders, copy, and paste and move files around.
All of the sudden, the wheels started to turn. It got me thinking. How can I use this to backup my Aperture library? Well first of all, I can certainly just copy my Aperture library (and all of its managed files) to S3 just by dragging onto my Jungle Disk in the finder window. But, what I really wanted was to get Aperture’s Vault to work. I already knew that Vaults, according to the Aperture manual, are not meant to be stored on network drives. But I did a little research and found a nice article by Bagelturf on the subject. In his article, Bagelturf points out an easy workaround for storing and updating Aperture Vaults on a networked +HFS file system.
I sort of wondered if this would work with Jungle Disk. I followed his steps and, voila–it worked. So far I have a Vault sitting on my S3 disk, somewhere out in cyberspace. It is redundantly backed up all over the world. I have no idea how it all works, but there it is, in my finder. I am curious to see how the Vault behaves. I still want to try and do a restore from the Vault and make sure that everything gets properly restored before deciding to use this as a real option in the future. For now I just have my small Aperture library, which sits on my laptop, vaulted to the Jungle Disk. Obviously it would take a really long time to upload my entire archive, but for backup of important masters, client project files, or just about anything else I need to have safe somewhere outside of my apartment, Jungle Disk seems to be a great option. So far my bill is up to ten cents, an expense I can certainly live with.
If you have had more experiences with S3 and Jungle Disk, by all means, leave a comment or shoot me an email. I would love to hear your stories and ideas.