JungleDiskGoogle forged the way in online storage offering an unprecedented 2GB of storage with GMail, and nowadays it’s a ubiquitous value add — no system utility is complete without a few gigabytes on their servers waiting for back-ups of your data.

But if you’re on the hunt for a simple, standalone upload-and-store solution you could do a lot worse than Jungle Disk, which comes as close to being a networked hard drive attached to your computer as it’s possible to be.

The sign-up process could be a little easier. Jungle Disk is owned by Amazon, so downloading the client and getting an account takes a few steps too many as you blunder your way through Amazon’s account system, not sure where to go next on a few occasions. The system earmarks a USD$43 charge to your credit card but only takes $2 per month (plus your storage costs). There’s no sign of Paypal payments yet but it would certainly open the market to people who are still nervous about credit card e-commerce.

But once you’re in, Jungle Disk works just the way you want it to. You download the Mac or PC software and use the Activity Monitor to co-ordinate the data to be backed up and the frequency and time of day to execute it. You can also control network and account settings and organise your back-ups through the preferences. Just be sure to set the Jungle Disk client to open automatically on login — you’re likely to forget to open it manually and will end up missing scheduled back-ups.

You’re of course limited to how much bandwidth your ISP makes available for upload, so the first round of our test back-up (almost 15GB) took more than a week to complete. On subsequent schedules it merely checks which files have been changed and updates them, so it should take anything between a few minutes and a couple of hours depending on how much data you have.

There are several ways to access your data once it’s online. The first is to use the client software to search through and restore files to the corresponding location on your hard drive through an interface not unlike a typical FTP client.

But a much easier method is to simply access the remote drive. It should show up on your desktop as a network folder by default — if not, just tell the client software to connect to it. It lets you navigate to any folder and simply drag and drop like you would any other file. The further advantage of the network disk is that you can upload anything else to it manually for safekeeping.

When you need to access your data from the road you just point a browser at http://www.myjungledisk.com and log in with your email address and account password. It’s easy enough to navigate through folders to the file you want but it reveals Jungle Disk’s one downside — the ugly, unwieldy web-based interface could be much quicker and prettier.

We all know there’s no excuse not to back up, but keeping your backup drive or tapes right next to your server or system is kind of pointless if your office blows up. Remote backup is the answer, and you can’t get any more remote than the cloud. All it needed was a user-friendly solution to take advantage of it, and Jungle Disk fits the bill.