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Best Home Backup Strategy Now? 611

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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  • External and Online (Score:5, Informative)

    by basementman ( 1475159 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:39PM (#28749433) Homepage

    Switching off-site backups every week is an unnecessary hassle. Back up to an external hard drive and an online backup service. Anything more than that is overkill unless you have really important data.

    • That's fine if your ISP doesn't have draconian caps. I have over 2TB of stuff (legal, mind you, lets not get a redundant "You must be pirating" theme going). Mostly photos and video content. My ISP caps at 100GB per month. Online backup is not a viable option except for my most important stuff. I use the offsite backup drive method, however I don't have two sets that I swap, I just have one offsite backup that I bring home from work ever other week.
      • Not only caps, but some people (like me) have connection with a bad upload speed. I can do 150KB/s if I load balance over two connections but a single connection can only do 80KB/s, way slower than my DDS4 tape drive (not to mention LTO1).

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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 westlake ( 615356 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @05:53PM (#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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Dare nMc ( 468959 )

          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 of

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rvw ( 755107 )

        That's fine if your ISP doesn't have draconian caps. I have over 2TB of stuff (legal, mind you, lets not get a redundant "You must be pirating" theme going). Mostly photos and video content. My ISP caps at 100GB per month. Online backup is not a viable option except for my most important stuff. I use the offsite backup drive method, however I don't have two sets that I swap, I just have one offsite backup that I bring home from work ever other week.

        Some of those online backup services offer the option to send in harddrives or tapes to make the start. If you stick with offsite backups, you can leave one big basis backup at work, and only swap the incremental backups. Then two simple 2.5" usb drives are big enough to handle that.

    • It's true, being realistic my life wouldnt fall apart if I lost all of my files so I don't bother with multiple extra backups. (Work is a different story)

      Most of my files (like documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, etc) I backup onto an 8GB USB key.

      I email some personal stuff (like my resume) to myself so I have a copy of it on Gmail plus I can access it from anywhere.

      Music and movies go on an external drive.

      For a simple solution if you have a Mac, just get an external drive and use Time Machine.
      • by rvw ( 755107 )

        For a simple solution if you have a Mac, just get an external drive and use Time Machine.

        Get two external 2.5" usb drives, and always leave one of them offsite.

  • say what? (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 )

    But the one thing that's remained constant is hard drives are far too large to backup via conventional means.

    Maybe it's unconventional to use, I dunno, another hard drive?

    • Re:say what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:58PM (#28749607)

      I think the OP's post arose from a misunderstanding of what "RAID is not backup" means.

      The adage isn't an admonition not to use hard drives as a means of backing up data. Rather, it is concerned with the fact that any change to your data is committed to each duplicate volume in a RAID, so if you delete an important file, for example, it's just as gone as if you weren't running a RAID.

      That's completely different from mirroring your drive onto an external hard drive and putting it on a shelf somewhere. If you delete a file on your live system, you can restore from that backup.

      • by Machtyn ( 759119 )
        Or running an external RAID 1 setup. If one external backup drive fails, the other will have all the data. But, certainly, if you are going to have two drives of the same size, then alternating backups to each drive is the best. If you are really concerned, get 4 drives. Have two sets of RAID 1 drives, alternate each set every week. Don't forget to test your backups and your restoration procedure.
      • by kabloom ( 755503 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:33PM (#28749925) Homepage

        We must lay out the kinds of failures and goals of a backup to determine how best to back up.

        1. We would like to protect against mechanical drive failure. This can be done with a RAID.

        1.5. We may also want to protect against the failure of other components of the computer. I recently had a computer die because its motherboard died, and it took about two weeks to get a new computer, and the new computer was a significant upgrade so it had SATA instead of IDE. In the mean time, I needed my data on other systems, and when the new computer came, I needed to borrow a USB-IDE bridge to recover some stuff that I wasn't backing up.

        2. We would like to protect against accidental deletion of files, file corruption, or edits to a file that we have now reconsidered. This can be done with snapshotting. In source code, to reconsider and edit to a file is fairly common, and is the reason why most programming projects use revision control systems. Other options like nilfs or ZFS snapshots can also fill this goal. This goal is accomplished more easily if the backups area automatic and the backup device is live on the system.

        Depending on your needs, this goal may be counterbalanced by a need to not retain the history of files for legal or other reasons, and this should inform your choice of backup strategy.

        3. We would like to protect against filesystem corruption, whether by an OS bug, or by accidentally doing cat /dev/random > /dev/hda. This can be done by having an extra drive of some sort that isn't normally hooked up to the computer. Tape drives, CDs, and DVDs have traditionally fulfilled this purpose, and this is where the use of additional hard drives is being suggested. Remote backups, via rsync can also accomplish this. For this I use git.

        4. We would like to protect against natural disasters. For someone living in New Orleans, it would be nice to have a backup somewhere outside the path of Hurricane Katrina. Remote backups may be pretty much the only way to accomplish this, unless you're a frequent traveler and can hand-deliver backup media to remote locations.

        5. In addition to any of the above, the code you use create said backup may be buggy, or may become buggy or misconfigured over time. Checking the integrity and restorability of your backups after creating them, and keeping several (independent) previous versions of a backup may help here.

        You may not be concerned with the various modes of failure described here occuring simultaneously. For example, it may be unlikely that you need to deal with file system corruption at the same time that you regret one of the edits you made on your file. In that case, your offline backup device doesn't need to hold all of your snapshots.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by SharpFang ( 651121 )

        The adage isn't an admonition not to use

        stop making up words.

  • by oldhack ( 1037484 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:40PM (#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.
  • by Brian Stretch ( 5304 ) * on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:43PM (#28749475)

    Almost 50GB per disc and brand name blanks aren't too expensive if you know where to look []. (Hey Newegg: surely y'all could save us some nuisance if you'd import a shipping container or two of blanks direct from Japan...) Nero Linux supports Blu-ray drives. RAID1 for primary storage with BD-R DL backup, with the backups ideally stored securely off-site should be sufficiently paranoid for most home users though Blu-ray is too new to have real-world long-term integrity statistics.

    Remote backup to a rented dedicated server is also a possibility though not terribly practical in America due to certain monopoly carriers (<cough>AT&T</cough>) being too cheap to build FTTH, at least until they run out of duct tape and bailing wire to keep their WWII-era copper plant patched together, and even then.

    • That's still roughly 10 bucks a disk for 500GB. You can buy 2x the HD storage for less than that price.

      While optical media has its advantages, the convenience of an automated backup solution to an HD or multiple HDs means it's more likely to happen, thus is more useful. I do incremental backups to an external HD on an hourly basis. How do I do that on BD without it becoming very quickly A) expensive and B) damn inconvenient?

      Let's face it, at the cost of HD storage, there's really no better general case s

  • by junglebeast ( 1497399 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:44PM (#28749481)
    All of the online backup strategies are a joke. Due to bandwidth restrictions, it would take years just to make a backup of a typical user's hard drive, and they don't offer enough space (seriously). The cheapest form of medium currently is hard drives, so my current backup system is to have 2 equally sized 500 GB drives and I use Acronis on a schedule to do a differential backup of one drive to the other once a week during early morning hours. If the differentials start to get too large, I'll do a new full backup and start doing differentials from there again. I haven't found any backup solution that is "totally" automatic in this regard, but since it only requires manual intervention once every several months it's not a huge deal.
    • Yes Acronis is great, I used to install it for our clients all the time.
      It was configured to backup every time when the computer was turned off (Startmenu => Shutdown). This was very reliable and I don't recall any issues with this setup. I do recall restoring entire systems from backups a few times.

      1) Install new drive
      2) Boot with recovery CD, select restore ... wait a few minutes
      3) Done

      Acronis is a nice little program, well worth the money.

    • by rainwalker ( 174354 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:32PM (#28749913)

      Really? I don't think you've looked at this very carefully...personally I use Mozy, it's a couple bucks a month, the initial upload took a week or so, but it was all backgrounded and I never even noticed (yes, you can turn your computer off, etc.). Daily incremental backups take just a few seconds. Retrieval is via downloading, if you just want a few files, or for some money ($50? I think?) they'll overnight you a couple of DVD's with your whole backup on it. So, it's cheap, requires absolutely no thinking on my part, is fire/meteor proof, and has unlimited storage. The choice was obvious, from my point of view.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mcrbids ( 148650 )

        I use Mozy, it's a couple bucks a month, the initial upload took a week or so, but it was all backgrounded and I never even noticed (yes, you can turn your computer off, etc.).

        That's the point that most people miss - it's not going to download all your data every time it does a backup, just the changed files. And that's a much lower number than many people believe, and uses much less bandwidth than most anybody would expect, especially when you factor in compression!

        Even on busy servers with over 250,000 fi

  • by Anrego ( 830717 ) * on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:44PM (#28749487)

    I decided that I have three main "categories of data":

    - easily replaceable: This is stuff that is fairly easy to replace.. for instance I have ripped a huge portion of my DVD collection (for my own use). If I lost this data, it would not be a tragedy .. just a pain in the ass.
    - hard to replace: This is stuff that does exist "out there".. but would not be easy to replace. This includes old TV shows that you can't buy or if you can are very hard to find.
    - irreplaceable: Self explanatory.. this is my documents, code, photos, etc that could not be replaced if lost

    I keep everything besides OS files on a file server. Raid 6 (two parity stripes).. this is the first layer..
    to me this is adequate to protect "easily replaceable" stuff (which in my case constitutes a huge chunk of file space).

    I backup everything in the "hard to replace" and "irreplaceable" categories to a seperate (removable but stays in the system) hard disk (so far 1TB has been enough to hold all this data). I make a
    secondary backup to a second removable drive and store this "off site". This secondary backup does not get updated very often.. which is the trade off I guess... but it provides a "last hope" if something
    crazy ever happened.. like my house burning down.

    Oh.. and backups are encrypted!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I store all of my porn videos and ripped music in the Limewire cloud, and let other people back it up for me. Works great, and I often realize I have backed up songs that I don't even remember ripping!

    • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:23PM (#28749825)

      I just can't be bothered with slashdot any more. It's full of dummies with mod points. How do I get off the Internet?

      Do I need a megabyte of backup capacity for every megabyte of storage? No, I decide what's important and how long it's important for.

      • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Like2Byte ( 542992 )

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

      original transcript: []

      (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 t

  • OpenSolaris and 8 drive RAIDZ-2. PHYSICALLY disconnect that fileserver (and turn it off) and sync up to it once a month.

    Use GlusterFS or RSync to sync that up to your main computer. If you can figure it out, make incrimental backups to DVD once a week (or day, if it's that important). Take those DVDs off-site into a vacuum sealed (not expensive, you can make one that uses a hand pump and a box). If everything goes to hell, restoring from DVDs takes forever but you have that option, and that's what's importa

  • by nadamucho ( 1063238 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:47PM (#28749503)
    Windows Home Server actually has very good backup options. a)It allows for folder duplication on shared folders, protecting your shared files against a single hard drive failure. b)It allows you to add a hard drive as a backup drive, basically to dump all the shared folders, which can then be taken offsite. c)Jungle Disk has a WHS plugin, and there's an alternate Jungle Disk plugin which is allegedly better on, which provides your online protection. Automated daily backups mated with Volume Shadowing means that not only is your data safe, but previous versions are available too.
  • I bought a pair of Infrant ReadyNas NV+ systems a couple of years ago; I kept one for myself, and gave one to my parents.
    My computers back up to my nas box, my parent's computer backs up to their nas box.
    I keep a ssh tunnel open between both of our networks, and each nas box uses rsync to back up to the other one.

    The only problem I've run into so far is Comcast's 250 gig cap; but so far I've been edging in slightly under the limit.
    • I have a ReadyNas Duo. I find it extremely slow for incremental backups. Sometimes I think I should have just bought a big external disk.

      Do you perform full backups or incremental?


      My backup scheme:

      Every two or three weeks, I'll do a incremental backup of my whole home directory to my ReadyNas (through faubackup).

      The actually important stuff is under either Git or Mercurial, I push them either to the ReadyNas or to my G1 SD card after a significant commit. I have been considering using only one of these
  • by JimXugle ( 921609 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:50PM (#28749531)

    I've re-purposed a computer as a backup server, which lives at my parents house. It runs Ubuntu, with ZFS running over FUSE. Each night, a scripted CRON event will run zpool scrub on my storage pool, and if there is a problem, it will send me a text.

    My MacBook Pro will use Time Machine over NFS over SSH to make the actual backups from my dorm/wherever I happen to be.

    Commence CDDL/GPL/BSD Flamewar.

  • not really. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZERO1ZERO ( 948669 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:52PM (#28749549)
    "it there any better advice these days"

    Not really, keep doing it like that. for how to do that read this: []

    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.

  • Mozy is good (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mike McTernan ( 260224 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:53PM (#28749569) Homepage
    Mozy [] is good - it's offsite backup with nice shell integration. Sadly it's Windows only though :(
  • Easy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Isbiten ( 597220 ) <> on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:53PM (#28749571) Homepage

    I have an external harddrive attached to my Macbook and Time machine takes care of the rest. And my important document and photos I upload to my dropbox That way I have a local backup of my entire harddrive in case something happens to my Macbook and one stored on the "cloud" that I can reach if my house burns down. []

  • 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 [] m

  • backuppc (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jon_S ( 15368 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:54PM (#28749587) []

    Get an old P3 for free somewhere and load this up on it with a big disk or two for storage, put it on your network, and run it. That's what I do and it works like a charm. I went through all the options over the years, tape, DVDs, manual copying to a server.

    Backuppc backs up all my windows and linux PCs. It backs up only what I tell it to, and it does both full and incremental. Sort of a pain in the ass to set up (I use cygwin rsyncd on the windows boxes, and regular rsyncd on the linux boxes), and it works well.

    Only drawback is it is still on site.

  • For some people their livelihood depends on the safety of their information. For most of us though, it's really little more than attachment. If you've gotten to the point where you need to backup to tape "just in case", perhaps your problem isn't so much the danger of data loss, but you fear of data loss.

  • RAID (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Deltaspectre ( 796409 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:56PM (#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.

  • cost (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:00PM (#28749621) Homepage

    Once upon a time, the computer you wanted always cost (at least) $5,000.

    This trend ended in the late 80's. All of a sudden, package system prices started trending seriously downwards, because due to Moore's law, computer speed started outrunning almost everything you'd want to run on it. Not true for certain specific apps, including graphics and games, but for office use it was perfectly fine.

    I remember buying a 200 MB hard drive for $500 and thinking about what a great price it was.

    Up until recently hard drives were one of the more expensive components left in a computer package. Now? Most are under $100. That's lower than tape backups used to be at their lowest prices. It's true, right now the best way to back up your hard drive is a second hard drive.

    IMO the big question now is where that second hard drive will be. You can stick it in your computer and mirror your main drive in real time easily enough, but that means a virus or software issue will ruin both drives simultaneously. Better to sync them once a week? Perhaps.

    Of course, this won't help you if there's a house fire. The fireproof hard drives are still darned expensive. Internet-based remote backup is great, if your broadband can handle it.

  • Anything else is *so* last century.

  • by macraig ( 621737 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [giarc.a.kram]> on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:04PM (#28749661)

    Cuneiform tablets work well for me. Don't store them in a flood zone, though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by careysub ( 976506 )
      Dummy! You are forgetting the finalizing step, where you bake it in a kiln. After that it is water-impervious.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by macraig ( 621737 )

        Ummm... my kiln is still on back-order from the Pottery Barn. But water impervious? Maybe water resistant....

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by tcolberg ( 998885 )
          I dunno about you guys, but I have a vault hollowed out into the nearby (mostly) granite mountain range specifically for my cuneiform tablets and root vegetables.
  • by networkzombie ( 921324 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:06PM (#28749677)
    Since when is tape unreliable? My DLT has a MTBF of 250,000 hours. I've used DLT, DDS, and Travan for years and I've seen far more HDD failures. I've seen plenty of tape drives fail, but not the tapes themselves. I trust my tapes far more than any spinning platter. Come to think of it, I trust my tapes more than any other backup I use (Optical disc, HDD, and Cloud). Once my station wagon full of tapes caught fire on the highway, but I blame that cheap-ass roach clip.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dbIII ( 701233 )
      It's generally considered unreliable due to the "I forgot to load the tape but don't want to admit it factor". I've got a few thousand 9 track reels that have been stored in a shed since the 1980s. Every now and again I send one out for transcription and I haven't had any failures yet. I've heard that DDS tape used to break a lot but have never actually seen that happen.
      The tape drives are now a lot less expensive than they used to be for both LTO and SDLT. USB 2.0 hard disks are also a lot slower than
  • One problem I've run into using hardware raid is that if there is a problem not with the disks, but with the hardware controller, you can be locked in to buying another of the device that screwed you.

    However, with RAID 1 or software raid, you can easily just put the software on another machine and be up and running. For this kind of thing where performance isn't the biggest factor, that's what I go with.

    If you look up the reviewes on the drobo, everyone seems to love it until it fails. Then you seem to be

  • Depends on the files (Score:4, Interesting)

    by obarthelemy ( 160321 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:13PM (#28749737)

    For really valuable files (the ones I won't ever be able to replace if I lose them: my own documents, my photos), I burn a monthly DVD and drop it alternatively at my parents' and brother's.

    For the rest of the junk (media files: music, videos, books...)that are very large but not that important (or easily replaceable), I have a large external HD to which I clone my main HD once a week. I then keep the Backup HD off-line until the next time.

  • So what if you have to use a bunch of them? You can buy a giant stack of them for dirt cheap. That porn collection will impress your friends more when it takes up physical space.
  • I'm thinking of backing up to another hard drive and I'm torn between an external USB drive or another SATA disk. Considering I would probably (if we're being honest) leave the USB disk connected at all times (for a daily backup) with full knowledge that in the case of a fire it'd be toast along with the machine... is there any incentive to use USB over SATA? It's pricier and slower, right?

  • by digibud ( 656277 )
    it depends mostly on how much data you have. I have a couple of terabytes. I also have a daughter living 5 miles away so I backup at my house to external drives and swap those backups with another set kept at her house. If you have 50megs of data (many people have very small requirements) then an online backup strategy might be very handy. You can even get 32gig and larger(?) USB flash drives that are more than adequate for most people who just want to backup their email and pictures/data. Tape drives are f
  • by obarthelemy ( 160321 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:22PM (#28749811)

    Backups are:
    - off line (viruses, power surge, sabotage...)
    - off site (fires, theft...)
    - tested (i've got horrors stories of people that THOUGHT they had backups...)
    - multiple (... and of backups that turn bad at the worst possible moment)

    So backing up data is a hassle, and can be expensive depending on what you need: a DVD, a BD, an HD... But pretty much the only foolproof solution anyway is to burn your data onto a media you then send away to your parents' or other trusted 3rd party. Once a month is the very minimum.

    If you're using HDs, you may want to re-use them after a while, but don't forget to keep some very old ones, for when you realize ages after the facts that one of your files got corrupted.

  • Levels of importance (Score:5, Informative)

    by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:22PM (#28749813)

    There are three kinds of data:

    1. If you lose this data you will go to jail.

    2. If you lose this data, your business will be impacted.

    3. If you lose this data, you will have less options for entertainment.

    #1 tends to be a megabyte or less.

    #2 tends to be a few hundred megabytes of documents.

    #3 tends to be terabytes.

    My company has a PDF of every document that we've touched in the past decade (federal law requires this retention), and our entire business continuity backup fits easily on four LTO-4 tapes, plus a very less-than-full tape that we rotate for offsite storage weekly. We've explored every backup system out there and this is by far the most cost-effective for us.

    I don't understand why the OP claims "tape is unreliable", as I have not heard of a single instance of in-service failure of an LTO-4. As for it being expensive, it is, but before we went to tape we were using Firewire800 external drives, much more expensive than tape cartridges, and not as reliable as some people have been led to believe.

    USB and FW external drives almost never fail as long as they are powered on. They fail in storage, which seemed pretty weird to me, since they should be able to sit on a warehouse shelf indefinitely. My low-sample unscientific data from experience says otherwise.

    Since everybody is going from LTO-2/3 to LTO-4, you should be able to get LTO-3 transports pretty cheaply.

    But my first advice is to identify the data in categories #1 and #2, where you might realize that it's a good practice in any case, to store the important stuff with its own priority. This is the hard part. Identifying what's actually important. If you don't do this, no matter what backup system you end up using, you're going to be burying the important stuff in the noise, introducing risk.

    The OP also mentioned Drobo. I have a Drobo and I love it, but I must warn you that it's pretty slow, even with really fast drives. Don't expect to be able to copy a terabyte to it in less than 40 or 50 hours, even with firewire 800. This is the problem that drove us to tape, which is much faster than any filesystem we can feed it from.

  • The backup strategy is the same as it's been for the past 40 years or more: keep copies of your data offsite, where you can get at them in a reasonable timeframe should anything happen to your local storage. The technology used to implement that strategy changes with time, though. Personally, I made the decision many years ago that removable media was a waste of time. The only sensible option is to have storage powered up and accessible at all times. So I rsync to a hosted server in a remote datacentre (the
  • Ghost Virtual Machine [] gives 15gigs of data storage and right now if you use the promotion code of "launch" you get 10Gigs more as a bonus for 25Gigs. If you want to give me a referral my id is orion_blastar there, and each person you referred grants you 5Gigs more in a bonus.

    Google Docs [] also has document storage but does not give as much as does. The Ghost Virtual Machine can access your Google Docs drive as well.

    Here is a review of the top 5 online cloud storage sites [] so you can take your pick.

    MyBloop [] offers unlimited free storage, but I am not 100% sure of that or their privacy policy.

    Lifehacker talks about using your Yahoo Mail account for unlimited storage [] and also that Google's GMail almost offers the same service as well.

  • Like most people, I have a small amount of truly irreplaceable content (documents, pictures) and a whole bunch of "it'd be annoying if I lost that" content (music, movies). One of the really convenient things about this split: the truly irreplaceable stuff is not very large. My docs and pictures occupy about 15 GB, and most of that is pictures.

    I have an external hard drive where I back up everything at least nightly. This protects me from accidental deletions and a failed hard drive. It doesn't protect

  • by Eil ( 82413 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:44PM (#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 darpo ( 5213 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @05:56PM (#28750551) Homepage
      Other questions that come up all the time:
      • I'm an aging IT guy, should I go into management or stay technical?
      • What hardware/Internet connect/etc. should I use in some backwards 3rd world country?
      • Should I go to college or work/self study?
      • College X uses Java in its classes, College Y uses C++, which is better?
      • Why am I such a big, fat nerd?
      • How do I get experience when no one will hire me?
      • How do I get work in the computer games industry? (related question: am I a closet masochist?)
      • How should I, as some lazy, dipshit computer nerd, get exercise?
  • Hot copy, nightly duplication etc. may protect against catastrophic system failure, theft etc. but they are poison if you want to protect against lurking data corruption.

    For example you deleted a file last week that you need now. A supplier has sent this month's data with last month's filenames and overwritten last month's data. Your database has 'acquired' corruptions and now you need to go back to find a working or clean version. A duplication strategy just means you have two copies of the bad stuff!

    Here is what I do

    1. Complete snapshot to USB hard drive 'monthly'. (Actually just an update excluding delete)
    2. Selected directories and files: (daily)
      • Copied to USB flash if changed or new
      • Copied to a history chain on the same HD if changed or new

    The history chain has extending time gaps between copies eg 0.9,1,3,7,15,30,90 days. So for a daily backup of a file that changes every day the two most recent copies are always shifted down the chain and every 3 days the second is bumped down to 3rd position which in turn might bump 3 to 4 if 3 is more than a week newer than 4. This is ever so easy to program - I even did it in a DOS batch file.

    Let's review what happens if the computer goes bang! - Reload from USB hard drive and flash. Alternatively if data gets corrupted - Trawl through the history on the HD.

  • The 3-2-1 rule (Score:3, Interesting)

    by plazman30 ( 531348 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @09:59PM (#28751975) Homepage

    I heard this on a podcast somewhere. I don't remember which one....

    The 3-2-1 rule.

    3 copies of your data

    on 2 different types of media

    and 1 copy offsite.

    Personally I use Macs, so my strategy involves Time Machine and an external HD AND a copy of Mozy for online/offsite backup.

    On the LInux side you could use an external drive and either rsync, or any number of Time Machine clones, and for your offsite backups, you could use Jungle Disk to do online backups to Amazon S3.

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.