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Home Storage Solution

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June 17, 2011 7:17:14 PM

So basically I'm debating what my next move is for home PC storage options. My current hard-drives are filling up and I'm at the point where I'm open to all suggestions.

My current setup at home is roughly as follows.

- Main PC, don't need full specs but i5 750, 4 GB ram, Windows 7 64 bit
- Storage in main PC: 2 x 1TB WD Black in Raid 1, 1 x OCZ Vertex 2 60GB for OS/Main programs/games.

I use this PC for downloading, games, but also my work as I'm a contractor on the side doing engineering work. This is why my RAID setup is important because I can't risk losing any data. I have lots of movies/tv shows/games, which is why my drives are filling up. And I like to keep everything so I don't want to delete older items.

Now as I mentioned, my 1TB drives are filling up (at about 90% now) and because of this I need to look at upgrading. I was thinking about several options which I will list.

- Take the 1TB drives out of RAID 1 to double my capacity. However, this will cancel out the safeguarding of having the redundant RAID 1 setup. If I didn't have the RAID setup I would have to look at some way to backup my drives. Even though I have about 900 GB of data, probably only 200 GB is crucial. However, how could I backup that 200 GB... obviously DVD's and even Blu-Ray's are too small. Unless there is some way to compress it (I'm not familiar with backup software) I'm out of ideas. I could just buy a 1TB external for backup, but would prefer not to.

- Keep the 2 x 1TB drives just for another build, and purchase 2 new 2 x 2TB drives to continue on with the RAID 1 setup. This way I can double my space just like in option 1 but maintain the RAID setup. However, this is a costlier option obviously as I would have to spend maybe close to 250-300 dollars on two new hard-drives. I'd also look at 3TB drives for a bit of future proofing, but I have seen mixed reviews on the current state of them.

- Keep my main PC as is, and build some sort of network storage devide with maybe 2 or 3TB of storage in RAID 1. Then transfer the bulk of my data off so I can keep my PC clean. I am not familiar at all with network storage, and the times I have looked it looks extremely expensive. However, price isn't my first concern here so it may still be an option.

Other than these options I'm a bit stumped. Just looking for other opinions or to confirm which option would be best. As I mentioned, price isn't a huge concern, but I would like to keep some sort of upgrade under $400 while keeping my RAID 1 setup in place if possible.

Thanks in advance for any help/suggestions.

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a c 316 G Storage
June 17, 2011 7:45:09 PM

Were I in your situation, I would go for the simplest solution that maintains the degree of reliability that you need: adding a larger RAID1 array.

HOWEVER: RAID1 is not a backup solution. It decreases the chance that you will lose data due to drive failure, but leaves you vulnerable to malware, power spikes, water leaks, and the accidental deletion of the wrong folder. If the data is important to making your living, get removable storage of some sort. Most people use external USB drives; I happen to like using bare drives in trayless caddies.
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June 17, 2011 7:49:40 PM

Thanks for the quick response WyomingKnott.

Yes I was leaning towards the solution of just purchasing a larger RAID1 array.

While I'm aware that I have been... very lazy to be blunt... with my backups. I need to get in the habit of it. I like the idea of using an external USB drive for it, since it seems to be the simplest method. However, for backing up 200GB over and over (and potential more in the future) I would need a large storage device. Although with that being said, I suppose I could just use a 1TB drive and overwrite the old information..

Are there backup softwares that can do this automatically. I just can't see myself taking the time to do this on a regular basis. If I had software that I could schedule for an automatic backup that would be fantastic. It's not that I'm lazy... I just don't have a lot of free time.

Edit: The larger the HD I could get the better. However, 7200 RPM drives that are 2TB and up become rather expensive. Are there any that you could suggest? I don't know if using 5400 RPM drives will be that much slower... since my main OS and programs are still on my SSD.
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a c 316 G Storage
June 17, 2011 8:01:28 PM

Lots of software will do automatic backups on a schedule. My company uses Acronis True Image.

I personally am paranoid and do not count on online storage for backups. I have ten bare drives lying around and slot them into one of these to use them: http://kingwin.com/products/cate/mobile/racks/kf_1000_b... .
How much money and effort to put into backups depends on how valuable the data is to you and how many hours / days / seconds of work you can afford to lose. Back up on the assumption that your computer will, one day, fall into a bathtub full of boiling salty water.

Paranoid: Automatic backup to your external drive hourly, and full backups to removable media daily. Carry the removable disks to your best friend's house, in case yours falls down.

Less paranoid: Just automatically backup to your external drive on a regular schedule. If a malware infection wipes all your drives, including the USB drive that you keep online, deal with it. Otherwise, you will be in good shape.

Edit: If you earn money with this system, and could lose more than a day's work in a failure, then the cost of the backup drives is an excellent investment.
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June 17, 2011 9:02:40 PM

Thanks again for the follow up information.

I like the idea of that hot swap rack and I think I will look into getting one.

I'm fairly confident I have decided that I will just purchase 2 x 2TB (or 2.5TB) drives and upgrade my RAID 1 array with the new capacity. This will leave me with 2 extra 1TB drives, one of which I can use for my backup using this hot swap rack.

I figured there was already a bunch of automatic backup software out there, and thank you for your recommendation. I will look into it because it's defintely a good idea to set something like that up. Thinking I will just go with the less paranoid option though. The work I do at home isn't my primary means of earning and it's only part-time, so I don't need such a paranoid option.

As a final note, are there any drives you could recommend for a 2-3TB capacity (the more the better, but performance and reliability is more important than an extra 500GB). As I mentioned earlier, 7200 would be preferable, but they seem to be a lot costlier than the 5400. And if it's just a data/storage drive will I notice the slow down?
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a c 316 G Storage
June 18, 2011 12:51:39 PM

JordoR said:
As a final note, are there any drives you could recommend for a 2-3TB capacity (the more the better, but performance and reliability is more important than an extra 500GB). As I mentioned earlier, 7200 would be preferable, but they seem to be a lot costlier than the 5400. And if it's just a data/storage drive will I notice the slow down?

I always go with 7200 RPM drives; the difference is noticeable if you crunch large amounts of data. Wouldn't be for playing media or working on documents, but if you run a database or transcode you don't want to be limited.

As for brands, I have never taken the trouble to compare. I own all Seagate drives, basically because I don't think that it makes a difference - my sample size is to small, and I was fortunate enough not to have owned one of the disastrous 7200.11 series. So I am not a good source for that question.

Finally, if you go over 2 TB you will have to format the volume as a GPT volume, not the default MBR volume. MBR volumes can't access over about 2.1 TiB.

Have fun, and be careful with your data.
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a b G Storage
June 20, 2011 11:41:44 AM

You are running Windows 7. Built into Windows 7 is an automatic backup utility (pretty much equivalent to Apple's Time Machine). It's configurable to backup as often as you want.

RAID 1 doesn't mean you can skimp on backup - one mistake and you could wreck both sides of the RAID 1 pair. The one thing RAID 1 protects against is a hard drive failure. There are lots of other ways to lose data, including user error - something as simple as copying an old copy over a new one (when you intended to copy in the other direction).

5400rpm drives will be fine if you are not running something I/O bound. If you are happy to go 5400rpm, then 3TB drives will be a real option (WD Green drives, for example). Yes, you have to go to GPT for drives over 2TiB, but the difference between MBR and GPT shouldn't worry you.

If you were to put the two 1TB drives into a cheap NAS box you could put them onto your home LAN, and make them the target of the automatic backup software.

Alternatively, you could put two new drives in a NAS box, move some of your data out to there (your media would be an obvious choice), freeing up space on your existing drives. AND make the NAS box the target for the automatic backups that you are going to set up - right? 5400rpm drives would be ideal in a NAS box, and you keep your existing drives in your PC.

BTW: a lot of cheap NAS boxes offer the option of a DLNA server - if you put your media files on there, then anything which can access a DLNA server can access those files without needing the PC to be switched on. Many thing can access a DLNA server - both my TV and Bluray player can, for example, and newer amplifiers can too. So moving your media files off the PC makes sense. Given they are likely to be the largest files, it's good to move them off.
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June 20, 2011 2:58:04 PM

Okay, thanks again for the answers. While the idea of a NAS box does seem like a good idea, I just don't think I need it at all. 2 x 2TB hard-drives will be an adequate upgrade for me.

After much debate over whether to get a 7200 RPM drive or a 5400 RPM drive, I think I'll just bite the bullet and go for the more expensive 7200 RPM. It will be a difference of about $150, but I might kick myself later if I don't go for it. Not only will I use these drives for media storage, but also for my CAD files and some games as well. With my CAD files Read/Write speed is very important especially with large files and I don't want to skimp.

I've had a WD fail in the past, but it was a WD Green 500GB that was in an external hard-drive enclosure so I can't count out WD all together. I have 2 x 1TB Blacks in my current configuration and they work just fine.

http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=58376&vpn=WD2002FAEX&manufacture=Western Digital WD&promoid=1338

I think I will be purchasing two of these this week, unless anyone can suggest otherwise. As well I will be purchasing a hot swap rack similar to the one that you suggested WyomingKnott, and I can use one of my old 1TB Blacks for backup.

Thanks again for the help.
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June 27, 2011 12:34:44 AM

Best answer selected by JordoR.
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