S3 in Business: 2 – Tunesafe

[Complete series]

Last time I promised you an outline of an Internet business that could be built on Amazon S3, so that we could see whether S3 was a solid enough foundation for a real business.

Rather than invent yet another Web 2.0 application, I’m going to concentrate on backup. We’ve had a little practice with this (the Cardbox Server already has automatic Amazon S3 backup built in) but the business I’ll be talking about will be much simpler than Cardbox and it’ll concentrate on nothing but backup.

The business need

I am impossibly virtuous when it comes to backup. Floppy disks (three sizes), tape (several sizes), CD, DVD, memory stick – I have used them all. Friends with data disasters have learnt not to cry on my shoulder, because they hate to see me trying not to look impossibly smug.

But I have my Achilles’ heel. It’s called an iPod.

My iTunes music library contains 23.4 gigabytes of music. That means six DVDs of slowly changing data, so obviously I don’t back it up daily. In fact I back up my iTunes once a month. Well, actually I backed it up once a month once, in February and I haven’t done a backup since. Here are my arguments:

  • The music exists in duplicate anyway, one copy on my iPod and one on my computer.
  • Most of my music comes from CDs, so I can always import it again if I have to.
  • Now that I’ve imported all my CDs, nothing much changes from one month to the next.
  • It hasn’t gone wrong yet, so it won’t go wrong in the future.

To take the arguments in turn:

  • Have you ever tried to copy music back from your iPod to your PC? Having tried, have you succeeded without making an unholy mess of the track titles? And anyway, are you 100% confident that iTunes, faced with an intact iPod and a wrecked PC (or vice versa) won’t replace the good data with the bad?
  • How many days and nights of soul-destroying labour will it take to re-import everything and correct the idiotic track names that the online databases assign to the music? And: when I said “most of my music comes from CDs”, that leaves a certain amount of stuff from other sources; especially the iTunes Music Store as well. Do I really want to buy every track all over again?
  • With classical music, the track data are a horrible mess. At least one night a week I do a little tidying up: for instance, I try to merge Jean Sibelius, Sibelius, “Sibelius, Jean” and “Sibelius, Jean (1865-1957)” so that they all look like the same person. Over the months, that adds up to a lot of work that can never really be duplicated. I wouldn’t have the time or the energy to sit down and do it all over again.

These are powerful arguments, but they’re still not enough to make me sit down regularly and create another six DVDs to add to all the others I’ve already got. So I continue to keep my fingers crossed…

The business

This is where our new S3-based Internet business comes in. It’s called Tunesafe.

  1. I sign up to Tunesafe. I download and install a small program from Tunesafe.
  2. Every night, invisible, automatically, the Tunesafe program uploads part of my iTunes music library to the Tunesafe service.
  3. Eventually all my library is there. From now on, the nightly backup only uploads any changes I have made recently, so that my Tunesafe backup continues to be an exact reflection of what I have in iTunes.

All in all, I have absolute data security without ever consciously having to back anything up at all.

The nice thing about constructing a business round backup is that it is a good, stable, long-term application. Web 2.0 businesses come and Web 2.0 businesses go, but backup goes on for ever. And people’s backup requirements can only increase with time.

Next time, I’ll describe how this will work if we adopt the straightforward approach of making the tunesafe.com server the central point of contact and hiding all the S3 functionality behind it.

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