Monday, July 16, 2012

Off-site back up solution

I may have finally found the solution I've been looking for which will provide an off-site location for backups of my laptop.

Backup, backup, backup

We are always told to backup, backup, backup. The more backups the better.

I started using computers in the olden days of the 1980's. In those days I was rescued many times by backups when a floppy disk failed or a hard drive crashed for whatever reason. Though things don't fail as often as they used to, it instilled in me a kind of obsession to make sure everything is backed up.

Time Machine, of course, is an amazing solution because you just have to set it up, and then basically, you can forget it (with some caveats, of course.)

The problem with Time Machine is that it only backs up files. If your boot disk goes belly-up, you can't get it back by using Time Machine. You have to create a boot disk from an original installation disk or disk image, and then you can restore your files from Time Machine. But I'm pretty sure you will have lost all of your settings, and those will all have to be restored.

So about once a month I try to create a bootable backup on an external hard drive. This is basically a clone of my laptop's hard drive. If my hard drive were to fail, I will be able to boot from the external backup and restore everything to a new laptop hard drive, if that is what is called for.


But we are also told to make sure we have a back up far from our house in case the house is destroyed and all the computers and disk drives with it. Since 2009 I have been using a service called NomaDesk. I got in the door early and the cost was very reasonable. And, though they emphasized the ability to share files with other people, I was able to use the service to back up my files. As the years passed, however, they seemed to become more restrictive on the types of files they would allow on their system. The first thing I noticed was they couldn't handle "packages", which is how Apple bundles programs. As time went on, I was calling their support people more and more for help. Things would work for awhile, but then I was back with the support folks.

I must say, their support was excellent--very responsive and willing to try to fix the problem.

After the last go-around, though, I finally gave up on NomaDesk. It just wasn't working for me. So I went shopping.

Comparison shopping

One of the best sites I found for seeing what is out there is . This site specializes in the field of on-line backup and storage and is an excellent place to learn about on-line backup and storage and to comparison shop. I spent a day on the site doing just that and came up with a spreadsheet which you might find helpful. You can download it from here: online backup.xls . NomaDesk is not one of those they review.

Backup vs. storage

The first thing I learned after all of that research was that I didn't want an on-line backup solution. What I really wanted was on-line file storage. Most of the reviews on the web site were of companies that provide on-line backup. They provide software that monitors your local hard drive, and whenever you make changes, it backs-up the new file, much as Time Machine does. Or the software lets you schedule back-ups at regular intervals. But all of the services have certain limitations. Like NomaDesk, most won't back up your programs or applications. Some won't back up your computer's settings. A few limit the size of the file you can back up.

Off-site file storage does not have all these bells and whistles. Automatic or scheduled backups and the ability to sync may be exactly what you want. But I'm more of a hands-on person when it comes to things like this. Off-site file storage is simply a way to store your files on someone else's server. You manage the files yourself including adding, moving, and deleting.

Online Storage Solution (OLS-CS)

It didn't take me long to find Online Storage Solution (OLS-CS). I am very excited about this service. In my testing this morning everything worked perfectly, just as I wanted it to or expected it to. Here is an image of their Dashboard:

There is no free trial. You have to sign up before you can use it or even test it. The cost is only $48 for 2 years for UNLIMITED storage! If you don't like it, you can get a full refund within 45 days. If you find out you don't like it after the 45 days have passed, they will give you a pro-rated refund.

There are no restrictions on file types or file size you copy to their service. You can use your own FTP program or backup program to copy the files. You can access their server as a network drive from the Finder. Once the files have been copied to the off-site location, you have complete control over them just as if they were on your own computer. You can set up sharing, you can define permissions. You can even play or "stream" your mp3 songs by double-clicking on them, just as if they were on your local hard drive. But only realize that there is no syncing going on here between your files on their server and your files on your computer. You have to take care of that yourself. Which is exactly the way I want things to work for my purposes.

You can use an application called AjaXplorer on your iOS or Android devices to access your files. The iOS version costs $0.99. This means that because you have access to all the files you copied from your computer to the OLS-CS servers from within AjaXplorer, that if you have an app on your mobile device that can open a particular kind of file, you can not only read it, but work on it as well. Then it is up to that application as to how you get it back on your computer's hard drive, whether you have to email it to yourself or use some other method provided by the application.

Besides file storage, OLS-CS provides web site hosting complete with unlimited domains, email, and database access. They have a few projects in beta, as you can see from the screenshot.


So I used Fetch, the FTP program I've been using for years, to copy some of my files to OLS-CS today. Copying about 2 GB took about a half hour. The FTP copying got hung up when two files were found with backslashes ( / ) in the file name. Other times the backslash was automatically converted to a colon ( : ). That was a minor glitch.

When I tried to Go to the OLS-CS service and see my files by connecting to their servers as a Network Drive, I had to contact their support for help. The only method they provide is by filling out a web form. They then reply by email. The response was received within a half hour. It turns out that there was a typo in their instructions. The instructions say to enter https://dav/ The correct entry shoul be, using a dot rather than a backslash.

It will take some time to copy everything to OLS-CS. But so far, everything is working and I think I have found a solution that will finally be what I've wanted all along.



  1. Hi, I also found the same provider (after searching longer) and enrolled, so I wanted to ask you if you succeeded to connect it with Time Machine.
    The owncloud-app works not too good, it doesn't inform and is terribly slow...

    1. Hi.

      I did not try to use Online Storage Solution with Time Machine. I was using a local external drive for my Time Machine backup. Online Storage Solution was my attempt to get an off-site backup. That ended up not working for that purpose. You can read what happened in my January 10, 2013 blog.


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