I Am Joe’s Blog:

February 18, 2007 • 2:31 PM

Back Up iTunes with Bandwagon

For the past few months, I’ve been beta-testing a new backup service called Bandwagon (formerly known as Xacktunes). Bandwagon combines a Mac OS X application and online storage space to provide automatic backups of all your iTunes content for a flat fee of $69 per year. (Or at least that’s the introductory price, which may increase in the future.) The new service launches officially this Thursday, February 22.

Bandwagon Banner

When I first spoke with one of Bandwagon’s developers about the project, roughly a year and a half ago, the company was talking about offering a more generalized online backup service. In the course of development and after getting early feedback, they decided to focus for the time being on iTunes content, which includes not only music but movies, podcasts, TV shows, games, audiobooks, and anything else iTunes can store. The rationale is that backing up iTunes data to conventional media is too cumbersome and time-consuming for most people to bother with, but the cost of losing that data could be high. In the event of a serious hard drive crash, fire, theft, or whatever, you could lose not only the media you’ve purchased from the iTunes Store, but also all those long hours you spent ripping your CD collection. If your iTunes library is sufficiently large, spending $79 per year to protect it could be a reasonable investment.

Bandwagon is limited, as are all online services, by your upstream Internet bandwidth. Even though I have a fast connection, it took a couple of weeks for my entire iTunes collection to be uploaded. Your mileage will vary, of course, but it’s somewhat ironic that the larger and more valuable your collection (and, therefore, the more likely you are to consider the investment worthwhile), the longer it will take to protect it.

So what about backing up to a hard drive instead, as I generally recommend? I’ve seen 250 GB external hard drives for less than $79, and if you were to use one of those to back up your iTunes content, you’d have much faster backup and restore capabilities, plus you’d only be looking at a one-time expense. On the other hand, your backup is only as safe as that drive. If it, too, gets stolen, lost, or damaged, you’re out of luck. Cost and convenience issues aside, inherently redundant and off-site backups are, without a doubt, the biggest benefit of online backup services.

I think Bandwagon’s biggest competition, for the time being, is going to be CrashPlan, which also provides online backups, but works on Windows and Linux as well and isn’t limited to iTunes. CrashPlan Pro costs $60 for the application itself; optional online storage starts at $5 per month for a generous 50 GB. But you can also choose to back up your data locally or remotely to one or more other computers you own, or to your friends’ computers, meaning you can have online backups and still not have to pay recurring monthly or yearly fees.

From now until Bandwagon’s official launch, the company is offering free one-year subscriptions to bloggers who post the Bandwagon logo on their blogs, as I’ve done here (so yes, this post is effectively paid advertising). One can never have too many backups, and free backups aren’t to be sneezed at. So if you’ve got a blog, it’s certainly worth a few minutes of your time to get a year’s free iTunes backups! And if their offerings and your needs happen to coincide in the long term, so much the better.

Update (2/28/2007): Well, forget about all that. The service went offline after just a couple of days and will apparently reappear in another form in April. Read about the details in Bandwagon Undo and Redo.