A Look at Web Page Performance…

October 28, 2015 5:49pm
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I’ve been experimenting around with performance tuning on my web server the last couple of days to try and work out some bizarre, high usage issues when (unfortunately) in reality none of my sites really garner that much traffic to warrant the spikes that I’ve been seeing.

Some of it is common sense stuff like troubleshooting slow-performing WordPress plugins – for example, apparently W3 Total Cache was dragging down my response times even though it wasn’t active at the time, which lead me to reinstalling and then actually setting it up correctly because I think I disabled it a few months ago out of sheer frustration.

I also made some tweaks to my Apache/PHP build, thus resulting in my having to rebuild no less than a dozen times last night each time I’d find a new option that I could only enable by rebuilding! So if for some reason you found one of my sites down last night, that would be the reason why… 😛

In the midst of all of this, I’ve also been trying a number of different web page speed tests to try and gauge my progress through the whole mess – Google PageSpeed Insights is usually my go-to for general tuning, but I also like WebPageTest.org because it gives me waterfall graphs of every single element that needs to be loaded, and I also recently discovered GTmetrix, which is cool because it will run several tests at once and gives you the option to see results for multiple sites side-by-side … something I normally have to do in separate windows.

Anywho, one of the views that I found interesting from WebPageTest.org is where they breakdown the actual requests and bytes coming from each individual domain because obviously the lower # for either of those stats, the faster your page will load. Below is what Just Laugh’s homepage looks like…

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What’s interesting here is that really only a select few of these domains are related to actual content – primarily justlaugh.com and then wp.com because our images use WordPress.com’s CDN via the Jetpack plugin.

All of the Facebook hits are for the single Like box in the footer, and the same with Twitter.

We also have a single ad widget for Amazon, along with a couple of Google Adsense units, and then we use both Google Analytics and WordPress Jetpack for analytics.

So really, totals breakdown something like this…

  • Content – 75 requests for 509k
  • Social Media – 51 requests for 667k
  • Advertising – 51 requests for 634k
  • Analytics – 10 requests for 18k
  • GRAND TOTAL – 187 requests for 1,828k

Now don’t get me wrong – there’s certainly value that comes from each of those other three sources otherwise I wouldn’t use them in the first place, but it still says something interesting about web content in our times when social media & advertising tie-ins together make up more than double the actual real content that a website has to offer to drive those other things in the first place! And before you say that it’s really kind of my fault that the breakdown is like this because I designed the site, I would add that really, Just Laugh is extraordinarily conservative with regards to advertising compared to other media sites that still use pop-ups and wraparounds and those god-awful Taboola ads that currently infect 80% of the web today.

Of course, the real exercise here is simply how to improve on these numbers, which is tough because most of these requests are still measured in milliseconds and many are done in parallel. The whole page currently takes right around 10 seconds to render, which in some ways seems terrible but in comparison with sites like CNN and The Onion it’s actually about right in the middle.

Could I shave off a couple of seconds by eliminating the Facebook and Twitter widgets, or possibly even the Amazon widget???

Possibly, but would the savings really be worthwhile in the bigger picture when gaining Facebook and Twitter followers is also a worthwhile goal???

Clearly I have no idea, but it’s always fun to have real, actual data to wade through to consider things like that!

On the other hand, at least I can say for a fact that my caching is now working correctly because for repeat views, all of those 3rd party requests are pretty much the only things still getting reloaded… 😀

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Speed Testing via the Linux Command Line

October 7, 2015 4:49pm
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Last night I relocated a bunch of computer stuff – namely my home server and router – to our bedroom closet, which in a positive way got it more up and out of the way so that we only have to listen to fans spinning when we’re picking out clothes to wear, but in a not-so-positive way, it means that at least until I climb into the ceiling to run ethernet cables around the house, my rig in my office will be relying on wifi instead of a wired network connection for a while.

Now this didn’t really seem like much of a big deal until this morning I noticed that Verizon dropped its prices on the higher Internet tiers and now upgrading to 150 Mbps is only an extra $20 instead of $50!

And mind you, I don’t necessarily need most of that speed here at my desktop, but I am somewhat addicted to speed tests just to randomly remind me how awesome my Internet connection is these days, and not for nothing but speed tests over wifi kind of suck.

That said, my home server is still hard wired because it’s literally sitting right next to the router in the closet now, so a bit of quick Googling found this nifty post that provides a great walkthrough of how to run speed tests directly from the command line in your friendly, neighborhood linux box…

I already had Git installed, so it was maybe 30 seconds to pull down the speedtest-cli script and copy it into /usr/local/bin, then I was off to the races! I’m pretty much a sworn user of Speedtest.net, so to see that it was interfaced directly with them was an easy win. And the customization is neat, too, how you can either run in a default for the fastest host or choose your own, in addition to getting the link for your results badge to wear so proudly.

My favorite feature, though, is how simple they made batch testing so now you can actually pick multiple locations around the world and kick them all off in rapid succession. Though normally I default to my web host up in New Jersey because I think testing with a local server here is stupid when we don’t really have a lot of data centers here for major websites anyways, they were admittedly running a little slow this morning so it was neat to be able to also throw in LA and Miami as two other corners of the country to help round my test results out!

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 4.39.30 PM

Now to see if I can find that promo where they were giving away the free router to upgrade to 150/150… 😛

Envisioning My Automated Home…

August 30, 2015 1:21am
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So I spent some time reviewing my home server/network setup as it stands so far and it got me thinking about what might be the next steps on down the road.

I’m fairly happy with my media server, and aside from squeezing in maybe one more hard drive to satiate demand, it’s pretty much as far as I can take it until I can drop a couple of grand into expanding to new rack-mount hardware and a separate, high-end NAS for storage.

Backups are good, too, as all of my most important files (writing, pictures, tax and finance stuff) are triple backed up between a local backup and two independent cloud destinations, and just tonight I’m finally looping my wife’s devices into the schema so that the bajillion photos of Christopher that she takes will be safe and secure, too! 😉

So what’s next???

At first I started thinking about trying to automate our Christmas light display outside, though I’m not sure what kind of costs are reasonable on that front. I’ve seen a few setups where people just setup controls to flip the individual strands on and off, though I’m not sure how safe that is for your standard, residential Christmas lights that one buys at Home Depot.

I also briefly researched the idea of going the landscape lighting route because it’s probably more durable for the task, and I found this custom LED system that looks really freaking sweetbut the fixtures alone are about $100 a piece … I’m kind of afraid to ask how much the controller that runs everything is!

Maybe some day… 

Then there’s your more traditional automated home offerings – security system, cameras, thermostat, etc… – and although I really have no idea what I want at this point, maybe it would be something fun to tinker with until I both figure that out and hit the lottery to be able to fund it all!

I figure I’ve got a couple of years to get there, anyways, because I honestly see this house that we’re in right now as more of a test house, at least from this regard. Our goal in the next five years is to be able to built our dream house where we’ll ideally spend the rest of our days, so that’s where we’ll want to splurge on all of these kinds of bells and whistles, but just like our home server has been resurrected and grown so far this year, it’s still fun to experiment and play around with what I can get my hands on in the meantime until we build up to that point of dropping thousands of dollars on network-connected fixtures and wiring the entire house to best fit our modern, connected lifestyles! 😀

In the meantime, I can still see a more immediate need to at least hardwire connectivity to the rooms where Plex gets used, and I’m thinking we might splurge and upgrade the FiOS to that 150 Mbps package they offer before long … because I just learned that apparently they’ve got a promo giving the $200 router we need to upgrade to away for free with the upgrades right now!

We’ll see – maybe come Christmastime I’ll start tinkering with a single network camera or controlling the star on the Christmas tree via computer … gotta start somewhere.

After adding a 4th hard drive to my home server today, bringing the total storage space up to an unexpected 20 TB, I’ve been thinking a lot about backups and what my dwindling options are as this beast continues to grow even larger and awesomer than I would’ve ever expected only six short months ago…

I’m definitely well past the it’s just TV and movies” phase and am now finding myself much more in the “I love this thing, and it would be a huge pain in the ass to replace!” phase instead! The trouble I’m gauging, though, is how to effectively manage a backup that big without spending a small fortune or driving myself absolutely insane!

Ironically, my original plan when I bought the two 4 TB drives to start this project was that one was supposed to be a backup of the other, however by the time I started getting my hands wet, not only had I concocted a plan to fill both drives that I already had, but I swiftly had another 6 TB on the way to give me “some wiggle room,” too.

Well, now that said wiggle room has flown the coop and I coincidentally just added another backup-less drive to my existing server, I’m starting to think that I need to reassess my options … first and foremost, because there’s literally not any space left in the case I have today for more drives to backup to anyways… 😛

Online backups are pretty much out, and note that I’m only talking about media server backups here – documents, photos, etc… are now triple backed up (something I need to write about one day) – so vital stuff is absolutely safe. It’s just my collection of Marvel movies and twenty-some-odd seasons of The Simpsons that I’m concerned about here today!

Anyways, online backups are out primarily for two reasons:

  • Cost – A real backup service like Amazon S3 would be at least $200/month for 20 TB of data, even at their cheapest Amazon Glacier prices, and I’d be hesitant to push the luck of any of the “unlimited plans” that folks like Crashplan offer with that volume of data.
  • Sensitivity – Let’s see, how do I put this gently??? I may have discovered while I was ripping my DVD collection that it was far more timely to just download copies of them off the Internet, and so even though I know that I have a huge crate of discs in my garage that justify such a huge library of technically illegal content, it’s not exactly something I’d entrust to a 3rd party who might be legally inclined to disagree… 😉

This pretty much limits me to local backups, which sucks because Florida gets hurricanes and whatnot occasionally, but there’s not much I can do.

*note: much…

So when looking at local backups, my latest plan up until this afternoon was going to be to essentially build a backup server that would be identical to my media server, except that its entire job would be to occasionally wake up, make copies of everything on the primary server, and then immediately go back to sleep.

This plan made sense until I started roughing out costs in my head for the next generation of my media server because realistically, my next expansion will need to put it into a proper rack mounted case, along with I’d also like to throw some beefier hardware at it like a dual-chip motherboard, multiple gigabit LAN card with bonded channels, and a RAID setup for the drives for better throughput and redundancy.

That alone is going to be expensive because I’ve never done RAID before and I’m realizing that I’ll need enough drives to build the entire array at once to have someplace to migrate my data over to, but aside from a healthy splurge, it’s still not terrible … until I realize that I have to double everything if I want to run a backup server alongside of it like I had originally been planning! 🙁

That all said, excessive flashy lights aside that a rack full of noisy hard drives will create, I had an interesting idea today that might change most of that for the better and that’s this … why do I need to have a live backup at all for data that’s almost NEVER changing???

Again, these are movies and TV shows, not working documents or even photos that I’m editing, so once I’ve got a ripped season of The Simpsons from Blu-Ray, that’s pretty much it until they re-release everything again on hypercube or holographic projection or whatever new-fangled media to get me to buy 25 seasons of cartoons all over again they come up with next!

So why not, I thought brilliantly while scrubbing myself clean in the shower, just take everything that’s static – pretty much every movie, and all of the older TV seasons – and just stick them on hard drives, and then put the hard drives in a waterproof case to throw in the closet or wherever?

It would save on moving parts because they’re literally only going to get written to a handful of times, it sort of works in that whole elements thing if they’re kept someplace safe, and … I think it kind of makes sense for a lower cost solution without all of the bells and whistles that frankly are kind of frivolous anyways…

I’d still need a system to keep track of what’s been offloaded to the drives for when it comes time to fill a new one, but I’d guess that software probably already exists for tape backups that could be used. I guess I’d have to test them every couple of years just to make sure that they’re still alive, but that could be part of adding new data to the collection which I’m sure would be a manual/annual effort or something, anyways.

I realized as I was completing some seasons of shows that I’d had a long time ago, but lost to a hard drive failure that really once they’re completed, they’re not going anywhere at that point, so maybe I’ve been overthinking this whole massive backup situation when instead I can just drop the one-time cost for another set of drives and a hefty, padded case to store them in and just be done with it!

Problem solved – now can I go back to playing in my data? 😉

So close! Then oops…

February 6, 2015 3:44pm
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I thought I’d take a quick break right now to do what should’ve been a simple maintenance on my new media server. My latest hard drive added was still setup as an external USB drive, so now that I’ve got the cables that I needed I figured that I’d simply power everything down, move the drive into the case, and that’d be that!

Oops.

When I booted back up, instead of the OS seeing a 4 TB disk that’s about half full, somehow it managed to see a 500 GB partition that it thought was my old drive and a 3.5 TB partition that was completely foreign to it. 😛

A quick Googling suggested that the USB adapter that I have probably has something in the controller that serves as a boot manager, so whereas I thought I was being all smart and formatted it to ext4 a week ago in preparation for today’s task, in effect using the USB adapter to do so kind of hosed up that little plan something fierce!

So here we are now…

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(USB adapter plugged in while hard drive is still mounted inside case!)

Thankfully I’ve still got just barely enough free space between my other three drives to split up all of the data that’s on the “external” one, so now I get to wait another umpteen hours to copy everything over to those drives, only to as soon as it’s done swap out the cables one more time, reformat, and copy everything back again!!!

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😐

A Different Kind of Cloud

January 21, 2015 1:45am
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I just saw this commercial and now I’m wondering – did we change the definition of what The Cloud really is, or have I just not known what it was all along???

The product is basically an external hard drive that’s accessible over the Internet – neat idea for the everyday user, but is anything connected to the Internet considered part of “The Cloud” nowadays?

I always pictured cloud storage to be online, distributed storage … redundant, in big data centers … in general, more reliable than just a consumer hard drive sitting underneath my desk. Backing up my family photos and important documents to the cloud means that if I have a fire, or a power surge, or somebody breaks in and steals my computer, all of those files are still safe.

Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox – those are cloud services.

Maybe if it did something neat like auto-syncing to a real data center for free online backups – that would be the cloud, but this … this is just a network-shared hard drive where the Internet happens to be your network. 😛

Playing with Plex

January 3, 2015 6:48pm
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Since I left off on the subject back around Thanksgiving, I’ve actually made a lot of progress in my little Plex project…

I still have my little test server running on an old laptop that’s hardwired to the network.

The server is running CentOS, Plex … and that’s about it. Eventually it’ll also have a CrashPlan install on it, but that tested out fine – no sense in running it now until I’ve got more disk space available for it.

Media-wise I have about 1 TB worth of shows and movies ripped from DVDs and whatnot, split between the laptop’s hard drive and a bigger drive in my old desktop PC that I was able to share out and mount to Linux that Plex seems to read just great.

Total count is about 130 movies and a couple dozen TV shows that I’ve collected to various regards. Considering the two 4 TB drives that I have sitting waiting to be used, I’m expecting to just about fill up 4 TB (with the other for backup) by the time I’m done ripping our entire DVD and Blu-Ray collections.

Thankfully, disks are cheap and I think it’ll take a lot longer to fill the next 4 TB! 😉

The Positives:

  • So far, Plex has been pretty awesome. I absolutely love the interface and how it pulls pretty metadata for everything that it can identify, and at first I thought that naming stuff so that it could ID it would be a pain in the ass, but it really isn’t. The organization with poster and background art is wonderful!
  • Once my brother-in-law was able to help me sort out firewall permissions on the server, we got it streaming to any device on the local network in the house and I’ve been able to watch all sorts of stuff using the Samsung app on my new TV with no additional setup hardware needed.
  • Picture quality looks as good as the original DVDs did, which makes me think I made the right choice by just doing straight MKV dumps rather than re-encoding everything, despite the much larger file sizes.
  • I’m very surprised that both the laptop and the wifi have been able to handle full-size streaming pretty well. I’ve only had one or two hiccups where the video stopped or the audio temporarily cut out, although it’s hard to tell whether Plex is even to blame because I think at least once the remote for the TV had fallen into the couch and itself is very sensitive!
  • Did a very limited test of streaming to multiple devices when we were sorting out the firewall issue and that seemed to be ok, too, so I have little doubt that it’ll run just fine when I move it over to my old quad-core desktop hardware when I’m finally ready to do so…

The Challenges:

  • Finding time!!! Both to move the hardware over as well as just to finish ripping another 200-ish DVDs – right now everything hinges on first moving my old files over to my new laptop, which I’ve been doing slowly, but I’m also hesitant to completely pull the plug until I’m 110% sure that I don’t need anything anymore on Windows.
  • It’s not a big deal, but I still need to sort out port forwarding in my router so that Plex is available outside of my home network. It doesn’t really matter now, but I can see it being a neat bonus when we travel or go on vacation to be able to access all of our movies remotely. Plus I think I’m going to load all of my music as well, which admittedly would get used more remotely than the movies and TV.
  • Speaking of music, that’s going to be a pain in the ass simply because a huge number of my MP3s aren’t tagged properly and I don’t really know how to tackle the issue yet. iTunes hates it, too, and there have been all sorts that I’ve only ever been able to play on my desktop because if they’re not tagged right, iTunes doesn’t load them right and you can’t move them to a mobile device. It’ll be another huge project, so maybe when I’m nearing the end of DVD ripping…
  • One other random thing I’m noticing is that aspect ratio can be a pain for older movies and TV shows, which let’s be honest, a bunch of my collection consists of! Plex seems to preserve 4:3 if that’s what the original video is, although I did find just last night how to make the TV stretch it to 16:9 … I’d just like it to be automatic rather than having to make the tweak each time because so many older TV shows especially weren’t encoded in widescreen.

If anything, I still think that my biggest complain/concern is that I don’t know how I’m going to handle adding new content to the server, meaning that as far as I can tell there’s no good way that I can just buy a movie or TV show from iTunes or Amazon and automatically import that into my Plex library. I’ve already tried doing it manually with iTunes, but the movie has DRM on it … not sure if Amazon is any better.

I have a bad feeling that my best option may still be to buy the physical discs and rip them, which just seems stupid when ultimately what I want is a digital file … plus I don’t know what I’ll even do with the discs afterwards when I’m thinking that just like my old CD collection, my DVDs are going to end up in a tote out in the garage once I’ve ripped and don’t have a need for them anymore. 🙁

Good progress, though! Looking forward to sharing some final numbers once everything is done and cleaned up … I’ve wanted to do this for a long time and the apps just didn’t exist to do what I wanted yet, so progress is good. :mrgreen:

Switching to Mac – First Thoughts…

December 6, 2014 12:55am
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So it’s now been a few days since I got my new MacBook Air.

In fact, I’m writing this post on it now…

And I can already tell that it’s going to take some getting used to, but I love how ridiculously thin and lightweight it is and I love how much faster and more reliable that it’s been than my desktop already, and overall things have been going fairly smooth as I’ve tried to acclimate myself to the new OS. I loaded new copies of Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite on within about an hour of turning it on and everything was very quick.

…and admittedly it’s a little weird actually paying for software after a lifetime of, well, not doing that… 😛

I’ve already had plenty of unexpected stumbling blocks along the way, like how to right click and how certain keyboard shortcuts work when keys are mapped differently for Mac. Plugging in my new keyboard and mouse helped a ton because at least the desktop keyboard I bought has Page Up and Page Down keys! Right now I’ve also got it using one of my two widescreen monitors (old Windows machine is still using the other until I’m ready to cut the cord), so really it’s pretty much like using a desktop machine again – just everything is in a different place and some things don’t work the way that I would expect after using Windows for … what? … over two decades?!

I think my biggest frustrations right now are:

  • Shortcuts like copy & paste use the Command key instead of Control, which is in a different place and awkward to reach. Admittedly I just now realized that maybe I should see if I can just remap this…
  • I can’t Command+Tab between windows in an open application – namely Chrome for starters, which is annoying because I usually have several open at a time to spread out my tabs. This is going to be a pain if it carries over to Word, too.
  • I wish that Finder was a little more flexible for browsing the file system, mainly because I still need to migrate most of my files over and I’m trying to figure out the best place to put them. Granted, part of this is also a OneDrive issue because ultimately I need them to sync via it, too.
  • My desk is too messy and I don’t have any room to setup my new docking station. Not really a Mac problem, per se, but still an issue that eventually I’m going to have to tackle!

Honestly I think that just about any new computer would’ve been a leg up for me at this point because my old one hangs on Chrome pretty regularly, making it impossible to use with as many tabs open as I tend to have, but I’m looking forward to getting back into my regular workflow to see how this thing goes – already I’ve written a few things (mostly via web browser) and I’ve done some simple photo edits in Photoshop, and everything so far has been really nice.

I’m also looking forward to all of that being portable so that whether I’m out on the couch with the baby or we go on vacation, I’m not limited to whatever apps are on the laptop I have access to at the time – essentially I should basically have my entire working desktop wherever I have my laptop, which is very cool. Granted, some apps will be trickier to use without a mouse – especially because I’m still learning to use this bizarre, Mac trackpad – but I shouldn’t find myself looking for online apps to resize photos at 1am in a hotel room at Disney for a blog post like I did the last time we were there! 🙂

So the verdict to date – so far so good, and although I’m kind of still surrounded by Windows machines at my desk at the moment, I’m trying to force myself to do more and more on the new machine just to start getting more used to it after they all eventually go away. Maybe I’ll write up another post in a month or so when I’m actually ready to cut the final cord and kiss Windows goodbye out of my life for good… 😉

Playing Computers

November 19, 2014 10:02pm
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It’s kind of been a long time since I’ve played with computers like I used to back in the day.

The other day between writing this post and thinking about upgrading some random stuffs, I started tinkering with the old hardware that I’ve had stacked in the spare bedroom since we moved here two years ago. On the downside, it didn’t take long to remember the issues I was having previously because one of the two still won’t output any video at all, but on the upside, I also just so happened to have a junk laptop that my sister-in-law had asked me to fix before she just gave up and bought a new one instead, so I ended up reformatting that one and was able to get a copy of linux (CentOS) running on it to play around with in fairly short order.

The goal with this one is to take another stab at building a media server because I’m not really happy with what I can do with Apple TV and I’ve currently got three boxes of DVDs also sitting in the room next door that aren’t really doing anybody any good! Nobody wants to sift through boxes of movies just to find something to watch and we simply don’t have the room to have shelves upon shelves of DVDs anymore, so right now I’ve been playing around with Plex to see if I can get the thing to work even just a little on that old laptop there before moving to something bigger…

In a way it’s kind of been therapeutic to dive back into circuit boards and jumpers and ribbon cables, even though it’s incredibly frustrating and I’m quickly making a pile of stuff that can definitely get recycled for good this time! Sometimes I need to just step back and take a break from pretty much everything in life and despite all of the other work that I’m not getting done as a result, it’s been fun to poke around inside of these things and hopefully by the time all is said and done, maybe I’ll even have a swell, new way to watch all of my old movies by the time this fantastic, new TV of ours arrives in the next couple of weeks! 😉

The costs of cloud storage in 2014…

November 17, 2014 1:59am
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Despite being a lifelong computer geek, I’ve never really been very good about maintaining proper backups.

It’s always been something that was just off on the horizon – something that I was going to take care of soon, but not right now.

Thankfully I think I’ve only been bitten by this lack of preparation a couple of times … usually I’ve lucked out and been able to spin a hard drive up just long enough to pull data off after a crash, and I think I lost one drive a long time ago that was a repository for video files of TV shows and movies that got toasted and never recovered, but as far as I can remember, that’s about it.

That said, I know that I should do better and as I look towards upgrading to a new laptop here shortly in addition to just updating both of our phones, I’m trying to weigh my options as far as whose cloud all of this digital crap that we’ve accumulated should get stored in!

Just at a glance, we’ve got…

  • My Documents – 25 GB
  • Photos – 90 GB
  • Music – 85 GB
  • Video – 90 GB
  • Miscellaneous Other Stuff – 295 GB
  • iPhone / iPad data – 15 GB
  • Online Website Stuff – 5 GB

And granted, I think part of my problem in trying to devise a strategy for this all along is that I’ve always wanted one place to reliably backup all of this stuff, and a few years later now I’m looking back at it and thinking that maybe that isn’t really the right way to go anyways. Despite in total everything clocking in at barely over half a terabyte, now it’s all on different devices, and some of it I want to remain in sync on different devices, so more of a hybrid solution may very well be in order now that there are actually quite a few cloud storage options available.

The trouble is, picking which one! 😯

I’ve had a Dropbox account now for a couple of years, but I rarely use it because I didn’t want to install their app on some of the computers that I needed it on, and plus nowadays the storage capacity for a free account isn’t anywhere near what I need.

Google Drive is fine, though I’ve never used their app to really give it a proper workout. On the other hand, I’m quickly losing my faith in Google Docs because I kind of hate their word app and it’s by far the most important to me as a writer. Their spreadsheet app is ok, but I’m pretty experienced in Excel at this point and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve hit a wall saying, “But I know that I can do that in Excel!!!”

Which brings me to Microsoft OneDrive, which I honestly hadn’t even thought about until I just realized this evening that 1 TB of storage comes with any subscription to Office 365, which I’m going to have to get for $99/year with the new MacBook Air that I’ve had my eye on.

And then there’s also iCloud, which we just recently upgraded on both of our phones (at the lowest $0.99/month/device plan) to allow them to continue backing up as we moved to bigger devices because we were both randomly getting out of space errors with the last phones that we had!

As a side note, I’ve also been looking at a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud so that I can have Photoshop and Fireworks on the new computer, which comes with a free 20 GB of storage, but looking at the numbers above I don’t think that’s even worth thinking about at this point.

I guess at the moment I’m a little torn between OneDrive and iCloud – on one hand, OneDrive is essentially free with Office, whereas iCloud will run me another $10-20/month just for the laptop alone. And I think that’s what bugs me about iCloud is that ideally I’d like my wife’s phone and my own to share, but they still need their own accounts according to Apple despite now looking at $22/month just in cloud storage fees!

I think I still need to do some more research into this because from what I can tell, everything that iCloud can do, OneDrive can do, too, and if that’s the case, OneDrive will already be free for me!

The big takeaway that I’m looking for here is really simplicity and thoroughness – even though I’ll never write from my phone for the most part, the idea of having all of my Word docs available to browse anywhere I am is kind of appealing, just like it’d be nice if the photos I took from my phone could just magically sync to my PC instead of having to copy over the ones that I want to use in a blog post or whatever. And then there’s the whole media aspect of it – I know that I can’t have a couple hundred gigs stored on my phone at all times, but if all of my music and videos were in the cloud … even the stuff that I haven’t purchased from Apple! … that I could stream anywhere, be it traveling or whatnot, that would be a nice change from the messy file folders that I have today!!!

Granted, I know that I’m not going to solve all of these problems in one day. In fact, I don’t think I’m going to solve any of them until I’ve got my new laptop and I can install both of them and play around a bit with what they can do. From a cost perspective, obviously OneDrive would be ideal, and I think it might work with syncing phone photos if I install their iOS app like the website says (now if only my camera did the same thing!). If I could get OneDrive to handle documents, photos, and a simple cloud backup for media, that would be a good start … making them easily streamable to my phone or Sara’s iPad on the fly would be even better.

On top of all of this, I feel like I still need a good, solid local backup, too, which in the short term might be as simple as picking up a 4TB external hard drive for $150 to dump everything to as well as store some of the bulkier stuff (because my laptop will only have a 500 GB drive).

Ideally I eventually want to revisit my whole home server idea because in addition to shuttling files between phones and computers, I also want to see the media portion accessible via Smart TVs in the house … though that’s a taller order because I still need to sort out multiple sources (i.e. purchased from iTunes vs DVDs and Blu-Rays bought), co-mingling these all in one interface, and making them look pretty and easy to browse on the TV itself. At one point I thought that Apple TV might be a good front end for this, but now I’m not so sure. Additionally, I need a place where I can run scripted backups pulling down from my web server just to make me feel safer with a local backup on top of the network backups that they do today. All of these combined have been what’s steered me clear of a NAS box because I’m not sure how much actual functionality I could get from one aside from here are some drives for you to use.

Oh yeah, and I have to decide whether I still want a whole-computer backup for all of this crap as well, too, or if everything else listed above would be good enough!

Last year I paid for a subscription to CrashPlan on a Black Friday sale with the intent of finally backing up our photos, and a year later they’re asking me to renew and I never even installed the client software… 😛

Lots and lots of decisions, and I have a feeling that it’s going to end up being a phased approach simply because I can’t just go out and drop $1,000 on a new file server tomorrow like I’ve wanted to now for years! I want to avoid picking up lots of recurring fees because we already pay Verizon so much money just for connectivity at home and via mobile as it is … and yet, half a terabyte now more than ever, I’m starting to realize the value of the data we’ve collected over the years and just how much it would suck for any of it to randomly disappear due to a stupid disk crash again or something.

I’m sure this won’t be the last riveting post I write about the existing world of cloud storage – I’ll let you know what I come up with! 😀

(and good grief, I really need to come up with something to solve these problems this time…)

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