Tool tip: Online backup with Amazon S3 and Arq

Screenshot of Haystack Software Arq 4Backups are something that every computer user is supposed to do but nobody really enjoys doing it. Apple’s Time Machine makes it a lot easier, at least when you have a second hard disk or a Time Capsule. However, if you’re like me and you don’t want to clutter your desk with yet another piece of hardware you might like Haystack Software’s Arq.

Arq works very much like Time Machine but saves your files into your own Amazon S3 account. S3 is not another obscure web service that could go out of business at any time but a professional online file storage service by Amazon (yes, the Amazon that also delivers books to your home). It was created mainly for web developers but is also immensely useful for personal use.

With S3 you pay only what you’re actually using. The very reasonable storage prices for S3 have just recently dropped to US $0.03 per gigabyte and month, and the “Glacier” option reduces the costs even more down to US $0.01 if you can wait for up to six hours should you ever need to restore your file.

Arq maintains its own file structure so that it can quickly upload only the files that have changed but you can, of course, also store files manually on S3, e.g. using Panic’s Transmit or simply the Amazon AWS website.

Addendum: Arq 4 also works with SFTP, GreenQloud, DreamHost, and Google Cloud Storage.

10 Responses to “Tool tip: Online backup with Amazon S3 and Arq”

  1. Annard Brouwer says:

    Nice one Eric. I have used CrashPlan Pro but when I actually needed access to my backup from both the iPad and web browser it gave up the ghost and support wasn’t very helpful at that. So I scrapped that one.
    Would this be more reliable and more under my personal control?

    Anyone with experience of both care to comment?


  2. eboehnisch says:

    Thanks, Annard. Yes, it gives you a bit more control. The actual files on S3, however, are not transparent; Arq uses its own folder structure and names files with UUIDs.

    What is under your control, however, is the service itself. No CrashPlan that could go out of business but plain Amazon S3.

  3. John Maassen says:

    Would the automatic updating of folders work for DT databases ?

  4. eboehnisch says:

    @ John: How far? You mean the incremental backup? Yes, it works as far as I can tell here.

  5. YM says:

    Is it safe to add DT folder to Arq to monitor and backup 24/7.. compare to add the same folder to DropBox???
    As far as I understand you do not recommend adding DT to Dropbox.. is it OK with Arq ?

  6. eboehnisch says:

    @ YM: Arq is a backup tool that takes folders on your Mac and copies them in a smart way to S3 or your own SFTP server. It doesn’t work like Dropbox, which is basically a sync tool. If you just use Dropbox for maintaining a copy of your database you can safely do so. Only accessing the same database on Dropbox from multiple locations is not recommended unless you use DEVONthink’s sync feature.

  7. YM says:

    Thank you eboehnisch..
    What you are saying is that if I use Dropbox with DT.. as a backup (moving DT folder into the Dropbox folder) working/accessing DT only from one mac.. it’s OK??
    This is GREAT news and opposite to everything I read in support forums..
    Can you please confirm that..


  8. eboehnisch says:

    @ YM: If you can make sure that you’re not accessing the database from a second Mac so that Dropbox accidentally starts mixing the changes from both sides, which technically will corrupt the database, then it’s relatively safe. I’d personally recommend to copy the database to Dropbox or use a software that does uni-directional backups, like Arq, so that there is no chance that the backup software itself messes around with the database files.

  9. john maassen says:

    Please note that dropbox back up capability has been added to Arq on the latest version

    26 February 2015

  10. Dayana Pears says:

    I wouldn’t call that price reasonable if it is per month. I actually wouldn’t give money on cloud storage, and unlimited space. Maybe I sound silly, but the free limited ones also can be found with great storage size. I use one with 100GB which is for me more than enough, and to save on space, I always compress like this: before the back up which really lowers the space used.