Prepare for the Worst: 4 Simple Digital Media Backup Solutions

One of the problems with digital media is that it is inherently more ephemeral than physical media. It takes a fair amount of abuse to damage a CD beyond repair, but any number of common mishaps can lead to the complete destruction of a large music collection.

Add digital photos and videos to the mix and you’ve got the potential for a real disaster. The sort of disaster that used to require a major fire can now occur with a single hard disk crash.

For the average consumer, performing regular backups of digital media is a major hassle. Digital media collections require increasingly more space and backups require time and effort. Furthermore, traditional backups aren’t all that secure. What happens if a fire really does occur? Unless you’re paranoid enough to store your backups in a safe deposit box, chances are your backups will burn along with everything else you own.

Enough of the happy talk. Here’s a roundup of simple backup alternatives that can help you protect large digital media collections:


For a mere $4.95 per month Mozy allows you to backup an unlimited amount of data to their secure servers. The Mozy client software is extremely easy to use and runs on both Windows and Mac. While the software includes some default backup sets, you can customize it to easily backup any file or folder on your system. Files are stored on the Mozy servers using 448-bit Blowfish encryption making this a great option for backing up any kind of personal data.

Mozy offers a free 2GB account for personal data backups. While that’s probably not enough for your media collection, it may be enough to backup your most important data files and get feel for the service.


  • Unlimited storage.
  • Secure.
  • Easy to use. Once your backups are defined they run automatically.


  • No media streaming.
  • Mozy is licensed per machine. If you want to backup a second machine you’ll need to pay an additional $4.95 per month.
  • Current version doesn’t backup network shares. If you store your music on a network drive you won’t be able to back it up with Mozy unless you buy a subscription for the machine hosting your music (which may not be possible if you’re using a network attached drive).


Bandwagon is an interesting software application that is tightly integrated with the iTunes music library. The program can be used to backup iTunes libraries from an unlimited number of Macs, or sync collections between multiple Macs. Bandwagon can intelligently sync changes to your iTunes library without having to re-upload the corresponding files.

There are a couple of caveats that you’ll need to be aware of before you try Bandwagon. First, the application is currently only available for Macs. There may be a Windows version at some point, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Second, this is a BYOS (Bring Your Own Server) solution. You’ll need to provide your own online storage to use Bandwagon. Fortunately, Bandwagon can work with standard FTP server as well as Amazon’s S3 service. On top of that, Bandwagon costs $2/month to use.

Fortunately storage is relatively affordable these days. Entry level DreamHost accounts start with 500GB of storage and increase on a weekly basis.


  • Designed for iTunes backups. Easily restores songs and updates metadata.
  • Easy to setup and use. Runs automatically once installed.
  • Can be used to backup multiple music libraries and sync the libraries on multiple machines.


  • Mac only (obviously this is only a con if you don’t use a Mac).
  • Music only — although the developer has indicated they plan to support iPhoto and other applications in future versions.
  • No media streaming.

Oboe Music Locker

I mentioned this service the last time I wrote about digital media backup options. For $39.95 per year you can backup an unlimited amount of music to an online music locker. The Oboe client software runs on both Windows and Mac and can be scheduled to backup your library automatically. Best of all, your entire music library is accessible through the web interface, so you can listen to your collection online from anywhere in the world.

There is one pretty major drawback to the Oboe Music Locker. Unlike Bandwagon, Oboe does not maintain your iTunes library metadata. If you ever need to restore from the music locker you’ll have to rebuild your library (and any changes you’ve made to the metadata since uploading a track to Oboe).

Also, the service doesn’t support videos or digital photos.


  • Easy to use and setup.
  • Streams music from your collection through a web interface.
  • Unlimited storage for one low annual fee.


  • No support for iTunes metadata.
  • Music only – no video or photos.

160 GB iPod Classic

With the most recent update of the iPod product line we’ve finally reached a point where iPods are starting to look like reasonable backup solution. For many people 160GB will be enough to backup an entire collection of music, videos, and digital photos. As a bonus, you get to carry your entire digital life around with you wherever you go.


  • Seamless integration with iTunes.
  • Supports music, videos, and photos.
  • Portable. Take your entire collection with you wherever you go.


  • Expensive relative to the other backup options.
  • Portable devices aren’t very secure backup solution. Your iPod can easily be lost, stolen, or broken.
  • Extra software may be required if you plan to use an iPod as a portable hard drive.

Obviously each of these options has its strengths and weaknesses. For the time being my current solution involves using a mix of these services. I use Mozy to backup my data, videos, and digital photos, and I use Oboe to backup my music library.

4 Responses to “Prepare for the Worst: 4 Simple Digital Media Backup Solutions”

  1. Dov Sugarman says:

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  2. Kirk says:


    Is there a Mac client? And how many of my friends have to be using this to obtain reasonable performance?

    Also, from the sound of it, my system would be storing encrypted backups of other users. Do I have control over how much of my disk space I allocate to those backups? And if I crack your encryption do I get to keep their files?


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