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Data Storage

Best Home Backup Strategy Now? 611

Posted by kdawson
from the all-thumbs dept.
jollyreaper writes "Technology moves quickly and what was conventional wisdom last year can be folly this year. But the one thing that's remained constant is hard drives are far too large to backup via conventional means. Tape is expensive and can be unreliable, though it certainly has its proponents. DVDs are just too small. There are prosumer devices like the Drobo, but it's still just a giant box of hard drives, basically RAID. And as we've all had drilled into our heads, 'RAID is not backup.' When last this topic came up on Slashdot, the consensus was that hard drives were the best way to backup hard drives. Backup your internal HDD to an external one, and if your data is really important, have two externals and swap one off-site once a week. Is there any better advice these days?"
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Best Home Backup Strategy Now?

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  • by oldhack (1037484) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @02:40PM (#28749443)
    Not the same as external backup, but it provides redundancy against a single drive failure and provides history. Otherwise, run backup overnight every now and then to an external drive and store it away.
  • I use... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by haifastudent (1267488) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @02:42PM (#28749467)

    ... Amazon S3 mounted on FUSE. USD $0.17 per gigabyte to store offsite, and with FUSE I can browse it like it's local. I am very happy, and saving money too.

  • by haifastudent (1267488) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @02:44PM (#28749489)


    That's the protocol. Now what media do you recommend? Another hard drive?

  • not really. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZERO1ZERO (948669) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @02:52PM (#28749549)
    "it there any better advice these days"

    Not really, keep doing it like that. for how to do that read this: http://jwz.livejournal.com/801607.html [livejournal.com]

    I'm kinda a 'option 1' guy, but stuff that's really important, I just burn on to DVD every so often.

    The other option, now that most folk now have halfdecent connections is to set up an rsync to a buddies machine, (and reciprocate) , using encryption, you now have an automatic off site back up.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @02:53PM (#28749581)

    It depends on how many important files you have. If you have just a few documents, you can still burn them to CD periodically, or use an online for-pay backup service such as Carbonite or Rsync.Net. The reason to use HDDs is because you have lots of data, or your computer data, including OS installs is very important to you, and you need a way to recover rapidly. (E.g. you _really_ can't wait, and it's worth the cost of external HDDs and accessorie to avoid waiting)

    If money is no object, ioSafe [iosafe.com] makes some fireproof, waterproof, shock-proof drive enclosures, which could help against disaster situations. The alternative is indeed use of an offsite location. You need a lock box or safe regardless of method, to help protect against human risks to your drives. Or utilize encryption to help prevent data from fallign into the wrong hands.

    Otherwise, if you use HDs for backup, consider a hard drive docking station. Like one of these [thinkgeek.com] or a voyager Q [macintouch.com] (who makes a model supporting Firewire800 also); docking stations are more convenient to buying a bunch of external HDs. Eventually, when you upgrade your hard drive, use the old one to store important files.

    If you have a stack of old hard drives, you can actually use them also. So a dock, and some plastic cases to put your internal HDs in could be favorable to buying a bunch of external HDs. (There are companies that specialize in selling rugged anti-static plastic cases for HDs, but I just pile them in a box, and use the original anti-static bags that came with new HDs)

    If you are using old HDDs for archival purposes, make sure to spin them up every few motnhs, or you suffer bit rot, and the mechanical components of the drive may fail.

    Or get one dock + multiple cheap HDDs for important documents.

    And possibly one large HD for a full system backup. Apple users are blessed with Time machine. Linux users can dd or rsync their files, and even have a script do it nightly (so long as you have multiple HDs, and cycle them after backups).

    Windows users have got to use third-party software or do some scripting.

  • RAID (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Deltaspectre (796409) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @02:56PM (#28749593)

    Just because the backup solution _uses_ RAID doesn't mean the old adage applies to it. As long as you are using it as external backups all is well.

    What that phrase IS telling you to do however is not use RAID on the machine you want to back up and expect it to do what you want.

  • Re:I use... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 19, 2009 @02:59PM (#28749613)

    Are you joking? S3 is perhaps the most overpriced way to backup data.

    You're paying at least $0.15/GB/month for the space, and then paying $0.10/GB transferred in and $0.17/GB transferred out.

    So if you were to use 1TB of storage over 5 years filling it perhaps 3 times over that period and reading it 10x, it would cost $1800 for the space alone, $300 bw in, $1700 bw out, for a total price of $3800.

    Meanwhile, you can get 1TB hard drives for $80 everyday (you could almost buy 50 of them for the price of your online service). I'd love to hear how you can twist the math around so badly that it looks like you're actually saving money! Ever considered a career in politics?

  • Re:Mozy is good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dieman (4814) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:00PM (#28749623) Homepage

    Except its also a-ok on Mac OS X. I use it to backup my home mac server just fine. It appears to use some hack based on rdiff-backup.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:03PM (#28749653)

    You have 2TB of data, but how much are you actively adding/changing on a weekly basis? Sure, it'll take a while to upload your initial 2TB, but incremental backups should not too much bandwidth.

    The problem of course is finding online backup solutions that do incremental backups reliably and efficiently.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:04PM (#28749657)

    One of the reasons to have two external drives is that the one you are using to make a backup is no longer external. If you get hit by lightning, or you computers power supply decides to EOL itself, while you are doing the backup to your one and only "external" drive, you will see my point.
    Another benefit of having two external drives is that if you screw up a restore from backup, you have another one to try it on. Stupid things like these happen way more often that you would think, often more often than simple drive failures.

  • Your post reminded me of this discussion on "Security Now!".

    original transcript: http://www.grc.com/sn/sn-198.htm [grc.com]

    (emphasis mine)
    Steve: MacBreak Weekly, just as we were getting ready to do this. And he made a comment about - you were talking about ripping DVDs. And he said, yeah, you know, you can get a terabyte drive now for 90 bucks.

    Leo: Exactly.

    Steve: And I'm thinking, yeah, and that's what SpinRite costs. And he said so, you know, there's really no need to burn all those. Just rip them all onto that terabyte drive. And I'm thinking, yes, please do. Because, please.

    Leo: Why is that, Steve?

    Steve: Good. Put your whole movie collection on there because I will have your money. When that $89 terabyte drive craps out on you...

    Leo: We're buying - are you saying people should buy fancier drives, or just this is inevitable?

    Steve: Put all the crown jewels, put everything you have on hard disk.

    Leo: Well, don't throw away the DVDs. Keep them. But it really is true that, if there's data on there, it's worth more than 89 bucks. It's not a question of buying another drive, it's a question of getting that data back.

    Steve: Yes. I mean, people, for a while people were saying, well, gee, Steve, $89, that's pretty steep. And I'd say, yes, I understand. And then they'd say, well, we can buy a new drive for that. Yes, but it doesn't - it's not all of the data that you've got. It's not everything that's been installed in your system before. It's not, I mean, what's your time worth to, like, recreate everything from scratch? And in some cases these are irreplaceable. These are people's entire photo libraries that have never been backed up, never put somewhere else.

    The point is, Terabyte drives fail, too. Keep that in mind for your data retention policy. One might even be so inclined to purchase SpinRite ahead of time to validate the drive's integrity before being placed into use and occasionally validating the drive's integrity from time to time.

  • Re:SSD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:33PM (#28749921) Journal

    A flash drive is probably the most stable technology. The drawback is the high expense. My strategy is several fold:

    - Nearly all my home movies are recorded on Super VHS tape. Being analog if the tape gets damaged, it will still be watchable (wrinkles appear as momentary scanlines).

    - My downloaded porn is backed-up on an external USB drive. If the c: drives fails, I can just copy the stuff over (and vice-versa).

    - Stuff that I can buy on DVD or CD like Babylon 5 or Star Trek, I buy. These discs are physically pressed with pits so they won't self-erase themselves like DVD-Rs or CD-Rs tend to do. They should last the rest of my life.

    Unfortunately none of these strategies protect my from a major accident like a house fire. I just need to make sure not to do something stupid like fall asleep with a cigarette in my mouth.

  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:41PM (#28749973)
    fine. add $150 for a blu ray burner. gee...wasnt that expensive ?

    Now you're up to $550. For that, you could get a whole nother PC w/ 2 ea 1TB drives. Doesn't have to be even vaguely fast, just enough to host the drives. Access time to the entire backup is as fast as booting it, instead of digging through a stack of 40/50/60 disks.
  • by Eil (82413) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:44PM (#28750013) Homepage Journal

    I hate to be that bitter old pessimist, but this has been debated to death and back here on Slashdot many times over. I swear, it should be in the FAQ by now.

    • There is not one backup strategy that covers all situations, even if you think there ought to be.
    • You have to do the work to find one that fits your needs, or hire someone else to.
    • Cheap, easy, reliable. Choose any two.
    • Slashdot: Not your personal army.

    All of the times this question has come up (feels like at least once a month), there have been many very good suggestions. Why should we rehash them for the nth time?

  • by iamhassi (659463) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:55PM (#28750085) Journal
    "Another hard drive?"

    Yes. Tape has not kept up with hard drives, in fact they're now more per gigabyte than hard drives, very different from 90s prices. Even just the tapes themselves are more expensive than hard drives per gigabyte [google.com], and that doesn't include the thousands it can cost for a multiple terabyte autoloader tape drive.

    There is really nothing else as cheap as hard drives per gigabyte. I use a external USB2 SATA dock and swap a few SATA drives [google.com]. And honestly I'm not all that worried about backing up with modern operating systems. We've come a long away from Windows 95, where I was restoring from my Eagle Travan-3 1.6/3.2gb [exabyte.com] once a month.
  • by sadler121 (735320) <msadler@gmail.com> on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:14PM (#28750225) Homepage

    Your average slashdotter is not going to get a cheapy $550 computer. Your average Joe maybe, and then they will complain to us that their computer is so slow...

  • Not LVM! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:22PM (#28750285)

    Don't tell us you're using LVM for critical data such as backups.

    LVM does not implement file system barriers [lwn.net].

    Betcha didn't know that, did you? Scary, ain't it?

    Heck, might as well google for why barriers aren't enabled by default in Linux....

  • by node 3 (115640) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:42PM (#28750433)

    "What about the other 95%?" Over the years I became an old and bitter sysadm... you know what ? They just need to do what the 5% did: Put their asses in a chair and Read The Fucking Manual... and read again, and again until they understand the subject.

    That's not what they did.

    First, they were born/nurtured in such a way to have above average technical aptitude.

    Second, they were interested enough in how computers work to tinker and learn and gain a broad base of knowledge about their computer and OS.

    Only then did they "put their asses in a chair and Read The Fucking Manual... and read again, and again until they understand the subject."

    If you expect the 95% who did not go through the first two parts to skip right over into the third part, you're in dire need of taking your ass out of the chair and meeting some Real Fucking People.

    No, I'm not user friendly, I do not need to be... people are asking me for help anyway.

    Do what I do. Tell them, "yes, there's a way but it's rather complex. Do you want me to explain it?" The answer is almost always "no". Because they really don't want you to explain it, they want you to do it. If they say yes, you'll probably be asked to stop in less than 60 seconds.

  • by westlake (615356) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:53PM (#28750533)

    Sure, it'll take a while to upload your initial 2TB

    His service is capped at 100 GB a month.

    Uploading 2 TB would take the better part of two years - assuming 100% of his traffic was dedicated to the process.

    It would be simpler and cheaper to use a courier service.

  • by jonbryce (703250) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @05:06PM (#28750633) Homepage

    They should use Time Machine.

  • Re:I use... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nametaken (610866) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @05:15PM (#28750673)

    Is there any particular reason you had to be an ass here?

  • Re:say what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jonathan A (1584455) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @05:16PM (#28750683)

    Actually I read the summary and decided it was stupid. Sort of like, "I want to make a ham sandwich. Conventionally these contain bread and ham, but I'm an idiot so I want to make it from dog hair and epoxy resin".

    I think the poster posed a perfectly valid question. The way I read the summary was (using your analogy) more like,

    I want to make a ham sandwich. The last time I checked, these were made with Wonder bread and Oscar Meyer ham. Since then, has anyone discovered a better recipe?

    Of course, while your analogy is somewhat amusing, it is not necessarily the most appropriate one since computer tech changes significantly faster than ham sandwich tech. :)

  • Re:SSD (Score:2, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @05:25PM (#28750749) Journal

    It seems clear to me you abused the disc in some fashion. I have music CDs that predate Civ 2 by nearly ten years, and they all play flawlessly. If you treat your discs like old-fashioned records, they'll last. If you hand the CD to a kid, they'll die within a month (even those supposedly-industructible carts I've seen get destroyed by kids). As with everything, it's ultimately upto the user to protect what he/she owns.

  • by Dare nMc (468959) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @05:31PM (#28750787)

    Sure, it'll take a while to upload your initial 2TB, but

    This also means it will take a while to recover your initial 2TB? I would think online backup is a great idea for being able to get that last days or hours worth of changes back with "minimal repetitive manual intervention required for backup". But that would only be after you have used the primary recovery plan to get all but the latest data/applications running. Also since I wouldn't trust any backup system that I don't test occasionally, that initial transfer time seams to rule this out as the only off-site solution.

  • Exactly! When it comes down to it the really important stuff I have could be backed up on paper tape. My resume, my tax returns and some other odds and bits. I use to try to save all sorts of crap, tried to "download the Internet." Ya know, I never looked at it again. Once in a while I'll find an old drive in a drawer, mount it up and then wonder why I was saving all my killer CGI scripts from '96. (Most of those "send a comment" scripts today would be called a spam-proxy :)

    If the stuff is that important then that is what hard-copy and fire safes are for.

    Rule one: If you got it from bit-torrent, then you don't need to archive it. If it ever was on TV, it will be again. If it's porn, there is lots more where that came from.

    Rule two: If it's for work, then ask your boss how she wants it backed-up. Then you're covered.

    Rule three: If it's 3 TB of video of the first year of your kid's life then edit it down to 5 minutes because that's all that anyone will watch (willingly) anyway.

    Rule four: If it's killer code then tar-zip-gmail is your friend. Ask some other project if you can stash a copy on their CVS server.

    Rule five: five-nines of everything is crap. Live now, not in the past.

  • by Lally Singh (3427) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @06:36PM (#28751163) Journal

    Yeah. The reason is lots of people are suddenly saving nontrivial amounts of data (primarily media-driven) and they want a moore's law of reliable backup. But, all the consumer-level stuff (HDD, optical) isn't good enough and the rest costs actual money.

    Until backup is as cheap, reliable, and able to store as much as the rest of consumer tech, we'll get more of these on /. :-(

    In the mean time, tape drives are worth the money if your data's the result of real work or investment. If it's archived video downloaded off the net, then a few throwaway drives are best.

  • by afabbro (33948) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @07:07PM (#28751339) Homepage

    And honestly I'm not all that worried about backing up with modern operating systems.

    Modern operating systems don't protect you from:

    • Oops. Didn't mean to delete that.
    • Oops, my wife/kids didn't mean to delete that.
    • A bug in the new release of Gnomovision ate my existing Gnomovision files.
    • Break-ins, electronic or otherwise.
    • Your hard drive eats itself.
    • Fire, flood, etc.

    Best thing at the moment for home backup is to mount an encrypted external hard drive and copy to it, then take it off-site. If you think that sounds over the top, then I predict one day you'll be sitting at your terminal saying "aw, shit".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @10:43AM (#28756823)

    Just don't try WHS on a network with more than one or two computers. The backups are single threaded so they take all day to run.

Have you reconsidered a computer career?