Saturday, November 12, 2016

The "backup" plan - end of 2016

I have a lot of valuable digital data. The most precious ones are the photos of my wedding, my kids and all our trips in Japan. I do have all the photos backed up to Google Photos and some to Facebook, but the issues is that neither service preserves original file. Additionally, I have all the 'important' documents backed up to Google Drive.

Locally, I currently have all my data in my DIY NAS. It has currently got two data drives (can support four), which I mirror manually every now and then. While one drive is a backup of the other, the NAS is still a single device. This means, a power surge can kill the server, which can take the drives along with it. And I am not living in Japan anymore. Electricity in Japan was very stable and it only failed once during my 5 and a half year span there. That was on March 10, 2011 when the massive 9.0 scale earthquake hit Fukushima. I think we can excuse that.

I am not saying the power delivery in Australia is unreliable. It is yet to fail since I have arrived here as well, and I've been here for more than 10 months. But Japan runs on Electricity (literally, because of the electric trains), thus it has to be very stable and has to have a lot of fail-safes in place and power headroom. Australia runs on fossil fuel, both literally (i.e. cars and logistics) and figuratively (i.e. power is generated using fossil fuel). Good thing is, the consumption is much less than Japan with 1/7 the population.

Back to my backup plan...

I could have gone back to Carbonite and kept a copy of my data in the cloud, especially since they don't have the upload throttling in place once you past 100GB data anymore. But my ADSL connection is not going to help at all. At the full 1Mbps upload speed (and that is theoretical, btw), it will take 6 years to upload 1TB of data. And each of the hard drives in the NAS aser 4TB drives, with more than 3TB filled. With the electricity bill you would save by not running the server 24/7, I am sure I will be able to afford multiple hard drives and backup NASes! So, online backup is not feasible at all, until I get NBN at least.

I can add a hard drive to my desktop PC which currently only has a 500GB SSD, but the PC will be plugged into the wall at all times (even when it is not in use), so a power surge can mess it up as well. I will simply lose all 3 copies. That's not going to improve anything.

I need to get another local storage medium which can be kept unplugged from the main power whenever I am not syncing stuff to it. One option is to remove the backup drive from the NAS when I am not doing backups. Since I am backing up data manually, it is not going to cause any errors. This would not cost me anything. The only inconvenience is, needing to shut down the server whenever I want to plug the hard drive back because the drives in the HP Proliant MicroServer Gen8 which I use for my NAS aren't hot swappable.

The other option is to just leave the two drives in the NAS as they are, and get a separate 'desktop' drive and do the same thing. This way, I can do the frequent backups between the drives in the NAS, and do a backup to this new drive once every week. By getting a desktop drive, I can swap the drives around for load-balancing.

There is another option. That is to buy a portable hard drive, which would remove the need to turn off the server to plug it in for backups. But I am not convinced that the hard disks inside these portable drives are reliable. That said, the drives I use in the NAS aren't ones meant for NASes either. They are Western Digital Green drives. The recommended ones are the Red drives.

So, I have three options.

  1. Unplug the 2nd drive in the NAS whenever I am not mirroring (backing up) data
  2. Buy a desktop hard drive and use it to keep a 3rd copy, while keeping it disconnected when not backing up data
  3. Buy a portable hard drive and use it as #2

Backing up data is a really important thing. I need to think about the backup strategy thoroughly; until then, I should keep the 2nd drive unplugged. I want to save money of course, but I don't want that to jeopardise the integrity of my data in the process. I would love to hear about any suggestions, if you have any.

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