That, however, is sometimes still not enough to prevent rsync from transferring gigabytes of data because I moved something to another directory.
Then don't do that.
If you feel like you need to relocate a directory for your own mental layout tracking, try using symlinks instead (I've got a sort of catch-all directory where my active and completed work projects are in various stages under sub-folders for each project, but I don't access any of my data directly through that directory - I only initially set it up there. As I work, I sort, organize, and access through symlinks in another directory.) View the file management of your home directory more like a database than a rigid hierarchy. Use symlinks with that hierarchy to better organize it for meatspace. Of course, you need to make sure your backup utility only copies the symlinks as symlinks, but that would do wonders on preventing that data thrashing you speak of.
That's basically what I did for the initial uploading, except that it was 100% university network
Sneakernet is physically walking your data to a location for data transfer. For the sake of clarity, when I say 90% sneakernet and 10% local network? It means physically taking the laptop to the university to use their LAN to upload. That is exactly what you did.
But my concern is, once again, with what happens when I move out of my parents' home. That not only means I'll probably be stuck with a data-capping provider, but also that I'll be geographically far from the university.
Do everything you can to optimize and reduce massive data changes and backups. There's plenty of good ideas here and in the last post to do just that. Use the right backup media for the right files.
- I do backup my rootfs because it contains tons of custom configs and uses only 10G anyway (that includes all the programs as well, since half of those configs are for them and because separating them from the OS is a tricky proposition). Quickly getting a working computer with everything you need to do your [job/science/homework/whatever] is also a pretty important thing.
- Having all the digital media "up there" is also one of the purposes of this thing. First, because it's nice to have access to your stuff when you're away (which includes those smartphone/tablets), and second, because losing the media collection hurts as well. I had to leave it all behind in favor of the more critical files and I'm still missing some of it. This might constitute a certain form of stuff-hoarding, though...
Anyway, I'm not as crazy about it as with the rest, so it's just a mirror without any history or whatever.
1) View it as hoarding with your entertainment media. I know you're mixing work and pleasure with your computer, but it's the work that's actually going to impact your life and hurt you if you experience data loss. This isn't to say that you don't have to back it up as well, but don't do remote backups and waste precious bandwidth by using the uni server to do so. Digital media entertainment is a form of hedonic adaptation, if you lose it, it only hurts if you're not flexible enough to derive enjoyment from other forms of media to fill the gap if you need that sort of thing. Losing commercial music and video files is a personal inconvenience, nothing more. Treat it as such.
2) This is the more important one. Custom config files? Just back those up manually. It's unlikely you tweak those configs on a regular basis as it's the sort of thing that's set-and-forget. That's the easiest.
However, if you're really wanting to back up your OS, again, don't do it to a remote server! The way you're talking at points, I highly suspect you're running some flavor of *nix on your laptop.
If that's the case, ask for help or learn how to spin custom install media so you can do a fresh install of your OS and all your apps with custom config files, and keep a USB drive around to reinstall with. I personally run Ubuntu at home, I stick with LTS releases, and I don't run stock config. However, I can do a fresh base install of the OS with all my apps and changes along with security updates and patches in under an hour with nothing more than the vanilla ISO, though I could modify the install media if I wanted. It doesn't even need to be a custom spun install disk, you can even do it with a simple bash script that has a few APT and CP lines to automate installing all your programs and customizing them with your tweaked config files that'd weigh in at just a few bytes. This is the power of not-Windows.
If you don't want to learn how to do that, or you're not running some *nix-based OS (or using OSX), learn to use Clonezilla instead to back up root and tuck away a couple copies of the backed-up OS partition wherever you need to. A core OS and steady/stable assortment of applications doesn't really change much except for system and app updates. What matters is that everything is there and functional with recovery, getting you working sooner than later. As such, one copy of the base OS configured to your workflow for the version you're running is all you need, doesn't need to be updated, and it's a backup that is relatively stable on media because you're not constantly accessing and rewriting it. Patching current is the easy part after restore. Let someone else store that data remotely, and don't waste time and bandwidth constantly remotely backing up that data yourself.
Regarding your safe deposit box proposition: It does get changed/updated once in a while and going to the bank to rewrite it seems a pretty terrible thing to do. And then there's the fact that I'd also be paying a hefty rate to store under a gigabyte of data securely.
Safe deposit boxes are for more than digital media. There will eventually be things in your life that you may find yourself needing a safe deposit box for. It's secure, off-site storage, and you store things worth the money spent to keep it safe there. If you don't ever see the value in a safe deposit box, there's still at least fire safes either in your house and/or at other people's (read family and trusted life-long friends) houses.
Most of your data usage in remote backups comes from common files, things that are easily replaceable. It's not that there's no reason to enable ways to expedite recovery of those common files, it's that you need to weigh the cost and importance of the various files you're backing up and use appropriate media to do each backup with. Remote storage is valuable, but not appropriate for backing everything but the kitchen sink up to on a daily basis.
Prioritize, and shape your backup plans accordingly.