Backing Up Aperture With Amazon’s S3

by Micah Walter

In my recent article, Photo Workflow on the Road - A Hitchhiker's Guide to Aperture, I talked about a few online storage options including PhotoShelter and Digital Railroad. A few days after posting the article a reader mentioned Jungle Disk as an alternative and I thought I would check it out.

Jungle Disk, it turns out, is an application built on’s S3 technology. Up until now I had only heard about S3 (Simple Storage Service). I had read a few short articles about it, and had seen it mentioned in a few of the blogs I read, but I had never really investigated it as a possible storage option for my work. So, yesterday I did a little hunting, and here is what I found.

Amazon’s S3 is a web service which was started to try and provide unlimited, redundant, online storage for small companies and enterprise clients. The idea was to make the same infrastructure that is used to power Amazon’s global e-commerce website available to others as an inexpensive and scalable alternative to the huge overhead associated with owning a system of web servers. For our purposes S3, coupled with an application like Jungle Disk, could make this same server space a viable solution for storing photos (or anything else we can think of).

Amazon’s S3 system provides a number of benefits. First of all, it’s cheap. Compared to Apple’s .Mac, and many of the leading competitors in the online server space market, S3 is the bargain basement. The current pricing structure is a pay-as-you-go at $0.15 per gig, per month, plus an additional $0.20 per gig of transfer bandwidth. This flexible system means that if you upload 10 gigs one time and left it on the server for a year you would only end up paying around $20 total. While I’m not a big fan of having to pay for bandwidth, you really can’t beat that price.

So, I decided to give it a go. I jumped over to the Jungle Disk website and read all about the application. Jungle Disk uses webDAV to create what looks like a network-attached server in your Finder menu. Much like the .Mac iDisk, with Jungle Disk you can see all your folders, copy, and paste and move files around.

All of the sudden, the wheels started to turn. It got me thinking. How can I use this to backup my Aperture library? Well first of all, I can certainly just copy my Aperture library (and all of its managed files) to S3 just by dragging onto my Jungle Disk in the finder window. But, what I really wanted was to get Aperture’s Vault to work. I already knew that Vaults, according to the Aperture manual, are not meant to be stored on network drives. But I did a little research and found a nice article by Bagelturf on the subject. In his article, Bagelturf points out an easy workaround for storing and updating Aperture Vaults on a networked +HFS file system.

I sort of wondered if this would work with Jungle Disk. I followed his steps and, voila--it worked. So far I have a Vault sitting on my S3 disk, somewhere out in cyberspace. It is redundantly backed up all over the world. I have no idea how it all works, but there it is, in my finder. I am curious to see how the Vault behaves. I still want to try and do a restore from the Vault and make sure that everything gets properly restored before deciding to use this as a real option in the future. For now I just have my small Aperture library, which sits on my laptop, vaulted to the Jungle Disk. Obviously it would take a really long time to upload my entire archive, but for backup of important masters, client project files, or just about anything else I need to have safe somewhere outside of my apartment, Jungle Disk seems to be a great option. So far my bill is up to ten cents, an expense I can certainly live with.

If you have had more experiences with S3 and Jungle Disk, by all means, leave a comment or shoot me an email. I would love to hear your stories and ideas.


Eric Cheng
2007-01-31 10:49:39
S3 seems cool. I've been trying to find a way to back up using online services for some time now, but bandwidth isn't keep up with storage. I have around 700GB of photos, and it is just impossible to upload that anywhere. I might as well snail mail a hard disk!
2007-01-31 11:16:33
Excellent! I've been thinking about how to use S3 to backup my data. Thanks for spoon feeding it to me.
2007-01-31 15:56:39
thanks! i *immediately* signed up for S3 and am now watching my valuable Vault & referenced images be backed up in a *very* sensible fashion..
Dave C
2007-01-31 16:21:45
He he - it's nice to be noticed!
Yes, it was me who suggested looking at this, so I'm glad you had good success.
Have fun.


2007-01-31 16:35:02
Thanks!!! I signed up S3 right away and trying to backup 100GB of Aperture library. Let's see how long it will take!!!
2007-01-31 17:41:00
I use s3, but only have a cable connection going out, upload is slow, this means that I might be more bandwidth conscious than most.

I try structure my images so that the bulk of my (larger) projects don't get updated every time I do a backup. This is so the thumbnails and minis for the project (each is a single file) don't get uploaded.

BTW I use grandperspective to see the layout/use of the aperture librayr.

2007-02-01 00:11:55
I am using cable modem (10Mb/768kb) and I finally gave up uploading my Aperture library. It's too slow and slow down everyone's web browsing in my home network (even with QoS turned on). It seems the S3 backup solution doesn't work for me.

I end up using S3 for online storage just like how I use iDisk. However, since I have already paid for .Mac, why I have to spend more on S3?

S3 is cool. I am still thinking what other situation I can utilize this great tool.

2007-02-03 07:09:55
tried S3, but I'm not happy with, it's even not that cheap.
I'm using "CRASHPLAN", a solution introduced at the Mac World 2007.
It allows me to select my local Vault and keep it backed up to an off site location. It supports multi versions and selective restore and ...
Have a lock at


2007-02-03 17:15:59
I'm checking out Crashplan as we speak. It looks pretty cool, and maybe a little cheaper than S3. I have been playing with Jungle Disk aa bit, it has a few flaws here and there, mostly the webDav setup is a little hokie in my opinion, but it does work.


2007-02-04 18:27:01
whats' hokie about having a disk show up in all y our finder windows? I think that's handy. The Crashplan set up is cool cuz you can back up to a friends or your home machine. I did find it slow though.

I think there is a need for a follow up article. We're all looking for cheap and easy storage.

Stephen Tate
2007-05-16 02:36:40
I'm using S3 and Jungle Disk to backup my Aperture library and it works great. I dont use a vault I point Jungle disk at my aperture library and it works out that its a package so it sees the individual files with the library and also the individual files within each project. You do need to exclude the following three files AP.Tinies, AP.Minis, AP.Thumbnails (This can be easily done with Jungle disk in a preference window). These three files are only binary thumbnail files which will regenerate as soon as you select a project. The reason to exclude them is a)They are quite large and not nessecary to backup. B) They change every-time you view a project so will constantly need to be backed up. On opening up a Vault package I notice Apple also exclude these three files from their vaults I presume for the same reasons. I have done several test restores and have had no problems, I have also watched the backups closely to check if its identifying files that I know I have changed and each time it picks them up no problem.
2007-08-26 07:10:38
the problem with 90% of online backup companies, esepecially the freebies companies is that they backup by file. In most of our cases we are backing up HUGE files, at times 100+meg...I found one company im sure there are others that back up by bit not by file..they call it INDELTA.. it allows the first backup to be full then after that it backs up only the PARTS of the file that changed...this works for graphic file backups..
please send ur feedback...
2007-09-11 13:01:21
@tomas Mozy does INDELTA backups as well. After my initial Aperture library use uploaded, it's only uploading changes now which is wonderful.
2007-11-24 21:53:52
I Just signed up for a trial of the site you reccomended above i do like their program alot. what i found pretty interesting is that a rep from the company emailed me about 2 hours after i signed up to "check up" on me to make sure i was ok and see if i needed any help getting started- he gave me his email and direct ext.. I thought service like this was thing of the past. provides a very good product and 50 bux a year for 25 gig for the majority of home and small biz users is the same price as carbonite and cheaper than mozy!