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The Mega Backup

I stumbled upon this video a few days ago, and it made me take a step I've been pondering for some time: to backup important files to some remote location where it's safe from any potential local disasters or sabotage, more specifically: on the cloud.

I've been avoiding this form of backup for a long time particularly because it's on the cloud, and my personal data is personal, and storing this personal data on somebody else's servers somewhere else in the world just didn't sit well with me. Yet as I don't make local backups all too often, and they're mostly at the same location as my regular computer anyway (so whatever happens to one could happen to both), I decided to at least sync my desktop. It's that one place where files frequently gather - the holding ground for current projects and notes I jot... and hopefully a place with nothing so personal it'd be more than unwanted (as in: I might be planning to publish some of this stuff) if it fell into the wrong hands.

I first thought of Mega, and then I decided to look around for something better... but all services considered, Mega was indeed what I was looking for after all! Compared to other services, they offer a whooping 50GB free storage, which is more than most, and also more than enough for this one particular location. If you're curious, my desktop currently contains ca 10GB worth of content.

Plus, MEGA is the one service that encrypts data in such a way that it shouldn't allow anyone but the account holder to actually access said files, which feels much more secure than other alternatives I've been considering. The only other alternative I seriously considered was MediaFire, an old favorite that's stuck around through the years and still provides a great service (and plenty of features). But they do have certain restrictions I'd rather live without, no encryption, and their service seems more oriented at letting users share their files than just store them, which in my ears sounds less secure.

If you need more space, and decide to pay for a service like this, then Mega isn't really the most well-priced. It might be the most well-featured, with the best interface, and definitely the most generous of all cloud storage providers If you consider how files don't get purged after certain inactivity, how only your available space limits how large files you can upload and how not even MEGA staff can actually access your files unless you make a public link. They only store your hashes, to identify duplicate files, and though the TOS was a bit ambiguous on this point, duplicate files are only applicable to each individual account since hashes are based off of your master encryption key and are thus unique between accounts even for identical files. Phew. Stuff like this is over my head, but the most important thing is I feel I can trust these guys. That's why I chose them over the competition.

So, how did the backup operation go? Downloading the desktop application was a breeze, running it was a breeze, and after a few hours I had 10GB worth of synced data on the cloud! There's a rubbish bin where old versions and deleted files are kept should you need to recover them, and they aren't actually 'deleted' until you choose to clear this folder. You can choose to have the Sync client keep you logged in, start with Windows, update automatically, show notifications, change language, limit upload rate (that's useful!), use a proxy, specify folders to sync, specify folders to download/upload other files (which you can do either via the interface, or by right-clicking the file/folder you wish to upload), specify filetypes to exclude, disable the small overlay icons that show if a file is synced, not synced, or being synced (small green, red and blue circles) and optionally force a new scan of all files.

It takes a while to start, and then it takes a little longer to scan for newly updated files, but my first impressions are positive. The service seems fast and reliable, and reading through the FAQ, it appears the people behind it know what they're doing as well. The interface is easy to use, and the service is by default fully automatic in making backups, updating, and managing your files. If you want more control, just open the settings panel and flick a few switches. Also, with currently a little over 14,000 files on my desktop, a couple of minutes to scan through all files for changes doesn't seem so bad, and it doesn't noticeably burden the system. Maybe with time I'll get so fond of this application I'll start leaving it on all the time, letting it handle my backups with ease, overcoming my fear for accidentally uploading a file I don't want to upload as easily as I overcame this fear for backing up files on the cloud that I don't want others to access... though it doesn't actually matter if they do. I'm feeling safer already.

Mega Glimpse Of Early Mega

I took these snapshots a while back, when the almighty MEGA was first born, reformed, or rather reborn in a new, more resilient form after the MegaUpload storm.

It looked good, I created an account, tried it, and a couple of years later it's no longer in Beta, has introduced some nifty features like encrypted chat/email (though for the life of me I can't figure out how to use it, I can't even add a contact), a Sync client that allows you to automatically stash backups in the cloud, and so much more. You can take a look at their site to see what they're about now, but if anyone has any interest in seeing what it looked like when it first launched, click that more button below.

Enjoy, a belated early glimpse at the Mega beta! ;)

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