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In brief, what is a good storage solution for a small business that wishes (or is required to) maintain long term storage of backed-up data? Ideally, the user should not have to worry about the possibility of a media also not being able to be read several years after making the backup, and it should be fairly inexpensive.

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6 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

External hard drives. They are:

  • available in large capacities
  • inexpensive per gigabyte
  • arguably more reliable than CD or DVD media
  • easily accessible for years to come with a USB connection
  • very portable
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Agreed. I use Windows Home Server and then back up the server to an external hard drive. Each time I make a new backup I'm verifying that the drive continues to function normally. (With DVD you may not find out it's failing until it's too late). –  Jay Bazuzi May 7 '09 at 14:18
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Just make sure to have TWO drives, because I've had instances where one drive suddenly fails without notice way before it should. Although if you use a file system like zfs, you'll have better chance of detecting when a drive might fail. –  Ivan May 7 '09 at 15:19
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It is important to realize that hard drives will fail. Given today's prices it is reasonable and recommended to buy 2 or more. This way you can increase your safety by having one of the drives off site most of the time.(parent/friend/partners house, safety deposit box) If you use encryption you don't have to worry about someone stealing the data. You should also have a plan to replace the drive(s). –  Brian Whitlock May 7 '09 at 15:56
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I would recommend solid state storage, as the media is much less likely to degrade or malfunction.

I would also recommend double backing up your data and frequently moving it. This allows you to catch the failure of any media and remedy it by using the good copy. It also allows you to move formats if a format becomes redundant.

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Ideally backup media should have the following attributes

  • large enough to store your data without lots of media swapping
  • a different technology from your primary storage
  • has a long shelf life
  • will be fine when moved around a lot
  • affordable

For a home users, where afford-ability is very important having a different media type like tapes isn't really affordable. Using optical disks would require far too much media swapping. Most people, including me, choose portable hard drives because it meets most of the requirements.

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Setup a file server (Windows Home Server is a good choice if you're a Windows home/shop).

Then, use a service like Carbonite to keep an off-site backup of your data.

Alternately (or in conjunction with), have a portable hard drive/NAS to keep a mirrored copy on.

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Buy 2 Hard Drive Docks and at least 2 (a 3rd protects against loss in transit) Hard Drives. Keep one dock at home and one at you office. Cycle your drive between locations so that you have 2 copies of your data and protection against theft or fire at any one location. Instead of moving the drives physically, I have a nightly cron job on my office workstation that uses rsync over ssh to connect to my home server.

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While I'm also a fan of using multiple hard drives, keep the 3-2-1 Rule in mind as well: Have at least 3 copies of every important file on at least 2 different types of media (hard drive, SSD, DVD, cloud, tape, etc.) with at least 1 copy off-site.

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