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Question Of The Moment: How Do You Back Up Your Data?

Question Of The Moment: How Do You Back Up Your Data?

Destroyed HDs

By Evan Ackerman

I’m way paranoid about my data. I’m not even sure that “paranoid” is the appropriate word, I guess, since I’ve suffered several primary drive failures in my laptop over the years, as have an alarming number of friends… Virtually all of the heavy computer users I know have had similar experiences. If this has happened to you, you know how much it sucks, especially if you lose things that can’t be replaced, like pictures or email.

After nearly having my computer die (again) last month, I’m trying to figure out the best way to keep my data safe. I can think of two options: online backup services (like IDrive), or a desktop RAID system (like Drobo). If any of you have experience or opinions on the matter, let me know what you think, after the jump.

Here’s my thoughts:

Ultimately, an online backup service would be the safest, since it protects my data from forest fires, rampaging llamas, small children, or just about any other natural or manmade catastrophe short of an alien invasion or global thermonuclear war. My data is safe because it’s nowhere near me, and I assume that it’s living on a redundant RAID system of its own wherever it is. The downside is that my data is nowhere near me. When I want to back something up, I have to upload it, and when I want to access it, I have to download it again. This could take a while and will eat up my bandwidth. I’d also be dependent on an internet connection, and I’d have to pay a subscription fee (although it’s cheaper than buying anything physical for the foreseeable future). The biggest problem I have with online backups are the space restrictions, even services offering “unlimited storage space for your backups” have caps of 50gb or so, which may seem like a lot, but really isn’t if you shoot lots of pictures.

The other option is a desktop RAID system. If you’re not familiar with the term, a RAID is a bunch of individual hard drives connected in such a way that one drive can perform as fast as two drives, two drives can automatically duplicate each other, or some combination of those things. So, in my case, a RAID would consist of two drives that are exact copies, so in order to lose data, both of them have to fail at the same time, something which has a very low probability of happening. The advantages are lots and lots of storage (I can use a pair of really big drives), expandability (I can always buy bigger drives), and speed and accessibility (it’s directly attached to my computer). The disadvantage is cost (a little desktop RAID box is several hundred dollars, drives sold separately), and most critically, since it has to be attached to my computer, anything that could physically happen to my computer can also happen to the RAID system.

And I guess my other option is to combine a whole bunch of different hardware and services to make myself feel safe… Say, use Flickr’s unlimited Pro account for my pictures, an online storage service for daily backups of important files, and then some hardware to mirror my drives every once in a while. That seems pretty expensive, though, and extreme even to me.

Anybody have any advice for me? How do you back up your important data?