This article originally appeared in “The Danville Tech Guy” column 6/22/2012 on the Danville Patch.
This weeks Danville Tech Guy question comes from Dave Y. Dave asks:
I am looking for a solution to archive a pile of digital images to get them off of my Mac’s hard drive. Would love a solution where there are two mirrored copies of each file in case one drive gets fried. I’m hardware illiterate but I feel like I’ve heard RAID is a good option. Maybe you know of something better?
Any recommendations for what I should buy? – Dave Y.
I am sure a lot of people run into this issue as most of us as digital video, images and music are the standard. Since we’re talking about data into the 100’s of gigabytes in most cases online backup may not be practical nor does it free up space on your hard drive so it really does make sense to look at RAID. (RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks – more at Wikipedia). I would recommend two things:
- A good local or network RAID device
- Off-site storage solution (backup)
Local or Network RAID Device
A good local (connected directly to your computer) or network (accessed through your network) RAID device will provide you with easy access to your files and protect them from a single hardware failure, generally speaking more disks = more protection with RAID. The easiest way to determine if you want local or network access depends on if you want multiple users to easily be able to access the device. Having worked with a number of different devices I find the Drobo units to be the most friendly for the typical home user. They have a number of models but the standard Drobo is nice as it has 4 drive bays. You can easily calculate how many drives and what size you will need using their calculator tool. If you still want RAID but want to do it on a budget just about any name brand hard drive manufacturer offers an External USB device with 2 disks to suite your needs. It would be worth looking to see what Seagate and Western Digital have to offer and there are other companies that specialize in these kinds of devices as well. I do tend to shy away from these products in general because of thermal issues and longevity problems associated with them. If you do decide to go the less expensive route just make sure the device has RAID 1 (Mirror) capability and that you configure it that way (a 4GB device will be 2GB if you use it Mirrored for example).
Off-site Storage Solution
This is a must Dave, if you have 100’s of GB of media content you obviously want to protect it. Just storing it on one RAID device is not at all sufficient. There are two simple options for this. One is to get an account with an online backup provider. I work with several solutions but I’d recommend SOS Online Backup based on my experience with their product. It is a product that will scale and you know what you are paying for. I tend to avoid the companies that offer unlimited data storage because it’s not really unlimited, if you reach a certain level they will force you to remove some files, make you pay more or terminate your account. The other option is to use an External USB storage device and keep that device in a different location than your RAID device is located. You will need to periodically update the files on the device. A good way to do this is to set asside an hour or two per month where you do computer maintenance. During that time you can run any updates you might have missed, run your backup, blow dust off your machine with canned air, and anything else that might need to be taken care of.