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Kind of similar to this question, but I wanted to talk specifically about backing up 200+GB of data. I am an amateur photographer with 3 years of high resolution PSD's and RAW files filling up my hard drives. Current capacity is about 250GB or so, but it is increasing since I got a higher resolution camera.

Currently I have a simple linux based NAS, but that will run out of space soon, and it lives in the closet next to my workstation, so if the house burns down, everything will still be gone.

What other (hopefully moderately priced) options are there? I looked at S3, but I think that would be too expensive based on the volume of data. Maybe even something as simple as another external drive backed up periodically and moved via sneakernet?

EDIT: To be a little clearer, I'm not so worried about local backup, but offsite.

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12 Answers

JWZ has some pretty good advice. Ignore the bit for Windows users and get rsync via Cygwin if you're on Windows. Cheap commodity drives and rsync for the win.

Backing up a live operating system can be touchy. Taking a snapshot first is recommended if you have that capability.

I don't consider 250GB to be a large amount of data, but I may be biased. At my day job, we're ordering disk by the petabyte.

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I liked the bit about windows users. :) even though I'm on Windows right now, most of my data is on Linux. –  Osama ALASSIRY May 7 '09 at 10:21
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External drives (with your backup software of choice) are a good choice. But you will want to consider using multiple hard drives (at least two) so you can have one on-site for current backups and the other stored in a secure location off site.

You might also consider online backup services. Everything is backed up automatically online). Here are are few choices that unlimited backup for a fixed price:

BackBlaze

Carbonite

Mozy

With a high-speed Internet account, backups will start out be slow but, once everything is backed up, you will only have to upload the files that have been added/changed.

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BackBlaze looks very interesting. Will they ever complain that I'm taking up a lot of space? –  swilliams May 6 '09 at 22:28
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I use BackBlaze, and I've got about 1tb on there so far. It's been recommend by a few photography blogs and they're using it for multiple terabytes with no complaints. The thing to keep in mind is that it's a really a mirror of your machine - so if you delete something locally it will also be gone from BackBlaze after 30 days (unless you kill the service so it doesn't notice the change - but then it wont back anything up until you start it again) –  Wilka May 6 '09 at 23:20
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Short of going with the online backup systems recommended, consider purchasing a few large drives and a fireproof safe.

Alternate between backing up to each drive (s.t. one is always in the safe at a given time.)

This is not quite as sophisticated as online storage mechanisms but in my eyes provides a simple solution which provides speedy recovery in the event of disaster (rather than having to download everything again over the course of a day or more.)

Good luck!

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The KISS principle is very important with backups. You HAVE to do them EVERY day. If it's not automatic then the time you'll probably forget about it is when you're really busy... because you're doing a lot of work or having computer problems. Exactly the time you need a good backup. –  Clay Nichols May 16 '09 at 2:20
    
BTW, I asked a fireman where to put the data quality fireproof safe. Put it in the basement. Luckly, that's where my office is (here else do you put something generating that much waste heat??). Again, make sure it's a data- quality fireproof safe. They're much more (5x) expensive but probably worth it. –  Clay Nichols May 16 '09 at 2:22
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For reliable local storage, I'd take a good look at the Drobo products by Data Robotics. You can start off with a few hard drives and add capacity as needed without the need to worry about matching disk specifications like traditional RAID.

In addition, I'd buy a couple of portable hard drives to copy data to for offsite archiving/storage. I'd recommend using either a couple of different brands of disks, or different batches of disks to minimize the chances of them failing at the same time.

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I'm familiar with Drobo, but how would you get the data offsite? –  swilliams May 6 '09 at 22:14
    
Data Robotics has certified Super Duper for the Mac OS and SyncToy on the Windows side to backup a Drobo to another Drobo or to another large drive(s). drobospace.com/blog/entry/11295/How-do-I-backup-my-Drobo- –  berberich May 6 '09 at 23:55
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ReadyNAS products come built-in with the ReadyNAS Vault http://www.netgear.com/readynasvault

We use several ReadyNAS products and really like them; we have an offsite data-center so don't really need the Vault features but from what I hear it is pretty nice.

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Unfortunately that would be prohibitively expensive to store 100s of GB. Amazon s3 looks cheaper. –  swilliams May 6 '09 at 22:12
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That's not that much data these days and you can get external hard disks of that size very cheaply - I'd suggest you buy two, then backup to both and keep one of them off-site, do this every so often.

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It will be slow, but possible, to use a service like Mozy since it's all-you-can eat. But slow is likely okay since the real purpose is to be disaster recovery. So get a larger home NAS and set up a machine to sync the whole thing to Mozy :) The initial upload is going to take days (depending on your bandwidth) but after that it's just the deltas, so not so bad.

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Just to be sure, MozyHome let's you store unlimited data? This is separate than their MozyHome Free plan (2GB max)? –  swilliams May 6 '09 at 22:50
    
Yes, I'm referring to their $5/mo 'MozyHome Unlimited' plan. –  pjz May 7 '09 at 0:56
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This won't help if the house burns down but I would get an old box, install Debian, and then install BackupPC. You set up a share in Windows, tell BackupPC about it and let BackupPC do it's thing. There are a ton of software solutions to backup but I like one where most of the config is done at the server and not by installing something on the client.

To solve the burned down house problem about the only thing you can really do is backup to a hard drive every once and a while and store it somewhere else (like at work or at a friends where you can swap drives monthly).

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Using Amazon S3 is a great solution for backup and I'd highly recommend it. Personally I backup to S3 using Jungledisk.

However there's a difference between backup and archiving. Do you need live, instant access to all 3 years of your photos? This is backup, and I'd suggest backing up all your current work to S3, this might change daily and so if the house burns down you want an up to date copy of this.

However all your "old" work, completed projects, etc. Those can be archived. You know this data won't change, there's no need to "sync" it, you can just create a copy and sneakernet it away somewhere such as a friend/relatives house. You only need to do it once. That data is now stored offsite, permanently. You can still keep a local copy of course, but as it won't change it no longer needs to be included in daily backups.

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If you have family members that are network connected, you might consider buying a NAS to sit on their network, and remote-store on there.

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Combination

I too have loads of photos - and other stuff - which I really don't want to lose.

I use JungleDisk / S3, and USB hard drives.
I have:

  • one hard drive at home next to the PC.
  • one hard drive at work.
  • one hard drive which I carry with me all the time.

I occasionally switch the work / carry hard drives.

In this way, I have at least 2 copies at home, at least 2 copies offsite (although it can take days to upload to S3), and one copy with me.

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I currently have CrashPlan running on my machine with 1.2TB of data backed to their cloud service. Pretty easy to use and doesn't cost too much. I especially like that their subscription CrashPlan+ allows for unlimited data, so I don't have to worry about that :)

I do wish their up and down speeds were faster, but doesn't really matter when it's always running in the background and I'm always connected to the internet. And since I a critical subset of that data going to an external drive I can access that pretty fast in case of a drive failure (which actually happened a couple of months ago).

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