Backup Concerns: Building Process

This is a continuation of my Backup Concerns series. Part one covered my choices and I decided to go with a Network Attached Storage box. Part two covered the equipment I decided to use, namely my old computer, and around $300 in parts to convert it into what I needed since I decided to build my own network attached storage device.

Now, I finally have all the pieces to build my network attached storage box. I have two 500 GB serial-ATA hard drives from Western Digital, and a PCI serial-ATA controller card that supports Raid-0 and 1. I ordered all of these parts from NCIX, my favourite online computer store.

I dusted off the old computer, and checked to make sure it still was able to boot. Thankfully, it was able to, but for some reason I couldn’t get into the BIOS. I removed the small battery on the motherboard, which resets the BIOS, and after fixing the lost configurations, I was off to the races.

The hard drive it currently had in it was 120 gigabytes, and so I decided that I would use it as the operating system drive, and maybe put a copy of my music collection on it, as it would have more than enough room. Having this drive already in the system was paramount to making this all work as I envisioned it. I wanted to make sure that I could use the two new hard drives in RAID 1, which would allow me to save backups to one drive, and have it mirrored over to the other. That way, there is redundancy.

At first, I was going to use FreeNAS to power my computer, but I decided to try Ubuntu first. Pretty much any Linux distro can be changed into a headless server. And really, that’s what a network attached storage device pretty much is.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a current Ubuntu CD laying around, and without any blank CD’s, I decided to throw Ubuntu 6.10 on the computer. I put the CD into the CD burner that was already in the old computer, nicknamed beastly, and began to install the operating system.

The biggest issue that I can currently see is that there are no instructions on how to get RAID 1 set-up easily on the new computer, as well as making it easy to send my backups to the RAID drives. So now I need to learn how to make my Ubuntu box into a headless server that allows for SSH, FTP, and of course serial-ATA RAID 1. Each of these issues will require a fair bit of reading, and lots of guess and test work, but in the end it should hopefully fulfill my needs.

If you have any tips, tricks or advice. I would love to hear it as I continue to work on building up a reliable and fast backup point for all the computers in my home.

10 thoughts on “Backup Concerns: Building Process

  1. David

    blog backups, images, photoshop files, spreadsheets, videos, audio, templates, etc… It works out to be a fair bit every month.

    Everything together it adds up to a little over 4 gigs for full backups. I will be doing full and incremental when I get this whole system working, so it won’t be as bad.

    And in making this system, I wanted something that would work for me for the next 3 or more years.

  2. JamieO

    Does your old PC have a DVD burner in it? You could schedule jobs to burn a monthly backup to disc. You just have to remember to take the disk out and put it at an off-site location to totally protect yourself.

  3. WTL

    Don’t forget to track your time you spend building and setting this up. I’m curious to see how long this takes to get rolling and working.

    I also agree about ensuring off-site backups. Imagine how embarrassing it would be if a UFO crashed into your house while you two were out, turning your carefully backed up data into digital confetti. 😉

    Occasionally, I get twitchy about the fact that my backups are only about a kilometre from our place. Then I realize if the bank gets destroyed, I have far more serious things to worry about. 😉

  4. David

    JamieO – My old PC doesn’t have a DVD burner in it, but my new one does. The fact is though, I can do my incremental backups on it, but I’d like to be able to do full backups at least once a month. And it would take more than one DVD.

    As for off-site backups, I am thinking of using the massive amount of web hosting space I have to backup my mission critical stuff once a week.

    WTL – Oh, I am tracking pretty much everything for more blog posts here about the whole process… I am already ranking for NAS searches in Google. Hopefully, once complete, it will help bloggers, developers, and designers that have also made it to this point of creating massive amounts of data.

    I am not so concerned about every file I create, as I have lost data before, and it wasn’t the end of the world. I think backing up certain files to my hosting account, which is in some data centre in the USA will be good enough.

  5. Chris

    sudo apt-get install samba smbfs.

    And I’d totally just run rsync in a cron job on a regular basis. As for the RAID0, is there not a RAID utility that runs at startup before Ubuntu loads? Configure the array there, and then you should be able to mount the partition normally within Ubuntu.

  6. David

    Chris – Unfortunately, Ubuntu doesn’t support RAID out of the box. 🙁 And I haven’t got it working yet. I installed an application that is supposed to help, and then I mounted the “raid”-ed drives, but when I copy info to one drive, it doesn’t get mirrored over to the other.

    I really want to get RAID 1 to work… stupid Ubuntu.

    Thanks for the Samba thing. I was just going to ftp the files once a week to a day_month_year folder.

  7. sharninder

    I haven’t read the rest of the posts in this series yet, so I don’t know if you’ve managed to setup RAID0/1 yet, but if you haven’t and are still looking a solution, give LVM a try. Ubuntu does allow you to install the OS on an LVM volume and LVM should give you all the functionality you need. You wll also be able to resize volumes online with no downtime.

    If you’re in for it, you can also try using opensolaris instead of Linux and use ZFS for the backup volumes. ZFS is super easy to setup and functions right away.

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