What is the best way for a home user to back up data?

Steve Cleland May 23, 2012
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Ok, so I have been trying to get a good grasp on cloud vs RAID vs backup. My situation is that I have a lot of data (pics, music, important stuff my wife will kill me for if I lose it…) and need to figure out how to handle it.

I am new to RAID but that being said…I had an external RAID drive at one point (2x500gb) in RAID 1. One drive failed and I realized at that time that it was too small (full!) and maybe too little protection for what is expected of me.

So I heard of Carbonite and others and cloud storage (let them use their redundant system to ensure safety of data), but it is confusing and I have a large amount of data (expensive). And then there is backup, the one thing that everyone should understand by now, that I have NO clue on.

This is all a matter of learning curve but I don’t have the time nor have I assimilated enough information and understanding fast enough. I feel like Charlie Brown and the football…ARRRGGHH!!!

The data mess has pulled away from me again. I want to protect my data and have it accessible easily (under threat of death or worse), I want to protect my immediate system’s data (that which is not “stored” somewhere), I want to be able to bring a system back online relatively quickly (the RAID), and I want to get it up and running and have minimal maintenance.

Yes, I am a home user, but my demands are somewhat like a business user (NO LOSS.) Yes, it will cost me money…meh. (No, I’m not made of money, but what’s your life worth?)

I am willing to build my own in house system to handle this. I have extra comps hanging around (Core2 stuff), maybe building a sever to handle data from multiple computers (I have no server experience) would suffice. Maybe it’s as simple as setting up an internal RAID for each computer (RAID 1/5/10). If you could provide some scenarios and approximate cost (like $, $$, $$$) I would be eternally grateful! …e-ter-nal-ly….

  1. Gen Drex
    May 25, 2012 at 2:33 am

    Well you have several options.

    You can just get some backup software(like Acronis http://www.acronis.com/ ), an external hard drive or two, and have the program run automatically on a schedule, backing up data from your desktop, to the external drives.

    You can setup a raid array, depending on how much data you need to back up, either Raid 5 or 6 would be best. These have the added benefit over Raid 1 in that, you can build a larger array using less drives(cheaper), also as with Raid 6 you have double redundancy - the array can survive two drive failures.

    You can do this in software raid using whatever onboard option is available from your motherboard's vendor(providing it supports raid 5/6 arrays), or you can go with a hardware raid controller(I'd recommend the LSI 9240-8i $250 or 4i $185, depending on how much data you have and how much you expect that data to grow)
    For drives, I can recommend 2Tb Seagate Barracuda XTs; three in RAID 5 will give you around 4TB of storage with redundancy for a single drive failure.

    A third option, would be to get a NAS with backup functionality, such as a DROBO http://www.drobo.com/how-it-works/index.php . This has the added benefit of simplicity - add drives, set level of raid, and your done. Also with the case of a DROBO solution(4 bay without drives costs $300 roughly), you can add more drives/larger drives as easy as simply adding a new drive, the software will automatically rebuild the array.

  2. Bruce Epper
    May 24, 2012 at 3:52 am

    Have you looked at Windows Home Server? You can get preconfigured hardware & software from multiple sources. If you want to, you can simply pick up the software and put it on your own hardware as well. Any Core 2 processor system can have their disk subsystem beefed up to be your central storage and backup machine.

  3. Steve Kneeland
    May 23, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    I have approx 2TB of data. As for the $...i'd like to spend once and run long. Some things you just have to eat, ya know what i mean? I will find dollars or equip as needed to fulfill this task. I have access to some equipment and anything MS. It is why i was considering my own storage setup ("cloud") build. I was thinking that using however many 2-3TB HD's I use may be cheaper in the long run. But this is my time spent managing it as opposed to something managed by people who do it for a living (not because they want to live).

    So what you are suggesting is:
    -an internal RAID 1: should this be done onboard or by a card. If so what is a good card.
    -A disc image: using DVD's is nice but may be impractical. I would like the "image" to be updated on a regular basis. Also, what is a good program for this (Acronis?) and how should I use it?
    -Yes, i am paranoid.

    I am planning on building/buying a new comp because the one I have is, well, waiting for that one singular moment when it can do the most damage. I have liked my ASUS boards but am open, any suggestions that may be good for this? I also wouldn't mind building a server to manage centrally all the data, but would need assistance to implement. I may also abandon Win XP Pro. I have Win 7 Ultimate but have to deal with "i don't like/understand/can't find it, its not the same" mentality. We all have to change and keep up, some do not want. I on the other hand, as sick as I may be, love the challenge. I am always looking for how to do this better.

    The reason for all of this is sitting in front of me on the shelf. A seized Seagate drive (bad bearing). that has photos, outlook data, files etc. This was, and still is, the baseball bat held high over my head. The recovery might be $1600-2500 to do. So as to money? Spend it now, or spend it later at the end of a spear ;)

  4. Oron
    May 23, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Steve, you express your sentiments very eloquently!
    For your system setup, I'd have thought a RAID 1 (i.e. mirror) + a disc image on an external disc (or USB drive or DVD set) in a safe place should be adequate, but let us know if you don't feel that's good enough.
    For your data we need some numbers: roughly how much data (just a ballpark figure), how much money would you be willing to spend on this per year).