Backup Concerns: Network Attached Storage

So, I am looking at getting a better backup solution set up for my data. I have a desktop and two laptops to keep properly backed up. Each using a different operating system, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Mac OS X.

About two years ago, I was doing monthly backups on three 700 MB CD’s a month. About a year ago, I started doing them on one 4.3 GB DVD each month. Now, with the increase in the amount of computers, and the raw data I am creating, I am thinking about going to a hard drive backup system.

I have an external hard drive that I use for backing up before formatting a system, but it is only 120 GB, and I would like to keep it as that quick, one time use backup solution for getting my machine ready for formatting.

So I am considering buying two 500 GB SATA hard drives, and an external USB 2.0 drive bay. This is the cheapest way to start backing things up regularly, but not the most effective. I will have lots of space, and I could stagger my backups so that one week they are on the first hard drive, and the second week they are on the second hard drive, and back and forth. That way if one hard drive ever fails, the most I would lose is a week of work.

What I am seriously considering though is going a step further and getting a small, two bay, network attached storage device. I could put the two hard drives inside, and set them to RAID-1, which would mirror the data on both hard drives. This would give me only 500GB of space, but if a single drive ever failed, I would be protected from any data loss. This is also one of the more expensive options I have to keep my data backed up, as it requires two drives, but really only gives me one drive worth of space.

I could take my computer tower that isn’t really being used for anything, buy a serial-ATA controller, throw some hard drives into it, and using some software, change it into a network attached storage box. This could also provide me with a RAID-1 setup, as well as some other features. I haven’t really looked into doing this as of yet, but it seems like a cheaper, and infinitely more expandable option. I am not sure which software I would use to do this, and would love to hear some options if anyone knows of some.

Of course, some might wonder why I don’t consider a Drobo, despite its popularity, the device, while really interesting, is far too expensive for me to splurge on. At nearly $500 for just the four bay device, Drobo would set me back over $700, where my other options are around half as expensive.

Yes, Drobo has some interesting features, like a light that tells you the status of the hard drive, and being able to used mixed size drives, among other things, I don’t think its features warrant the current price.

The last option on my list is to get some storage online. I haven’t really investigated something like this yet, but I think it would be interesting. Either something like using Amazon’s S3 service to back up my hard drives, somehow, or a data server from some web hosting-like company. If someone has done research into using a web service as an online backup solution, I would love to hear it. My main concern though is that the cost will mount quite quickly compared to a hard drive based solution.

How do you back up all your files? Do you have an automated system, or do you have to remember every week, month, or quarter? If you were going to buy a backup system today, and your budget was under $500, what would you select? I would love some advice if you have any.

7 thoughts on “Backup Concerns: Network Attached Storage

  1. Sallie Goetsch (rhymes with "sketch")

    I use a Maxtor Shared Storage II NAS device to back up all 3 computers in the household (2 mine, one my housemate’s). My brother went the FreeNAS route with an old machine of his, and it’s working well for him. I definitely recommend NAS if you’ve got multiple machines to back up and want to automate it. If you’re moderately good with hardware, you’re probably better off building your own, because manufacturers do seem to charge a lot for putting an ethernet card onto the box!

  2. WTL

    How very timely of you – ByMUG is covering this very topic tomorrow.

    I have a fairly extensive backup system in place which I detailed back on my blog (the link goes directly to the post).

    In a nutshell, I back up locally to a hard drive, which then itself gets backed up to a 2.5″ drive that fits in my safe deposit box and gets exchanged once a week. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now and once you get into the habit, it works nicely.

    I’m not a fan of the ‘net based offerings mainly because of how much data I have to back up.

  3. Mark

    I recently went through the same situation as you. One of my NAS drives just failed without warning. Luckily I had a USB drive with a second backup on it so no data was lost.

    I spent some time investigating online storage and settled on Mozy as my choice. I recently wrote about it on my blog. So far I am very happy with the usability and ease of use. Between my files, photos and music I have 150 gig to backup. I still maintain a backup drive myself but from now on my 2nd backup will be online with Mozy.

  4. Thomas

    Actually I have a Drobo and think it was worth every cent I spent on it when you consider it is protecting thousands of dollars of music, priceless photos and movies. The USB connect is a little on the slow side, but more than fast enough for daily use.

    I started with 2 500GB drives and just added a 750GB by simply sliding into the slot. The fact that Drobo is infinitely expandable means that it’s the last storage product I will EVER buy. All I will do is add drives as I need them.

    I wish everything I bought was this easy to set up and worked this well.

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