RAID, NAS, HDD Enclosure, or just HDD to usb adapter.

Hello everyone, I'd like an easy and cheap as possible (but so cheap that there's a chance to loose data) way to backup family photos (that's the most important thing since every thing else can be replaced).

So which one should I go for? Links are just examples of what I'm looking at..

1)RAID ...

2)NAS ... I can get something like this called a personal cloud or something from Toshiba for around $89 for 1TB from my local retail store.

3)HDD Enclosure .. I don't really like this idea since I'm limited by the type of HDD I can put in it. IF this is the recommended route I would go with 4.

4) HDD to USB adapter .. .. which to me seems the cheapest way .. just have to be sure to remember to back things up.. Oh and then there's

5)Build my own RAID/NAS with crap pc's i have laying around (ex. P3 machine with <512MB of ram)
OR order new parts and start from scratch.. added a bit of that to a newegg cart came out to be almost $300 and not sure if it would even work.

So any suggestions/tips would be appreciated. Thank you very much in advance.
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  1. I would go with 3 and backup your data manually, some of the external hard drives come with backup software so its not that bad

    option 4 is the cheapest but its risky to have a bare drive sitting around as you can shock it with ESD and breake it without even knowing
  2. #3 - External HDD enclosure (and HDD) - is the best choice I'd say. HOWEVER, not the one you show - for type, no problem with maker.

    First, you show an enclosure for the smaller-size 2½" HDD units used in laptops. Compared to the ones for 3½" desktop-sized HDD's, these have two or three disadvantages:

    (a) They use only the 2½" HDD's. These are limited in max capacity (typically 1 TB max) and cost twice as much per GB of storage. There is more selection, larger max sizes (2 or 3 TB max) and less cost if you use a "standard" desktop HDD. The vast majority of such units sold today use a standard SATA 3.0 Gb/s or SATA 6.0 Gb/s interface, so the enclosure needs to have that inside - most will.

    (b) Cost - as I said, common laptop HDD's run $90 (750 GB) to $130 (1 TB), whereas 3½" form factor desktop HDD's are $70 (1 TB) to $110 (2 TB), and on up.

    (c) Power. Many enclosures for laptop HDD's have the feature that you do NOT need any separate power supply. It gets all its power from the USB2 port on your computer - ideal for portability. BUT the USB2 ports have limited power available, so many (like the one you linked to) have a power connector that uses up TWO USB2 ports to get enough. On the other hand, your plan is to use the unit as a backup off-line storage device infrequently, so I'm guessing portability is not so big an issue. For this, an enclosure for larger 3½" HDD's is good. These larger drives generally cannot be powered solely from a USB2 port, so the enclosures come with their own power adapter - often a small "wall wart" type - and draw no power from your computer. I prefer that, myself.

    You have not discussed the interface between computer and enclosure, so let me comment. The common possibilities are: USB2, eSATA, and Firewire 400, aka IEEE1394a. Among these, the USB2 data transfer speed is roughly half of the speed of the other two, BUT the USB2 system is present on almost all computers these days, so easy to find / use. The real point to consider is: what port(s) do you have available on your machine? IF USB2 is your only choice, that is settled. Many systems (like mine) have both USB2 and eSATA ports; in those cases, the eSATA port system is much faster - mine performs about as fast as the internal SATA ports on my mobo. Firewire 400 is slightly faster yet, but less common.

    The fastest interfaces now available are USB3 and Firewire 800, aka IEEE1394b - IF your machine has such a port. These interfaces are even faster than the fastest HDD itself, so the actual performance is limited to the capability of the HDD unit, not of the interface. (By the way, the USB3 interface makes more power available to an external device than USB2 did, so an external enclosure without its own power brick that actually has a USB3 interface needs only one USB port to connect.) NOTE, however, that the maximum average data transfer rate from a mechanical (rotating disk) HDD is about 125 to 160 Gb/s (limited by the movement of the disks and heads), not even as fast as an eSATA or Firewire 400 port capability.

    Note that there are two interfaces in play here. One is the connection from computer to enclosure. The other is the internal connection from enclosure to HDD. They are separate, and various combinations are available, so pick your combo according to your needs.

    Speed of the HDD unit itself is an issue, and links to cost and heat. The fastest HDD's are more expensive, consume more power and generate more heat. But for off-line storage with infrequent use, they are not necessary. The "green" HDD's are usually a better choice for this application. They run a little slower, thus using less power and generating less heat, but their data transfer rate is not quite as good as the fast ones.

    Heat MAY be an issue for you - often depends on your use and your opinion. Enclosures for desktop 3½" HDD's come either with or without an internal fan for cooling. Cooling is good, but it adds a bit of noise and offers the "risk" that the fan will wear out in the future - maybe a long time from now, though, if you get one with a fan with all ball bearings, not sleeves. On the other hand, I put my "green"-type external HDD in a fanless enclosure and it runs quite cool, so I don't worry about heat.
  3. Thank you, Paperdoc and alvine. I greatly appreciate the feedback. However,I think I should have mentioned the fact that I will be using one to two 3.5" IDE(PATA I believe) HDD's and one 2.5" SATA from my wifes spazzed out laptop. I'm planning save across all HDD's incase one fails I have backups of backups. Since being just pictures shouldn't be an issue of speed. I figure backing up to all drives would take less than 4 hours the first time and considerably less time after that. I also have an old empty computer case I could store the drives in. So I feel like an external enclosure for every drive is going to unnecessarily raise the cost. Not to mention having to keep up with all those "loose" drives. (I have a 3 year old that grabs everything not nailed down. Although that can be solved buy putting them out of reach on a shelf or something. But since she climbs like a monkey that would only slow her down lol.)

    I also should probably say that.. The reason I'm using the old HDD's is to save money and to get some final use out of the no longer used HDD's that other wise are just sitting around. I thought they would be perfect for backing up photo's but with there age I'm scared to just trust 1 .. and with the price and failure rate of drives today I feel like I would be better off using my known good, trusted (albeit old) HDD's.

    I'm sorry I didn't add that info in my original post. Was trying to get it posted before work.

    Any feedback with the updated information will be much appreciated. However, if you feel you would stick with original comment. please just quote yourself so I atleast know you stick with your original suggestion. Thank You very much.

    Also sorry for the ranting I get carried away in my posts.
  4. To use older 3½" desktop IDE HDD's in an external enclosure, you just need to buy the enclosure with that type of internal interface. However, that does not get you using the 2½" SATA unit, and it does still involve swapping hardware in the enclosure.

    I have another alternative, but I'll have to dig up the details and post later. My son (sleeping now) has a docking system that can accept any of several HDD sizes and interface types (one HDD at a time, of course), and connects to his computer via USB2, I believe. BUT this would mean having the dock and the 3 drives loose - a storage problem, you suggest. Will be back when I get the info.
  5. Thanks for the reply I'll be looking forward to the rest of your thought.. In the mean time I was thinking, Maybe take the HDD cage from the old computer case and mount that securely to a shelf maybe above my pc or something.(on a wall). that way they are together and safely out of the way. Time for work now i'll post back later if my thoughts runaway with me again
  6. Best answer
    My son has a Statech UNIDOCK2U, available here (among others):

    I see some reviewers have had trouble, but some not. My son is happy with his - has used it on several HDD units and types, mostly for imaging a failed drive to recover data. Connects to USB2 port, has its own power supply, can handle 4 common HDD types: SATA desktop and laptop, and IDE desktop and laptop.
  7. Thanks for that. I think I'll end up going with this

    its cheaper, supports USB 3.0 (maybe, reviews say its iffy)and I think I could rig something up so I can change drives with minimal effort. example being fixed location for the drives and just move the connector to the drive I need/want to use at that moment. Later I may just try and set up a freeNAS machine with my old PIII beast.. If I can ever afford a few sata drives and raid card.

    Anywho any other thoughts or suggestions are welcome.

    Thanks again for your input .. having other's input helps me to make a decision since I procrastinate entirely to much.
  8. Best answer selected by ThaWade.
  9. Thanks for BA.
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