Why I use Arq

I am frequently asked for recommendations on how to back up files on a Mac to a cloud-based service. I use and recommend Arq. Arq backs up files on your Mac to Amazon Glacier or S3.

Full disclosure:

  1. The developer of Arq and owner of Haystack Software, Stefan Reitshamer, is a friend of mine. That said, I would not use or recommend Arq if I was not happy with it.
  2. The amount of data I backup off-site is relatively small. This has an impact on the cost. Both Glacier and S3 charge a fixed price per gigabyte. Glacier charges one cent per gigabyte per month. For the amount of data I backup, the monthly cost of the storage is a non-issue. If I was trying to back up terabytes of data, I might be interested in an alternative that provides either cheaper storage or unlimited storage offered at a fixed price.
  3. I am happy with Arq, and therefore have found little reason to research alternatives. Therefore, my recommendation should not be taken as a statement that Arq is necessarily better than alternatives — just that it works well enough for me that I have not found reason to even look.

The biggest reason I like and use Arq is that I trust it to store data in a way that keeps it private. Arq encrypts your data before pushing it to Amazon's servers. Since Glacier and S3 are just storing bytes of data, the burden of encrypting and decrypting the data is entirely on the app.

Any storage provider can claim to take steps to protect the privacy of your data, but it is usually impossible to confirm that the storage provider is living up to either the letter or the spirit of their claims.

With Glacier and S3, you can either write code or use another app to see exactly what data exists in your storage account. You can confirm that the data is unreadable and that your encryption key is not there. Haystack Software even provides source code to retrieve and decrypt data from S3 backups.

Haystack Software has no access to your Amazon account or to your encryption key. I have a reasonable level of confidence in the security of my Amazon account, but I am comforted by knowing that someone who gained access to my Amazon account would need an encryption key that does not exist in that account in order to gain access to my backups.

Additional Notes:

  1. I have never used it, but there is an ArqView app available for the iPhone that allows you to view your Arq backups.
  2. Arq is a good Mac application. It runs seamlessly in the background. I have never seen it slow down my computer.
  3. Haystack Software provides excellent customer support.

Shameless plug: While you are thinking about backups you should consider using my app, CloudPull, to back up your Google account to your Mac.