Data backup/security - best way?

hi all,

I'm sure that this has been asked a few times... but hopefully this Q comes with a bit of thought ;)

I'm paranoid about my data - put simply. I have lots of data, and most of it is important. I currently have 2x 60gb IDE drives, and routinely backup to 7-8 CDR's.

Now, given I'm not made of money... what do you guys think of the following strategies:


1. Keep the current, its good enough

2. Invest in a DVD-R drive, and run off backups to 1-2 DVD-R's instead..

3. Get an external USB-2 HDD to backup data, and stick it in a safe place in-between backups

4. Sort out a RAID-1 (Mirroring) configuration, and invest in two huge HDD's with one as a backup..


I quite like the sound of #4, but three questions:

4a. I have a P4PE mobo that has built in RAID, will this be ok?

4b. Say one of the two drives fails, I replace it with an identical one.. plug it in... will the system some how automagically re-build the mirroring/backup?

4c. Do I need special RAID hard drives? or can I buy a couple of standard 80gb IDE/ATA133/7200RPM drives?

Sorry for the glut of questions, but I've read about this till my eyes bleed - and I just need 2-cents from some experienced people. Opinion rather than fact :)

Best regards,
12 answers Last reply
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  1. Glad to hear you are aware of the concept of data security, seems most people aren't

    1. Is good, but maybe not easy enough. How much critical data do you have? If you are adding 7-8 CDR's does that mean 5GB a month/week? How long term do you need to keep your data? (CDRs degrade)

    2. Is simpler and faster, suffers same long term problem as CDRs

    3. Slow but a simply copy operation to be performed in the background.

    4. Best solution, everything backed up automatically all the time

    4a. Yes
    4b. Yes - if your system has connections for more than 2 drives you can also attach a hot-spare, a drive to which the data will automatically be mirrored should a drive fail.
    4c. You can use any drive you like.

    <A HREF="" target="_new">My PCs</A> :cool:
  2. Thanks for the reply; greatly appreciated :)

    <b>> How much critical data do you have?</b>

    the 7-8 CD's is the grand total; so about 5gb. The thing is, I'm often changing things (I'm a programmer by trade!) such that a complete backup of a source tree is necessary to catch all changes.

    <b>> How long term do you need to keep your data?</b>

    One major backup every month, smaller/focused backups each week. I like to keep a major backup for around 6 months - which is well within the 'survival' window of a CDR afaik.

    <b>> 4. Best solution, everything backed up automatically all the time</b>

    yeah thats what I was thinking.

    <b>> 4b. Yes</b>

    sorry to sound stupid... but take the following scenario:

    I buy two suitably big hard drives and set them up as RAID mirrored. They effectively have identical data on them. Now, worst case, drive-A dies on me (such that I have to throw it away / lose everything on it). I buy a new drive (call it Drive-C) and plug it in. I turn on the computer - I have 'Drive-B' with all my data, and 'Drive-C' which is new/empty. What happens?
    <i> - Will the OS?/Hardware? take 10mins to copy all of 'Drive-B' over to 'Drive-C' and restore the status-quo...
    - Will I have to initiate some sort of restoration?
    - Will nothing happen at all, and mirroring just continue from this point, and both drives be out of sync for the time up until 'Drive-C' was installed?</i>
  3. Hmm, with only 5GB of data I might consider the DVD option. Just get a DVD-RW and you can do a complete backup every time. That should be well within your storage time window also.

    turn on the computer - I have 'Drive-B' with all my data, and 'Drive-C' which is new/empty. What happens?

    The RAID BIOS will ask you if you want to rebuild the broken array. If you have hot swap bays you can replace the faulty drive on the fly and use RAID management software to rebuild the array. With a hot-spare this task can be performed automatically. Mirroring is a long an arduous task, can take about 1 hour for an 80GB drive.

    <A HREF="" target="_new">My PCs</A> :cool:
  4. Quote:
    Hmm, with only 5GB of data I might consider the DVD option.

    would be the cheaper option. About £75 for a reasonable 8x DVDRW drive these days...

    I just looked up pricing for getting some decent (albeit not the cheapest) hard drives for use with RAID-1.. will hurt me for £175 ( SATA150 / 160gb / 7200 / Seagate Barracuda ).

    I've just read the online manual for the mobo I had (maybe I should've in the first place...;)) and it has a 'recover array' type option for my example scenario..

    I'm wondering if the DVDRW drive + fire proof/secure box to store the backups is a more cost effective route. Just thought about the case whereby the PC could actually get properly screwed (house fire for example) and having 2 HDD's really wouldn't make any odds :)

  5. the best way is the blah's way, which is running 3 PCs, 1 laptop, ALL of them have the same business folder with all the data I need ALL the time, then ALL of them have some so-so important data that I need sometimes on that perticular PC (music on one, muviez on other, games on other, blahblah), and just one 180G drive (which I connect to a PC at the perticular backup time only, rest of the time it is "backed up" on the shelf) has ALL the data from ALL of the PCs combined, I use some of that data to put on the perticular PC only when I rebuild it from the ground up (once a year or so). I don't think ALL of the PCs will go bad at once, and when one of them goes tits up, I have my "RAID4.1" to restore the thing.

    PS: I see not even one good reason to run a RAID except for speed, which is 0 in home use. Mirroring RAID is for the transactions you can't live without loozing one, which is not a home use case. For the rest of backup needs, backup once a day/week/month/year/life is a well more than enough.

    ..this is very useful and helpful place for information...
  6. If you're serious about secure data storage a fire-proof box won't help because it won't be heat proof and the intense heat in a fire will destroy the CD. Offsite backup is the only really secure way.

    But then your single hard disk is much more likely to crash than your house getting burnt down. I think the first risk is realistic and good to take precautions about, the second is, well ... don't smoke in bed, that's all I can say.

    <A HREF="" target="_new">My PCs</A> :cool:
  7. Quote:
    it won't be heat proof and the intense heat in a fire will destroy the CD.

    ah, hadn't thought of that...

    in that case, the RAID-1 idea seems the winner... and I can still run off a few CD's every now and then and ship them offsite for safe(r) keeping.

    don't smoke in bed, that's all I can say

    hehe, I don't smoke... but I have managed to almost set some pork sausages on fire under the grill recently :-)

    Cheers for your help, its been greatly appreciated - I now think I know what I'm doing!

  8. Quote:
    If you're serious about secure data storage a fire-proof box won't help because it won't be heat proof and the intense heat in a fire will destroy the CD.

    I'll agree with sjonnie. Most 'fire safes' I've see are rated something like this, "Will withstand a 2000 deg fire for 2 hours." by which they mean the temp inside will stay below the ignition point for paper. The ignition point for paper is WAY above the point where cd/dvd media will probably be very very dead. Off site/colocation is the only choice for the truely paranoid. ;)

    Life Sucks! Then You DIE!!!
  9. Quote:
    Will withstand a 2000 deg fire for 2 hours

    the best priced box along those lines I found was 840 deg for 30mins ... so I dont think said DVD's would be alive for long!

  10. Just a thought, in case you didn't consider it yet - anything that sends an electrical surge through the computer, including power supply dying violently, or lightning coming in through your network card or modem that you forgot to surge protect, could kill both raid-0 hard drives simultaneously. As could a nasty virus, were one with "data destroying" payload to get on your computer. Dropping, jolting, or accidentally knocking over the computer case might also destroy both drives. So if it's THAT important, keeping a separate hard drive outside the computer will be better protection against those situations (if you consider any of those situations likely enough to be a threat.)

    You could have a Raid-1 array with three or four drives, but only use two at any time.

    For 4 drives, two operating, one hot-spare:
    Periodically you can remove one drive, put it in your safe as backup, take the old backup out of the safe, put it back in, and let the system rebuild the raid-1 to the old backup.

    For 3 drives, two operating, one hot-spare:
    You will be protected against drive failure (but not total destruction of the PC itself by lightning, virus, etc.) as long as the two working drives do not fail within an hour of each other (extremely unlikely, if that happens just figure some deity had it in for you no matter what, and be thankful he didn't have to burn your house down.) In case of a drive failing the system will rebuild to the hot-spare without you having to be there (I think). One drive stays empty but running, but if another fails it automatically replaces. I'm not sure if it's the best, because this way the drive stays mechanically running all the time, so you're using up time-before-failure so to speak. For three drives, the next option is better:

    For 3 drives, two operating, one in safe:
    you get the idea. Periodically remove one, put in safe, pull old backup, rebuild to it. You just don't have a hot-spare, so you have to be there if a drive fails to rebuild the array.
  11. cheers for the thoughts <i>Grafixmonkey</i>. Appreciated.

    You could have a Raid-1 array with three or four drives, but only use two at any time.

    Unfortunately, finances dictate that I get only two drives. I'd love three, but not an option :)

    Basically, I know that with any RAID system if the tower dies then thats its - short of expensive data recovery services i've lost everything.

    BUT, with 2 mirrored drives data recoverery is possible and quite succesful (from what I researched).

    So, My final strategy appears as so:

    1) Create a RAID-1 setup with 2xSATA-150@160gb drives
    2) Retain my current 60gb ATA133 drive as a random-backup disk
    3) Purchase a 256mb Flash USB memory stick. This holds my day-to-day work <i>on person</i> and critical data
    4) Make 10 CDR's worth of backups each month, keeping one in a local safe place and another in an off-site location (5x CDR's per backup).

    Now, unless anyone can see otherwise (and I would appreciate any critique!):

    1. Lightning strike is filtered by my surge protector, but should still be covered by a data recovery on the physical disks. Worst case = recover 99% data from last month and critical data from 24hrs ago.

    2. Single HDD failure - hot swap a replacement and rebuild RAID array.

    3. Both HDD fails - replace HDD, base new build on HDD backup thats 1 month old AND critical data from 24hrs ago.

    Now, As I see it, those three scenarios could only occur in extreme circumstances... And the backups should take care of the rest...

    Any thoughts? Bare in mind that I do commercial work from home, such that I'm limited to personal spending - no "corporate" help as such. So I don't have any substantial resources beyond those of a 'normal' individual...

  12. If your data is not extremely large, and if you have not already purchased your backup drives (or any of your drives), you could consider 80GB Seagate drives as an option. They are very quiet, not the highest performers, but are $60-ish each. Of course if you have already purchased the two 150GB SATA drives, you are probably set on having only two. If you already have your raid card and it is SATA, you can use a PATA->SATA converting enclosure that lets you hot-swap, or (cheaper) you could use 80GB SATA Samsung drives, $77 each. (giving newegg prices here.) Of course if you already have two 150GB drives neither of those will be very attractive, pricewise.

    It would probably take a decently performing system about 30 to 45 minutes to backup an entire 80GB drive (meaning you pull one from the raid-0 array and rebuild to a third spare.) Consider how much time it will take to pull a drive and rebuild, versus how much time it takes you to do your CD backups. The three-drive solution would save you a whole lot of time, especially with a hot-swap system or at least screwless drive attachments inside your case, and you could do it more frequently.
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