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Best Home Backup Strategy Now?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the all-thumbs dept.

Data Storage 611

jollyreaper writes "Technology moves quickly and what was conventional wisdom last year can be folly this year. But the one thing that's remained constant is hard drives are far too large to backup via conventional means. Tape is expensive and can be unreliable, though it certainly has its proponents. DVDs are just too small. There are prosumer devices like the Drobo, but it's still just a giant box of hard drives, basically RAID. And as we've all had drilled into our heads, 'RAID is not backup.' When last this topic came up on Slashdot, the consensus was that hard drives were the best way to backup hard drives. Backup your internal HDD to an external one, and if your data is really important, have two externals and swap one off-site once a week. Is there any better advice these days?"

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SSD (1, Interesting)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749427)

Back up to a honking flash drive?

Re:SSD (5, Informative)

Zurk (37028) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749853)

This is a bad idea. Other than the ludicrous cost of the SSD, flash drives tend to fail all at once. bam! and all your data is gone. This is also why i do not use a USB key for backups.
On my system everything is dumped on a 2TB mirrored system (simple 2 x 2TB HDDs running debian software encryption + RAID lvm) and periodically backed up to blu ray DLs in duplicate. At $10/disk from japan (see ebay) two verbatims back up 50GB in duplicate for $20.
Typically it takes 2-3 months to generate that amount which means its cost effective. DVDRs (Taiyo Yudens) fill the gap if there is not enough data to justify a bunch of blu rays.

Do we have to bring this up over and over again??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749429)


Re:Do we have to bring this up over and over again (4, Insightful)

haifastudent (1267488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749489)


That's the protocol. Now what media do you recommend? Another hard drive?

Re:Do we have to bring this up over and over again (3, Interesting)

Zurk (37028) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749619)

i use rsync + samba on a linux box over the network with 2TB drives in a mirror (encrypted, mirrored with debian) for primary backup and have a LG Blue Ray burner for secondary backup. I get 50GB DL blu rays for $10 each from ebay (shipped from japan in 10 packs) mostly using verbatims. I burn two blu rays at a time with copies of the sam data on both and store them separately. $20 for 50 gig is not a bad bargain.

Re:Do we have to bring this up over and over again (1)

blueskies (525815) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749909)

Aren't external usb/firewire/esata drives cheaper than $200/500 gig? I think they are around $100, so you get $10 per 50 gig. It's secondary backup while they aren't permanent you can rotate through them and reuse them.

Re:Do we have to bring this up over and over again (2, Interesting)

node 3 (115640) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749767)


Ok, that covers the <5% of users who can set up and maintain a backup systems based on rsync. What about the other 95%?

As an interface to set up a backup system for a moderately adept geek with sufficient focus to set up and maintain a recurring rsync backup, an above average grasp of the layout of their filesystem, and the presence of mind to alter their rsync script as their computer changes over time, rsync is extremely powerful. For everyone else, it's next to useless.

Re:Do we have to bring this up over and over again (3, Funny)

godrik (1287354) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749881)

As an interface to set up a backup system for a moderately adept geek with sufficient focus to set up and maintain a recurring rsync backup, an above average grasp of the layout of their filesystem, and the presence of mind to alter their rsync script as their computer changes over time, rsync is extremely powerful. For everyone else, it's next to useless.

On the other hand, if you thought you could ask on /. you probably match this description...

External and Online (4, Informative)

basementman (1475159) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749433)

Switching off-site backups every week is an unnecessary hassle. Back up to an external hard drive and an online backup service. Anything more than that is overkill unless you have really important data.

Re:External and Online (1)

eggman9713 (714915) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749545)

That's fine if your ISP doesn't have draconian caps. I have over 2TB of stuff (legal, mind you, lets not get a redundant "You must be pirating" theme going). Mostly photos and video content. My ISP caps at 100GB per month. Online backup is not a viable option except for my most important stuff. I use the offsite backup drive method, however I don't have two sets that I swap, I just have one offsite backup that I bring home from work ever other week.

Re:External and Online (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749617)

Not only caps, but some people (like me) have connection with a bad upload speed. I can do 150KB/s if I load balance over two connections but a single connection can only do 80KB/s, way slower than my DDS4 tape drive (not to mention LTO1).

Re:External and Online (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749641)

so, you're pirating space at work for your off-site storage, or do you pay them?

Re:External and Online (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749653)

You have 2TB of data, but how much are you actively adding/changing on a weekly basis? Sure, it'll take a while to upload your initial 2TB, but incremental backups should not too much bandwidth.

The problem of course is finding online backup solutions that do incremental backups reliably and efficiently.

Re:External and Online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749655)

2TB is 40 blu ray DLs. at 10 bux apiece you can back up your files for $400.

Re:External and Online (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749807)

You are assuming the average computer has a Blu-Ray drive, most don't.

Re:External and Online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749901)

average computer from when ? 1970 ?
fine. add $150 for a blu ray burner. gee...wasnt that expensive ?

Re:External and Online (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749657)

One of the reasons to have two external drives is that the one you are using to make a backup is no longer external. If you get hit by lightning, or you computers power supply decides to EOL itself, while you are doing the backup to your one and only "external" drive, you will see my point.
Another benefit of having two external drives is that if you screw up a restore from backup, you have another one to try it on. Stupid things like these happen way more often that you would think, often more often than simple drive failures.

Re:External and Online (2, Informative)

rvw (755107) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749705)

That's fine if your ISP doesn't have draconian caps. I have over 2TB of stuff (legal, mind you, lets not get a redundant "You must be pirating" theme going). Mostly photos and video content. My ISP caps at 100GB per month. Online backup is not a viable option except for my most important stuff. I use the offsite backup drive method, however I don't have two sets that I swap, I just have one offsite backup that I bring home from work ever other week.

Some of those online backup services offer the option to send in harddrives or tapes to make the start. If you stick with offsite backups, you can leave one big basis backup at work, and only swap the incremental backups. Then two simple 2.5" usb drives are big enough to handle that.

Re:External and Online (1)

InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749597)

It's true, being realistic my life wouldnt fall apart if I lost all of my files so I don't bother with multiple extra backups. (Work is a different story)

Most of my files (like documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, etc) I backup onto an 8GB USB key.

I email some personal stuff (like my resume) to myself so I have a copy of it on Gmail plus I can access it from anywhere.

Music and movies go on an external drive.

For a simple solution if you have a Mac, just get an external drive and use Time Machine.

Re:External and Online (1)

rvw (755107) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749713)

For a simple solution if you have a Mac, just get an external drive and use Time Machine.

Get two external 2.5" usb drives, and always leave one of them offsite.

say what? (1, Redundant)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749435)

But the one thing that's remained constant is hard drives are far too large to backup via conventional means.

Maybe it's unconventional to use, I dunno, another hard drive?

Re:say what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749477)

dude. Seriously?

  Not only did you not read the article. You didn't read the summary.

Re:say what? (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749675)

Actually I read the summary and decided it was stupid. Sort of like, "I want to make a ham sandwich. Conventionally these contain bread and ham, but I'm an idiot so I want to make it from dog hair and epoxy resin".

Re:say what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749773)

Your summary of the summary is fucking awesome.

Re:say what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749817)

Agreed. Unfortunaly there is no +1 awesome.

Read The Fucking Summary (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749585)

But the one thing that's remained constant is hard drives are far too large to backup via conventional means.

Maybe it's unconventional to use, I dunno, another hard drive?

From said fucking summary:

"When last this topic came up on Slashdot, the consensus was that hard drives were the best way to backup hard drives. Backup your internal HDD to an external one, and if your data is really important, have two externals and swap one off-site once a week. Is there any better advice these days?"

Re:say what? (5, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749607)

I think the OP's post arose from a misunderstanding of what "RAID is not backup" means.

The adage isn't an admonition not to use hard drives as a means of backing up data. Rather, it is concerned with the fact that any change to your data is committed to each duplicate volume in a RAID, so if you delete an important file, for example, it's just as gone as if you weren't running a RAID.

That's completely different from mirroring your drive onto an external hard drive and putting it on a shelf somewhere. If you delete a file on your live system, you can restore from that backup.

Re:say what? (1)

Machtyn (759119) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749895)

Or running an external RAID 1 setup. If one external backup drive fails, the other will have all the data. But, certainly, if you are going to have two drives of the same size, then alternating backups to each drive is the best. If you are really concerned, get 4 drives. Have two sets of RAID 1 drives, alternate each set every week. Don't forget to test your backups and your restoration procedure.

Re:say what? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749795)

Use hard drives from old boxes. Hard drives typically fail with in the first three months or after about seven years of use. If you are anything like me you have at least a couple of 40 and 60 gig ide drives around that have served for a few years but are small and slow by todays standards.

These drives are actually in their prime in terms of reliability. Buy one of those USB devices that you can slot both ide and sata drives into for writing your backups. Store the drives in a reasonably dry place and they will be readable for a long long time.

Raid 1 + version control (2, Insightful)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749443)

Not the same as external backup, but it provides redundancy against a single drive failure and provides history. Otherwise, run backup overnight every now and then to an external drive and store it away.

Network Backups (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749451)

You should try Mozy - free for 2GB, $5/month for unlimited. I've been using them for a year and its seamless.

Re:Network Backups (2, Informative)

anotheregomaniac (1439993) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749567)

Carbonite works well to. I've got over 100GB backed up with them for $50/year. Comes out to about $0.04/GB/Month.

I use... (1, Insightful)

haifastudent (1267488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749467)

... Amazon S3 mounted on FUSE. USD $0.17 per gigabyte to store offsite, and with FUSE I can browse it like it's local. I am very happy, and saving money too.

Re:I use... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749613)

Are you joking? S3 is perhaps the most overpriced way to backup data.

You're paying at least $0.15/GB/month for the space, and then paying $0.10/GB transferred in and $0.17/GB transferred out.

So if you were to use 1TB of storage over 5 years filling it perhaps 3 times over that period and reading it 10x, it would cost $1800 for the space alone, $300 bw in, $1700 bw out, for a total price of $3800.

Meanwhile, you can get 1TB hard drives for $80 everyday (you could almost buy 50 of them for the price of your online service). I'd love to hear how you can twist the math around so badly that it looks like you're actually saving money! Ever considered a career in politics?

Re:I use... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749689)

Amazon S3 would cost me over $300/month. I don't know where you got 0.17 pricing. but that does not include sending or retreiving the data. Browsing also has costs...

Re:I use... (1)

rvw (755107) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749741)

Mozy is much cheaper, although S3 can be cheaper when you want to backup multiple machines.

Backup? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749469)

What do you mean Take a Backup?
My Hard disk is nowhere near full.
Hmmmm, I must download some more Music.

Ok, Only joking.
Seriously, how many Windows users know that lots of important stuff is in hidden direcetories that just copying your files is not going to work?

BD-R DL discs aren't too bad (3, Informative)

Brian Stretch (5304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749475)

Almost 50GB per disc and brand name blanks aren't too expensive if you know where to look [] . (Hey Newegg: surely y'all could save us some nuisance if you'd import a shipping container or two of blanks direct from Japan...) Nero Linux supports Blu-ray drives. RAID1 for primary storage with BD-R DL backup, with the backups ideally stored securely off-site should be sufficiently paranoid for most home users though Blu-ray is too new to have real-world long-term integrity statistics.

Remote backup to a rented dedicated server is also a possibility though not terribly practical in America due to certain monopoly carriers (<cough>AT&T</cough>) being too cheap to build FTTH, at least until they run out of duct tape and bailing wire to keep their WWII-era copper plant patched together, and even then.

BD-R DL is expensive and inconvenient (1)

Weedhopper (168515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749701)

That's still roughly 10 bucks a disk for 500GB. You can buy 2x the HD storage for less than that price.

While optical media has its advantages, the convenience of an automated backup solution to an HD or multiple HDs means it's more likely to happen, thus is more useful. I do incremental backups to an external HD on an hourly basis. How do I do that on BD without it becoming very quickly A) expensive and B) damn inconvenient?

Let's face it, at the cost of HD storage, there's really no better general case solution.

Differential + hard drive - online (3, Informative)

junglebeast (1497399) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749481)

All of the online backup strategies are a joke. Due to bandwidth restrictions, it would take years just to make a backup of a typical user's hard drive, and they don't offer enough space (seriously). The cheapest form of medium currently is hard drives, so my current backup system is to have 2 equally sized 500 GB drives and I use Acronis on a schedule to do a differential backup of one drive to the other once a week during early morning hours. If the differentials start to get too large, I'll do a new full backup and start doing differentials from there again. I haven't found any backup solution that is "totally" automatic in this regard, but since it only requires manual intervention once every several months it's not a huge deal.

Re:Differential + hard drive - online (1)

Skylinux (942824) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749553)

Yes Acronis is great, I used to install it for our clients all the time.
It was configured to backup every time when the computer was turned off (Startmenu => Shutdown). This was very reliable and I don't recall any issues with this setup. I do recall restoring entire systems from backups a few times.

1) Install new drive
2) Boot with recovery CD, select restore ... wait a few minutes
3) Done

Acronis is a nice little program, well worth the money.

Re:Differential + hard drive - online (4, Interesting)

rainwalker (174354) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749913)

Really? I don't think you've looked at this very carefully...personally I use Mozy, it's a couple bucks a month, the initial upload took a week or so, but it was all backgrounded and I never even noticed (yes, you can turn your computer off, etc.). Daily incremental backups take just a few seconds. Retrieval is via downloading, if you just want a few files, or for some money ($50? I think?) they'll overnight you a couple of DVD's with your whole backup on it. So, it's cheap, requires absolutely no thinking on my part, is fire/meteor proof, and has unlimited storage. The choice was obvious, from my point of view.

Backups are a software problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749483)

Aside from the choice of backup medium (home users back up to flash if they have less than 8GB of data and to hard disks if they need more space), the big reason why people don't backup is that doing it right is ridiculously complicated, due to lack of software support. There's basically no way to produce a reliable full backup from within a running system. If people are supposed to make backups that they can rely on, this must change.

Re:Backups are a software problem (1)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749851)

For a "FULL" backup, boot from external storage (FireWire, for example, on a Mac), or optical media, then gzip the entire disk image to a file on external storage. ALL of the state is saved. No log or event files are "in progress" on the main disk.

Booted from external storage, I think something like "ghost" would work similarly, but I don't have a copy to try.

If you can partition your data from the "operating system", then image just the OS when you make changes, such as after an update or program install. It will be smaller and faster to back up.

"user data" partitions can be backed up with the system running during idle time.

We're talking home computers, not 24/7 production servers.

I like my layered approach.. (5, Informative)

Anrego (830717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749487)

I decided that I have three main "categories of data":

- easily replaceable: This is stuff that is fairly easy to replace.. for instance I have ripped a huge portion of my DVD collection (for my own use). If I lost this data, it would not be a tragedy .. just a pain in the ass.
- hard to replace: This is stuff that does exist "out there".. but would not be easy to replace. This includes old TV shows that you can't buy or if you can are very hard to find.
- irreplaceable: Self explanatory.. this is my documents, code, photos, etc that could not be replaced if lost

I keep everything besides OS files on a file server. Raid 6 (two parity stripes).. this is the first layer..
to me this is adequate to protect "easily replaceable" stuff (which in my case constitutes a huge chunk of file space).

I backup everything in the "hard to replace" and "irreplaceable" categories to a seperate (removable but stays in the system) hard disk (so far 1TB has been enough to hold all this data). I make a
secondary backup to a second removable drive and store this "off site". This secondary backup does not get updated very often.. which is the trade off I guess... but it provides a "last hope" if something
crazy ever happened.. like my house burning down.

Oh.. and backups are encrypted!

I use Limewire to backup my multimedia (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749547)

I store all of my porn videos and ripped music in the Limewire cloud, and let other people back it up for me. Works great, and I often realize I have backed up songs that I don't even remember ripping!

Re:I use Limewire to backup my multimedia (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749669)

Hey, some of your files are corrupted, they don't really work I've heard

Re:I like my layered approach.. (1)

fluffernutter (1411889) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749719)

I second this.. I do this as well.

I have three repositories:
- A 2TB internal raid 10 composed of four 1 Tb drives
- An external USB drive that acts as a repository for BackupPC []
- A plain external USB drive at my parent's house

-Almost everything (ie. easly replacable) goes on my 2Tb RAID 10 except for the stuff that is on the solo primary drive, which is backed up with BackupPC on an external USB drive
-The hard to replace stuff goes on the RAID and has incremental backups via BackupPC
-The impossible to replace stuff gets all three. on the RAID, backup with BackupPC, rsync every four hours to the drive at my parent's house.

Re:I like my layered approach.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749785)

that's a lot of work to keep your porn safe

Re:I like my layered approach.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749893)

your dad must be fascinated by that USB drive on his computer...the one that magically fills up with fresh porn all the time, no matter how much he deletes, the porn just keeps coming and coming, new stuff all the time

I hope you at least include some from his favorite categories, maybe some retro poon

You're the first to ask "WTF am I backing up?" (4, Funny)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749825)

I just can't be bothered with slashdot any more. It's full of dummies with mod points. How do I get off the Internet?

Do I need a megabyte of backup capacity for every megabyte of storage? No, I decide what's important and how long it's important for.

Re:I like my layered approach.. (2, Insightful)

Like2Byte (542992) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749839)

Your post reminded me of this discussion on "Security Now!".

original transcript: []

(emphasis mine)
Steve: MacBreak Weekly, just as we were getting ready to do this. And he made a comment about - you were talking about ripping DVDs. And he said, yeah, you know, you can get a terabyte drive now for 90 bucks.

Leo: Exactly.

Steve: And I'm thinking, yeah, and that's what SpinRite costs. And he said so, you know, there's really no need to burn all those. Just rip them all onto that terabyte drive. And I'm thinking, yes, please do. Because, please.

Leo: Why is that, Steve?

Steve: Good. Put your whole movie collection on there because I will have your money. When that $89 terabyte drive craps out on you...

Leo: We're buying - are you saying people should buy fancier drives, or just this is inevitable?

Steve: Put all the crown jewels, put everything you have on hard disk.

Leo: Well, don't throw away the DVDs. Keep them. But it really is true that, if there's data on there, it's worth more than 89 bucks. It's not a question of buying another drive, it's a question of getting that data back.

Steve: Yes. I mean, people, for a while people were saying, well, gee, Steve, $89, that's pretty steep. And I'd say, yes, I understand. And then they'd say, well, we can buy a new drive for that. Yes, but it doesn't - it's not all of the data that you've got. It's not everything that's been installed in your system before. It's not, I mean, what's your time worth to, like, recreate everything from scratch? And in some cases these are irreplaceable. These are people's entire photo libraries that have never been backed up, never put somewhere else.

The point is, Terabyte drives fail, too. Keep that in mind for your data retention policy. One might even be so inclined to purchase SpinRite ahead of time to validate the drive's integrity before being placed into use and occasionally validating the drive's integrity from time to time.

If you're paranoid... (1)

MukiMuki (692124) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749491)

OpenSolaris and 8 drive RAIDZ-2. PHYSICALLY disconnect that fileserver (and turn it off) and sync up to it once a month.

Use GlusterFS or RSync to sync that up to your main computer. If you can figure it out, make incrimental backups to DVD once a week (or day, if it's that important). Take those DVDs off-site into a vacuum sealed (not expensive, you can make one that uses a hand pump and a box). If everything goes to hell, restoring from DVDs takes forever but you have that option, and that's what's important.

Windows Home Server + Jungle Disk (4, Informative)

nadamucho (1063238) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749503)

Windows Home Server actually has very good backup options. a)It allows for folder duplication on shared folders, protecting your shared files against a single hard drive failure. b)It allows you to add a hard drive as a backup drive, basically to dump all the shared folders, which can then be taken offsite. c)Jungle Disk has a WHS plugin, and there's an alternate Jungle Disk plugin which is allegedly better on, which provides your online protection. Automated daily backups mated with Volume Shadowing means that not only is your data safe, but previous versions are available too.

Re:Windows Home Server + Jungle Disk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749863)

Second Windows Home Server; works very well for me.

My system (1)

Pathwalker (103) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749529)

I bought a pair of Infrant ReadyNas NV+ systems a couple of years ago; I kept one for myself, and gave one to my parents.
My computers back up to my nas box, my parent's computer backs up to their nas box.
I keep a ssh tunnel open between both of our networks, and each nas box uses rsync to back up to the other one.

The only problem I've run into so far is Comcast's 250 gig cap; but so far I've been edging in slightly under the limit.

Re:My system (1)

BlackCreek (1004083) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749731)

I have a ReadyNas Duo. I find it extremely slow for incremental backups. Sometimes I think I should have just bought a big external disk.

Do you perform full backups or incremental?


My backup scheme:

Every two or three weeks, I'll do a incremental backup of my whole home directory to my ReadyNas (through faubackup).

The actually important stuff is under either Git or Mercurial, I push them either to the ReadyNas or to my G1 SD card after a significant commit. I have been considering using only one of these, and using private repositories with either Bitbucket or Github.

What I'm doing this fall... (5, Interesting)

JimXugle (921609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749531)

I've re-purposed a computer as a backup server, which lives at my parents house. It runs Ubuntu, with ZFS running over FUSE. Each night, a scripted CRON event will run zpool scrub on my storage pool, and if there is a problem, it will send me a text.

My MacBook Pro will use Time Machine over NFS over SSH to make the actual backups from my dorm/wherever I happen to be.

Commence CDDL/GPL/BSD Flamewar.

Re:What I'm doing this fall... (1)

coaxial (28297) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749899)

How did you setup time machine to do that, since it doesn't work out of the box like that.

Offsite and full backups (1)

stoffell (1601239) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749533)

I recently started with an off-site rsync copy (daily) to a remote linux box. The linux box has an encrypted partition for added security.

Advantages: automatic, offsite, encrypted (rsync over ssh, over an Openvpn tunnel), rsync algorithm (only copy differences, etc..)... An extra step in the future will be adding BackupPC to the remote linux box.

Why all the hassle? I need to safe-guard approx. 25 GB (mostly pictures) and online backup services. If they're free, no thanks.

not really. (5, Insightful)

ZERO1ZERO (948669) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749549)

"it there any better advice these days"

Not really, keep doing it like that. for how to do that read this: []

I'm kinda a 'option 1' guy, but stuff that's really important, I just burn on to DVD every so often.

The other option, now that most folk now have halfdecent connections is to set up an rsync to a buddies machine, (and reciprocate) , using encryption, you now have an automatic off site back up.

Same old (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749561)

HDD are fast, cheap, and sort of reliable. Keep two separate (physically different locations) double sets of them and its relatively safe.... and probably still the best way to do it for large data collections.

If the data only has small changes to it day by day and you have fast upload access consider adding over the internet off site back up (two locations).

Anyone know the long term stability of SSD drives?

Mozy is good (2, Informative)

Mike McTernan (260224) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749569)

Mozy [] is good - it's offsite backup with nice shell integration. Sadly it's Windows only though :(

Re:Mozy is good (3, Insightful)

dieman (4814) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749623)

Except its also a-ok on Mac OS X. I use it to backup my home mac server just fine. It appears to use some hack based on rdiff-backup.

Re:Mozy is good (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749633)

hmmm. i use mozy on my macbook, but no shell, that i am aware of. it's automatic and free up to 2 GB.

Re:Mozy is good (1)

swabeui (1291044) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749857)

Mozy has saved me twice. Two massive drive crashes about a year apart. For $4.95 a month, you can't beat it.

The only downsize is the restore. I was in the middle of a huge project during the last one and it took 3 days to download everything. I had to download bits of data that I needed to get working again, but really got me thinking I should do more than just Mozy.

I have two raid1 sets, one internal and the other external. External has all my data, pictures, etc.. Internal has scratch folders and the OS. I realized that having to rebuild the OS, developer tools, adobe suite, settings, takes a couple days barebones and weeks of tweaking after. It was only another $80 to mirror it, well worth it.

'backup' to a computer is more than just a hard drive crash. Theft and Fire can just as easily wipe out a decade worth of family photos.

Easy (3, Interesting)

Isbiten (597220) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749571)

I have an external harddrive attached to my Macbook and Time machine takes care of the rest. And my important document and photos I upload to my dropbox That way I have a local backup of my entire harddrive in case something happens to my Macbook and one stored on the "cloud" that I can reach if my house burns down. []

Options depend on your needs (2, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749581)

It depends on how many important files you have. If you have just a few documents, you can still burn them to CD periodically, or use an online for-pay backup service such as Carbonite or Rsync.Net. The reason to use HDDs is because you have lots of data, or your computer data, including OS installs is very important to you, and you need a way to recover rapidly. (E.g. you _really_ can't wait, and it's worth the cost of external HDDs and accessorie to avoid waiting)

If money is no object, ioSafe [] makes some fireproof, waterproof, shock-proof drive enclosures, which could help against disaster situations. The alternative is indeed use of an offsite location. You need a lock box or safe regardless of method, to help protect against human risks to your drives. Or utilize encryption to help prevent data from fallign into the wrong hands.

Otherwise, if you use HDs for backup, consider a hard drive docking station. Like one of these [] or a voyager Q [] (who makes a model supporting Firewire800 also); docking stations are more convenient to buying a bunch of external HDs. Eventually, when you upgrade your hard drive, use the old one to store important files.

If you have a stack of old hard drives, you can actually use them also. So a dock, and some plastic cases to put your internal HDs in could be favorable to buying a bunch of external HDs. (There are companies that specialize in selling rugged anti-static plastic cases for HDs, but I just pile them in a box, and use the original anti-static bags that came with new HDs)

If you are using old HDDs for archival purposes, make sure to spin them up every few motnhs, or you suffer bit rot, and the mechanical components of the drive may fail.

Or get one dock + multiple cheap HDDs for important documents.

And possibly one large HD for a full system backup. Apple users are blessed with Time machine. Linux users can dd or rsync their files, and even have a script do it nightly (so long as you have multiple HDs, and cycle them after backups).

Windows users have got to use third-party software or do some scripting.

backuppc (5, Interesting)

Jon_S (15368) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749587) []

Get an old P3 for free somewhere and load this up on it with a big disk or two for storage, put it on your network, and run it. That's what I do and it works like a charm. I went through all the options over the years, tape, DVDs, manual copying to a server.

Backuppc backs up all my windows and linux PCs. It backs up only what I tell it to, and it does both full and incremental. Sort of a pain in the ass to set up (I use cygwin rsyncd on the windows boxes, and regular rsyncd on the linux boxes), and it works well.

Only drawback is it is still on site.

Is your data _really_ that important? (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749589)

For some people their livelihood depends on the safety of their information. For most of us though, it's really little more than attachment. If you've gotten to the point where you need to backup to tape "just in case", perhaps your problem isn't so much the danger of data loss, but you fear of data loss.

RAID (4, Insightful)

Deltaspectre (796409) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749593)

Just because the backup solution _uses_ RAID doesn't mean the old adage applies to it. As long as you are using it as external backups all is well.

What that phrase IS telling you to do however is not use RAID on the machine you want to back up and expect it to do what you want.

cost (4, Informative)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749621)

Once upon a time, the computer you wanted always cost (at least) $5,000.

This trend ended in the late 80's. All of a sudden, package system prices started trending seriously downwards, because due to Moore's law, computer speed started outrunning almost everything you'd want to run on it. Not true for certain specific apps, including graphics and games, but for office use it was perfectly fine.

I remember buying a 200 MB hard drive for $500 and thinking about what a great price it was.

Up until recently hard drives were one of the more expensive components left in a computer package. Now? Most are under $100. That's lower than tape backups used to be at their lowest prices. It's true, right now the best way to back up your hard drive is a second hard drive.

IMO the big question now is where that second hard drive will be. You can stick it in your computer and mirror your main drive in real time easily enough, but that means a virus or software issue will ruin both drives simultaneously. Better to sync them once a week? Perhaps.

Of course, this won't help you if there's a house fire. The fireproof hard drives are still darned expensive. Internet-based remote backup is great, if your broadband can handle it.

Re:cost (1)

Mr680x0 (1116783) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749915)

I had a house fire and almost lost all of my data...fortunately my secondary HD was ok. The fire wasn't too severe. The main one seemed to have failed, but I cloned all my data to the second one a few days before. Now I put all my important files on DVDs and keep them in my car, so if there's ever a fire again I won't lose the data.

The "cloud", of course. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749625)

Anything else is *so* last century.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749639)

For home backups, blue ray will do a fine job.

Shoot for long term reliability (4, Funny)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749661)

Cuneiform tablets work well for me. Don't store them in a flood zone, though.

3 backup drives and MobileMe (1)

kshkval (591396) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749663)

I have so many drives from so many years of external data that I do 2 Time Machine backups to 2 separate drives, a 3d SuperDuper backup about every 3 months to a drive stored in a safe deposit box and I avail myself of MobileMe sync services. Like I said, I use SuperDuper for the backups to the externally stored drive. That way, if a Time Machine backup is corrupted or wonky, the pooch is not you know what. On an ad hoc basis I backup my user folder using SuperDuper to a portable firewire bus-powered drive from OWC... so, I really have 4 backups. Between MobileMe, my smtp email, my use of gmail and the panoply of manually run backups, I feel pretty safe. Why feel safe? Bc I have done backups to a single drive before and ruined the backup and the main drive simultaneously. It was my fault, but I learned to never depend on a single backup again. Yes, it takes time, but the 3 months I needed to sift through 5 years of data (I used Data Rescue II from ProSoft successfully) was a lot worse. The other 2 Macs in the house are also backed up to 3 backup drives each using the same approach.

Tape is king for me (1)

adosch (1397357) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749665)

I use a pretty wide set of media for backups for my closet of hacked together servers; anywhere from SATA hard drives that I just hot-add and copy to, to still using CDs and DVD media for a tangible backup. But in the end, I really love tape. I've got a Dell Powervault 100T 20/40GB DDS-4 external SCSI tape drive ($40 eBay tops) and with a few open source tape backup tooks from and a handful of tapes, I feel really confident in my backups. To me, tapes have ALWAYS been a reliable tangible fashion to back super important data or server/OS content and get it back, reliably. I've been doing this really light setup for almost 3 years now and it's never failed me and it's really not that expensive at all if you stay on the back half of tape technology. Upfront cost wouldn't be any more than $100 if you did some serious online shopping for the tape drive, 5-10 tapes and a SCSI LV card.

Tape is not unreliable. (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749667)

Tape isn't cheap but it is cost-effective. I love, absolutely adore, the HP 1/8 LTO-4 autoloader that I use at my office, and I'm thinking about getitng one for personal/home use. Nothing else gives the kind of throughput we get from that thing (both reading and writing) and as for reliability, I would like to hear from anyone who has ever had an LTO-4 tape fail in service.

Re:Tape is not unreliable. (1)

adosch (1397357) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749917)

And I'd also like to hear from anyone who has an LTO-4 in THEIR HOUSE backing up their home system. I think you missed the point: Tape is cheap for home solution if you aren't bleeding edge. I think that falls in line with *any* sort of media for home backup solution.

Tape can be unreliable (4, Interesting)

networkzombie (921324) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749677)

Since when is tape unreliable? My DLT has a MTBF of 250,000 hours. I've used DLT, DDS, and Travan for years and I've seen far more HDD failures. I've seen plenty of tape drives fail, but not the tapes themselves. I trust my tapes far more than any spinning platter. Come to think of it, I trust my tapes more than any other backup I use (Optical disc, HDD, and Cloud). Once my station wagon full of tapes caught fire on the highway, but I blame that cheap-ass roach clip.

Never posted before. (1)

Trogdor1 (1453955) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749715)

I'm curious if this is breaking some kind of record for repeated questions. I mean I know it's a common thing but come tf on.

proprietary raid sucks (1)

XaXXon (202882) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749723)

One problem I've run into using hardware raid is that if there is a problem not with the disks, but with the hardware controller, you can be locked in to buying another of the device that screwed you.

However, with RAID 1 or software raid, you can easily just put the software on another machine and be up and running. For this kind of thing where performance isn't the biggest factor, that's what I go with.

If you look up the reviewes on the drobo, everyone seems to love it until it fails. Then you seem to be completely SOL.

Re:proprietary raid sucks (1)

Aphonia (1315785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749827) []

DDF is a standard for this stuff, and you might be able to migrate within a brand - I 'm not quite sure how much DDF is used but i've seen it specified for some Arcea and Adaptec.

Anyhow, Id go with backing up to more HD's, and moving them to safe places (fireproof safe) with periodic testing.

Also, I'd put multiple copies of the most important data to say optical media or what not, and move some stuff offsite, and maybe grab some space online for some more backups.

Depends on the files (3, Interesting)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749737)

For really valuable files (the ones I won't ever be able to replace if I lose them: my own documents, my photos), I burn a monthly DVD and drop it alternatively at my parents' and brother's.

For the rest of the junk (media files: music, videos, books...)that are very large but not that important (or easily replaceable), I have a large external HD to which I clone my main HD once a week. I then keep the Backup HD off-line until the next time.

DVDs are just fine. (1)

bistromath007 (1253428) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749747)

So what if you have to use a bunch of them? You can buy a giant stack of them for dirt cheap. That porn collection will impress your friends more when it takes up physical space.

USB or SATA? (1)

ericlondaits (32714) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749753)

I'm thinking of backing up to another hard drive and I'm torn between an external USB drive or another SATA disk. Considering I would probably (if we're being honest) leave the USB disk connected at all times (for a daily backup) with full knowledge that in the case of a fire it'd be toast along with the machine... is there any incentive to use USB over SATA? It's pricier and slower, right?

as always, it depends (2, Informative)

digibud (656277) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749765)

it depends mostly on how much data you have. I have a couple of terabytes. I also have a daughter living 5 miles away so I backup at my house to external drives and swap those backups with another set kept at her house. If you have 50megs of data (many people have very small requirements) then an online backup strategy might be very handy. You can even get 32gig and larger(?) USB flash drives that are more than adequate for most people who just want to backup their email and pictures/data. Tape drives are fine for geeks but access is slow and rebuilding a drive becomes more of a chore. Definitely not for mom and dad if they aren't geeks. External drives give total bootability (or the potential for it) and for most people are the easiest way to do a complete mirror of your HD. For data, most people can fit all their data (if they can even find it) on a USB Thumb Drive.

RAID + one external drive (1)

Kocureq (1191079) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749775)

hardware RAID 5 for minimising impact of disk failures. And one external hard drive backup, kept in offsite location. Also, sync the most important data with your laptop, if you have one, so you have kind of two external backup media.

Let's define backups.. again... (2, Informative)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749811)

Backups are:
- off line (viruses, power surge, sabotage...)
- off site (fires, theft...)
- tested (i've got horrors stories of people that THOUGHT they had backups...)
- multiple (... and of backups that turn bad at the worst possible moment)

So backing up data is a hassle, and can be expensive depending on what you need: a DVD, a BD, an HD... But pretty much the only foolproof solution anyway is to burn your data onto a media you then send away to your parents' or other trusted 3rd party. Once a month is the very minimum.

If you're using HDs, you may want to re-use them after a while, but don't forget to keep some very old ones, for when you realize ages after the facts that one of your files got corrupted.

Levels of importance (5, Informative)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749813)

There are three kinds of data:

1. If you lose this data you will go to jail.

2. If you lose this data, your business will be impacted.

3. If you lose this data, you will have less options for entertainment.

#1 tends to be a megabyte or less.

#2 tends to be a few hundred megabytes of documents.

#3 tends to be terabytes.

My company has a PDF of every document that we've touched in the past decade (federal law requires this retention), and our entire business continuity backup fits easily on four LTO-4 tapes, plus a very less-than-full tape that we rotate for offsite storage weekly. We've explored every backup system out there and this is by far the most cost-effective for us.

I don't understand why the OP claims "tape is unreliable", as I have not heard of a single instance of in-service failure of an LTO-4. As for it being expensive, it is, but before we went to tape we were using Firewire800 external drives, much more expensive than tape cartridges, and not as reliable as some people have been led to believe.

USB and FW external drives almost never fail as long as they are powered on. They fail in storage, which seemed pretty weird to me, since they should be able to sit on a warehouse shelf indefinitely. My low-sample unscientific data from experience says otherwise.

Since everybody is going from LTO-2/3 to LTO-4, you should be able to get LTO-3 transports pretty cheaply.

But my first advice is to identify the data in categories #1 and #2, where you might realize that it's a good practice in any case, to store the important stuff with its own priority. This is the hard part. Identifying what's actually important. If you don't do this, no matter what backup system you end up using, you're going to be burying the important stuff in the noise, introducing risk.

The OP also mentioned Drobo. I have a Drobo and I love it, but I must warn you that it's pretty slow, even with really fast drives. Don't expect to be able to copy a terabyte to it in less than 40 or 50 hours, even with firewire 800. This is the problem that drove us to tape, which is much faster than any filesystem we can feed it from.

Cheap drives and Bacula (1)

Etherized (1038092) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749831)

Well, I don't think there's an ideal solution, but I can tell you what I do.

For software, I find Bacula [] to be a very effective solution. It's open source, cross platform, and very flexible. Bacula was designed with tape in mind, so it takes a bit of wrangling to make it work well on hard drives - but once you get it set up properly, it works quite well with disk.

Now, I back everything "critical" up using bacula onto my ZFS array of cheap drives on my Solaris box. I just let ZFS itself do the compression (I didn't benchmark this, Bacula's compression may be more effective) and retain the backups on disk for about 2 months. I do nightly incremental backups and monthly full backups, but Bacula gives you lots of different options in this respect.

I then take the Bacula backups and rsync them over to external media weekly. I also take and keep 4 zfs snapshots of these backups on my external media, so that I can go back 4 weeks prior if I need to. I also rsync over to a separate smaller external drive "every now and then." I keep that other drive in the opposite side of the house (better would be to leave it at a friend's house, but I'm lazy - I just have to hope that one end of the house survives a fire / theft unscathed).

I have another class of data - data that I deem important, but also capable of being re-acquired at minimal expense. This data gets no incremental backups, and is only rsync'd around. It gets put on the larger external hard drive, but not on the smaller secondary drive. Beyond that, I have a third class of data, which I deem completely expendable. This is mostly normal recordings from my MythTV machine, which I consider an acceptable loss, and these aren't backed up at all.

At the end of the day, there really is no magic bullet. I really like disks + bacula, but what works best for you will depend on what you're trying to back up (and how much value you place on making sure that this happens properly).

Backup strategy (1)

Tet (2721) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749833)

The backup strategy is the same as it's been for the past 40 years or more: keep copies of your data offsite, where you can get at them in a reasonable timeframe should anything happen to your local storage. The technology used to implement that strategy changes with time, though. Personally, I made the decision many years ago that removable media was a waste of time. The only sensible option is to have storage powered up and accessible at all times. So I rsync to a hosted server in a remote datacentre (the initial sync took forever over ADSL, but the nightly diffs are pretty quick)

Get out of your basement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749841)

Here's a silly idea: buy a hard drive and a low-power always-on computer and negotiate with a friend to do the same. Backup over internets to each other's new computers. Then you can get away with just one backup device that also happens to be offsite.

Back up the Data Files to the Cloud (5, Informative)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749845)

Ghost Virtual Machine [] gives 15gigs of data storage and right now if you use the promotion code of "launch" you get 10Gigs more as a bonus for 25Gigs. If you want to give me a referral my id is orion_blastar there, and each person you referred grants you 5Gigs more in a bonus.

Google Docs [] also has document storage but does not give as much as does. The Ghost Virtual Machine can access your Google Docs drive as well.

Here is a review of the top 5 online cloud storage sites [] so you can take your pick.

MyBloop [] offers unlimited free storage, but I am not 100% sure of that or their privacy policy.

Lifehacker talks about using your Yahoo Mail account for unlimited storage [] and also that Google's GMail almost offers the same service as well.

Do nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28749879)

Do nothing(TM) is the cheapest solution to the backup problem. By doing nothing you ensure that no amount of time will be wasted looking fr the backups if you lose your primary storage !

Online+spare HD (1)

beegle (9689) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749889)

Like most people, I have a small amount of truly irreplaceable content (documents, pictures) and a whole bunch of "it'd be annoying if I lost that" content (music, movies). One of the really convenient things about this split: the truly irreplaceable stuff is not very large. My docs and pictures occupy about 15 GB, and most of that is pictures.

I have an external hard drive where I back up everything at least nightly. This protects me from accidental deletions and a failed hard drive. It doesn't protect against fire or theft, though.

Services like Mozy and Carbonite offer off-site backup for about $5/month (there are many others -- these are the two best known, I think). I could string together something with a spare drive and a friend, but frankly, it would take a year or two before that approach matched the cost of Mozy et al., and frankly, I just don't WANT to worry about this crap. I'll pay the $60/year to make it someone else's problem.

One interesting option: Crash Plan at [] . They offer free backups to friends' machines, and paid backups to their own fileservers. Sounds like the best of both worlds, but I haven't gotten around to trying it yet.

Drobo (1)

KDingo (944605) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749907)

Now first of all, I think it is perfectly fine to use RAID as a backup as long as it is *not the primary storage* of the machine you are backing up.

I have been considering Drobo as a backup device but the high price keeps putting me off. However, unlike standard RAID implementations, Drobo's is unique where it is expandable. Just pop out the smallest disk and pop in a larger one. I think for people as myself that have growing libraries and growing home directories, maintainence of a backup device that easy should be appealing, since it gives us more time to think about how to migrate data off primary storage to a larger disk, or how to add an extra disk to the LVM, etc.

Got a hoe? No, Go Tahoe! (1)

jafo (11982) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749911)

Tahoe ( ) uses crypto to allow friends to share their storage space without exposing what is being stored.

So, you could get a bunch of friends to agree to get 1TB drives and set up Tahoe so that you could all push backups to these drives for backup purposes. However, I'm not sure how you would push the backups to the Tahoe file-system. Since the company behind Tahoe (All My Data) uses it to provide backup services, there must be some thought that has gone into this, but I don't know if the open-source side of it has any tools for it. I've heard rumors that something like Duplicity will support Tahoe as a backend, but I haven't looked into it.

But, this would take care of the off-site secure replication component.

As long as you don't lose your crypto key to the data when your house burns down, of course...

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