Online Backups / Database Transfers

I’m wondering what you would think of my adding a feature to DONATION that allowed you to do online backups to a secure service on the Internet (specifically Amazon’s S3 service), and restores from there. This would be in addition to the current backup and restore options that go to any drive letter accessible from your PC, e.g. your hard drive, a USB memory key, network drive etc.

This could be used both for your regular backups, and also for an easy way to transfer the database between multiple installs of DONATION for the same organization, e.g. at home and in the organization’s office. This would save carrying backup files on a USB memory key or whatever, or emailing them.

Your files would be password-protected with a password you supply (and have to remember!). I still have to figure out how to associate the files uniquely with each organization, since the organization name alone isn’t unique. (I have a lot of churches named “First Baptist Church”, for instance!) Any ideas on that problem?

Does this seem like a useful addition to DONATION overall? Would you use it? (Please respond on the blog, so others can comment on your comments as well, unless of course you have a comment that you want to be private only to me.)

13 thoughts on “Online Backups / Database Transfers

  1. Yes it would be really nice to have this feature. Would there be any extra charge if you did add it? How secure would the online environment be?

    • No extra charge – the storage on Amazon S3 is inexpensive enough that I think I can swallow the cost.

      I think Amazon S3 is considered to be very secure, and I can set things up so that as long as you protect your password, there should be no concerns. You may also have to specify some other identifying info for your backup, like perhaps an email address that you associate it with. (I still have to figure that point out.)

    • Actually, Nick, as reliable as Amazon’s S3 service is considered to be, I would still recommend all users to make periodic backups in other ways, e.g. to a USB memory key, CD or DVD. For instance, what if you forgot your backup password for the online backups? I’m not planning to design this like the program entry password, where there’s a way for me to give you a temporary password to get in if you forget it. (I’m open to suggestions about whether this is the right policy, though.)

  2. It would not be useful to us.

    I was just reading a story today about the problems folks are having with online data storage places. They’ve gotten used to using them over the past few years and now a number of them are going under because of the economy. One place cited in the story only gave 24 hours notice to its users that it was going out-of-business. In the ensuing panic by users to get their stuff off, their servers were way overloaded and some users only got a fraction of their files off.

    • We’re talking about Amazon here, Frank – the same ones with the online bookstore. They are really huge, so I just don’t see them going out of business suddenly.

      And as I said to Nick, I will certainly recommend that users not use this as their only backups.

  3. Hello Dan,

    personally, this feature would be of no benefit to me at all. I am currently doing this very thing between several computers using PC Anywhere and/or Remote Desktop file transfer, not only for DONATION, but also all my other data files. I do not burn DVDs nor carry a “stick” – I transfer my files between home, office, a laptop and a backup machine, as I wish, using either of these programs. I have also successfully used the freeware UltraVNC to do the task, and this task cannot be limited just to DONATION.

    Klaus Schmidsrauter

  4. Sounds like a good idea — just not for me. I would not use it as I don’t like having my stuff out there in the yonder blue. I backup DONATION after every use to a memory stick and dump the file into my testing machine besides keeping it on a stick. Besides that, I run church stuff on my laptop almost exclusively from a stick and back it up to a disc regularly using drag to disc so that I can have a multitude of backups on one DVD disc. Even if I lost a week or two of data, I have enough information to re-enter the data without losing any.

  5. Thanks Klaus and Robert. I fully understand that not everyone would need or want this. But it does sound as it if would be quite appealing to many other users.

    Another user, in an email, brought up issues about the US Patriot Act and questioned whether this would be an issue for Canadian users, storing their data in the USA. (And that IS where Amazon stores it.) I will have to look into that one.

  6. Further to my previous comment, I have done some research about the US Patriot Act. It appears that because of Canadian privacy laws, it may really not be allowable for Canadian organizations to “ship their data” to the USA, via online backups to the storage service of a US business like Amazon. So I’m looking into whether there is a Canadian storage service provider I can use instead. (There does not appear to be any legal or privacy issue in the other direction, of US users storing their data on Canadian services, because Canadian privacy laws are stronger.)

  7. Glad to see that someone mentioned the privacy issue. Working in gov’t as my primary job, I am all too aware of these issues and the restrictions using vendors in the states who want to host software installations for us. (SAAS – software as a service). We cannot backup data or enter into a SAAS agreement where any data can be tied to/identify an individual (e.g. – include an individuals name and address). Any data that has nothing to do with individuals could be used for this purpose thought (e.g. – road surveying information, etc).

    • Yes, the data will definitely be hosted in Canada, and encrypted with a password that you supply.

      I don’t think there are any corresponding legal issues for US users having the data hosted in Canada. Please someone let me know if I’m missing something on that one!

Comments are closed.