Home backup strategy

I've been trying to think of a good backup strategy for personal home use. The criteria is:

  1. Must be able to support large volumes of data (500GB+).
  2. Must provide at least 1 level of hardware redundancy.
  3. Must be fairly easy to use and maintain, even for non IT professionals.
  4. Must be fairly fast to use.
  5. Must be as cheap as possible.
  6. Must be fire/flood/theft proof.
  7. Must provide data security in case it falls in wrong hands.
A few solutions I thought of are:

1. Buy a NAS with say two 2TB drives connected in a RAID 1 configuration. This will support large volumes of data, caters for unexpected HDD failure, and is fairly easy to use. The main problem with this is both HDDs are in the same box, so if there's a power surge, or someone drops the box, or the dog chews on the power cable etc, chances are both disks will die at the same time, so it only offers partial hardware redundancy (unexpected mechanical failure of HDD that's not caused by any external factors). There's also no protection against fire/flood/theft, I'm not sure if it's the cheapest option, theres no security if the box gets stolen, and if a drive does fail, restoring the data may or may not be simple (depending on what software it comes with, etc). 

2. Store the data on a local internal HDD, or an external HDD, and mirror it to a cloud storage provider like Amazon S3. This covers hardware redundancy and fire/flood/theft protection very well as you have two copies of the data, one on your local drive, and one sitting on some server in some bunker on the other side of the world. This provides the best level of protection. But the main downfall is internet upload bandwidth. Unless you have access to unlimited internet with 1MB/s+ upload speeds, you'll be sitting there forever waiting to get your data in the cloud. You also need to factor in the price. Currently, it would cost over $50 a month to store 500GB in S3 (not including transfer costs and other hidden fees), which is definitely not cheap for personal home use. Security is also an issue, what if someone hacks your S3 account? 

3. Buy one internal 2TB HDD and one external 2TB USB HDD. Store everything on your internal disk and mirror it to the external every now and then (perhaps using something like Toucan). Keep the external disk off-site (at a friends place for example) to cover fire/theft/flood protection. This is fairly cheap (just the cost of two drives) and fairly easy to use (just need to remember to do the mirroring on a regular basis). The main problem perhaps is your friend having access to your data (or if the drive gets stolen, etc). To address this, need to add one extra layer, i.e. using TrueCrypt to create a large encrypted container in which you store the data, and using Toucan to perform a differential copy of the container to the external drive. This way as long as no one can guess your TrueCrypt password, only you'll have access to your data. 

So far I think solution 3 is the most feasible, although still far from ideal. Giving the disk to someone else limits your ability to do mirroring. Also, depending on how often you check the integrity of the external drive, it's possible for both copies of the data to fail (e.g. you give the external drive to a friend, he throws it under the bed, his kid finds it and smacks it around causing bad sectors without your friend knowing, 3 days later there's a thunderstorm and a power surge fries your computer along with your internal copy of the HDD, you go to your friends house to get the spare, but that's damaged too...).

To protect against this scenario you may want to:

4. Use 1 internal HDD, 1 external HDD you give to a friend, and 1 external HDD you keep yourself, all mirrored with the same TrueCrypt container. This should provide adequate redundancy against all sorts of freak accidents, at the expense of extra cost and maintenance.


Popular posts from this blog

Wkhtmltopdf font and sizing issues

Import Google Contacts to Nokia PC Suite

Can't delete last blank page from Word