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Robust storage solution

Can anyone suggest a robust storage solution that works. I am at present backing up drives onto a USB2 HDD using ghost. I have lost four hard drives in the last two years and thought my data was safe. I do not want to use tape backup. Is Raid too messy?
5 Solutions
RAID is not messy, but it'as also not really a "backup" solution.  One bad power issue to the single machine hosting all of your data could destroy everything, not to mention a leaky roof incident or something else.

What is your budget?
How much data are you backing up?
How often is that data changed?
How often do you add data?

I use a variety of backup methods for my home.  
I use DVDs to backup my digital pics and mpegs and tape for the rest of my data.
One question I have is, "what's wrong with tape?"

I've been using tape drives for years . . . years . . . and have found them to be very useful for restoring data.

What's important is having data backed up and kept elsewhere.  What if a flood hits your home?  If your data and backups are in the same location, there was no reason to perform backups anyway.  You can secure a safe deposit box at a bank for practically nothing--and the room temperatrure is pretty constant; it's a good place for home backup data.

I would suggest that if a DVD burner could hold your backups, use one of those; you don't need to backup the same data again, and again, and again if it's not changing.  The DVD is pretty safe because it's not subject to hardware failure; it is, however, subject to scratches, so proper care must be taken.  Tape drives work well too, and the tapes must be handled properly as well.

Flash drives also are becoming larger and larger, so if a flash drive can handle the data, that might work for you as well; just one thing, though.  I left one in my pocket once, and after it cluncked around in the dryer--post wash--it was worthless :-)

Raid is really really easy to do.
I like your backup strategy, I think it makes it a cinch if you loose your drive to be back up and running, plus it would be helpful even if the drive itself is good, but you louse up the OS, etc... there's a utility that comes with ghost (I think called ghost explorer) that can retrieve individual files from the image file)

Raid has a few varieties.

Since you're interested in your data, the most likely for you are:
Mirroring (2 drives keep an identical copy of all data) this is called Raid 1 and is a standard feature on almost all new motherboards.
You need 2 drives for mirroring - while it's not a requirement that they be identical, it's a good practice - as the timings and access speeds will be the same.

Raid 5 is more costly - these days it still requires a special controller card (you won't find it built into the motherboard)
One important thing about raid 5 is its only good if a single drive fails.

Raid 5 requires at minimum 3 hard drives, but you can often add more
Raid 5 is a little different than mirroring - on a mirror, both drives are identical copies
With raid 5 works like this:
if  you have 4 drives:
4 + 7 + 3 = 14
you can take away any one number (drive) and the data that it held can be figured out

for example if the second drive fails:
4 + ? + 3 = 14 the raid system can figure out that the missing value is 7

for your needs, I'd recommend raid 1(mirroring)

in a raid 5 system your available storage is the sum of your drives minus1
so say you had 3x200 gig drives - you'd have 400 gig available - the raid system uses the last 200 gig for storing the redundant data
if you had 4x200 you'd have 600 gig available - the system still only uses 200 gig for storing redundant data.

drive1 + Drive2 = drive 3
Very good definitions of RAID above!

Raid can be done very cheaply using IDE or SATA.  I use a minimum of RAID1 on my ersonal systems.  Tape backus work well most of the time but you usually have to buy an expensive one to get the capacity and speed you want.  The easiest solution using RAID is to have two PCs using RAID1 or 5 and run a script (i can give you the file) that would copy the data from one PC to the other and vice versa.  As long as the PCs are networked and in different locations of the building, barring disaster, your data is safe.  DVD-RW work great if you need to back up often.  You can get a dual-layer DVD-RW for $57 and it holds approx. 8GB.  Removable drives work great as well and can be purchased cheaply as well.
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Raid is not messy, but it isn't a backup solution. Backup is when you make a copy of your data to some other media which you then can store offsite. Another reason for backups is to make it possible to restore data which might be an older version of today's data, but the same file (this means you have to save more than 1 backup sets), and this is not possible using raid, except if you use so many disks to make it ridiculous. Appart from that, raid uses disks, which you had so many problems with. Also, in my opinion disks aren't built for backups, they are meant for continuous use, and not for on, off, remove use.

As for using DVD or CD for backups, just isn't usable, as the capacity is far too low, and neither CDs or DVDs are very robust and long lasting, except maybe if you never touch them and really keep them in a safe place. A possibility would in my opinion be iomega's Rev. drive, but also here the capacity is rather low, and although the drive itself is pretty cheap and comes in many variants (USB, IDE, SCSI, Firewire), the media are rather expensive, but since you don't like tapes, that may be the alternative.

Anyway, why not tapes? That is still the ideal backup system there is, and you can get many different types for different backup sizes and speeds, just don't get DAT (DDS), as those tapes usually don't last long.
depending on the amount of storage you need a Rev drive can help you (or not )

kjcduffyAuthor Commented:
80GB would be fine for now. After checking out the Iomega Rev Drive - they appear to be only as reliable as a HDD or slightly better? The cost of an external drive plus five discs would be nearly £500. This is just a little too expensive. I think maybe the best way for me is to continue using Ghost software to provide incremental backups to drive 1 and mirror onto a second drive.

I have dozens of past backups on CD, DVD and HDDs. However when changing systems only the data backups are useful. The OS images are useless on new system hardware (I pray for the universal image method to be developed further).

I stored two 40GB HDDs in a safe in my garage, only to find the cold destroyed them. Eight years of data lost. My supplier told me that he has about 30% of HDD failures. I wish I knew this years ago.
Many thanks for your comments, I hope you don't mind the split.
Thanx too. you could make sure that you place the data on a separate partition than your OS, in such a case an image of that partition would only contain your important things, the data, and not waste as much space if you always backup your system as well.
If it is just normal data files that aren't being accessed during your backup session, you could probably even run the backup while your OS is still up and running.
kjcduffyAuthor Commented:
I have always kept my OS and data on seperate drives. I've had too many problems with operating systems and drive crashes.

Thanks again.

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