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Backup: RAID vs Incremental, Internal vs External

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November 23, 2012 8:19:27 AM

Hello everyone, this is my first post on TH!

I've got a new system and after a scare where I nearly lost all my life's work (through my own stupidity!) I am looking at a secure way to back up my work.

I am a graphic designer and animator and my work uses primarily Photoshop and After Effects. Currently my set up is a 6-core machine with a 256GB SSD for my OS/Boot drive, and a 3TB Seagate Barracuda HD for my storage. After acquainting myself with the options I'd just like to run my thoughts past a more knowledgeable bunch!

Option 1: Buy another 3TB HD and set up RAID 1 along side the original.

Option 2: Buy another 3TB HD and set up incremental (daily) backups using Acronis software (that came bundled with my machine)

Option 3: Buy an external 3TB hard drive and set up incremental (daily) backups.

As far as I can see, RAID is not strictly 'backup' per se, it just provides security in case the original HD fails. I'm not entirely sure option 1 is really the right one, but as I'm confused about RAID I thought I'd put it in to find out more: In particular, why would anyone use RAID 1 when they could set up an incremental backup instead? Let's say I accidentally deleted something, with incremental backup I could fish it out of the previous backup, and if my HD failed, I'd have the backup to rely on too. With RAID, if my HD failed I'd be covered, but if I accidentally deleted something then I think I'm right in saying that the deletion would have an instant effect across both disks. The only benefit from RAID that I can see is that the back up would be more (a day) up to date. Can anyone confirm this is the case?

Secondly, a few posts I have read specified the use of an EXTERNAL hard drive. Why is this? Is it more secure? Currently I'm more inclined to go for an internal HD as it would have a faster read/write speed than using USB or Firewire. Secondly, the floor under my desk is a veritable snake pit of wires and wall-plugs, adding another one isn't desirable. Having said that, it would be easier to install than an internal.

Can anyone share any thoughts?
Thanks! :3
a c 102 G Storage
November 23, 2012 9:06:49 AM

It is true that RAID 1 only protects against hardware failure, if you deleted something or it got corrupted, you would lose it regardless (you could probably fish anything you deleted out of the recycle bin though). Its mostly useful in a server environment where the network has to keep running in the case of drive failure, if one breaks then you can still keep running.
Any large scale server will be making backups as well, in case of something failing through software means.

An incremental backup would avoid this issue, but as you said the backup will be a day or however long old.

Reason why an external drive is recommended is to guard against any physical damage to the computer. Say a power surge kills the machine and all the components, you accidentally knock it over, spill your drink into the case, your house burns down around it. Any internal drives will be damaged if not outright killed by this, so having an external drive (preferably kept somewhere else) with the backup gives you an added layer of security to any local physical damage.
To continue with the server thing I mentioned above, big company's will often have their backups on a separate tectonic plate to the server in case of an earthquake.
November 23, 2012 9:27:57 AM

Thanks for your reply.

It definitely figures that an external hard drive is more secure given that if the whole machine is damaged you still have the external as backup.

The thing is, unless you physically disconnect the hard drive's connection (AND the power supply, in case of power surges) then it doesn't apply. For a daily incremental backup it's quite a lot of hassle to physically unplug the hard drive and the power to do perform a backup... every day!

I suppose the only surefire (convenient) way of backing up completely would be to do both (internal HD with daily incremental) and an external HD for more occasional backup which is disconnected, stowed or kept offsite as a sort of *last ditch* back up...

As an individual it's going to be a rather costly solution to do that :/ 

I suppose there's also cloud back up, but I've heard it can impact your computer's performance, and the back up is slow.
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a c 102 G Storage
November 23, 2012 9:37:39 AM

You can get USB External Hard Drives so you dont have to deal with power cables and such.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

You could get a case with a hot swap bay. That way you can just slot in the drive when you do a backup and remove it afterward. That would get you the speed benefit of an internal and the portability of an external.

Dont see any reason why a cloud backup would slow down performance unless your attempting to RAID over a network. Yep, the backup will be pretty bottle-necked by your internet connection.
November 23, 2012 9:53:25 AM

Thanks,
I don't know how much the market's change since I last checked but I don't think you can get bus-powered HDDs for 3TB (which is the size of my HDD). With that, and also the hot-swap bay you mentioned I would still have to physically insert and remove the hard drive every day if I wanted a daily backup. I suppose what I'm after is a totally automatic system that doesn't require me to manually maintain it.

Perhaps the best way is to just buy two backup HDs, one permanently plugged in, the other kept remotely?

Thanks for your suggestions.
a c 102 G Storage
November 23, 2012 10:02:06 AM

Oh, external 3TB drives would require their own power. As far as I know the largest USB powered drives you can get are 1.5TB. You would have to prioritize what to backup in this case.

Have you considered a NAS (Network Array Storage)? Its basically another computer with a ton of storage connected to your machine over a home network, and you can backup your drives to that. You could probably set that up to be fully automatic. You would still face the problems of physical damage, but it need would be of a larger scale (house burning down, electrical surge) to compromise the data.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycbq_gTqT5M
Bit overkill for your needs, but shows the basics.

Guess so.
November 23, 2012 10:28:40 AM

Looks very secure! A NAS might be an option. I had discounted it up til now because I'm connected to a wireless network and transfer speeds are slow, so backups might not be up-to date daily, but I think it warrants further investigation. Thanks :) 
!