The perfect backup strategy: RAID 1 + Cloud
I’ve always been pretty obsessive about backing up my computer data. I firmly believe it’s not a question if your hard drive will die, but when it will die. Moreover, I’ve also always believed that in addition to a local backup, you also need an off-site copy as well. I’ve used just about every backup medium known to man: floppy disks, tapes, Syquest cartridges, Zipdisks, CDs, DVDs, hard drives, portable drives, etc. After all these years, I think I’ve finally found the perfect backup strategy.
My perfect backup strategy is a combination of using a NAS (network attached storage) configured for RAID 1 with a cloud-based service. For my NAS, I use a Synology Diskstation 2-bay 212J unit with twin 4TB drives. RAID 1 mirrors data on the two-disk array. In theory, the array will continue to operate even if one drive goes down. Since each drive is a mirror of the other, I have an instant backup of everything that I store on the NAS.
For my off-site backup, I use the iDrive cloud service. It’s fairly inexpensive and they always seem to be running specials for your first year or two of service. The initial backup is very slow–it took a couple weeks–, but after that the daily updates are pretty quick. (Note: you can have them send you a hard drive to speed up the initial backup.)
The real beauty of this combination of backup methods is that it all happens automatically. No need to swap, move or rotate backup medium, etc. Nothing. It just happens.
Another awesome feature of iDrive (and probably other similar services) is the ability to restore deleted files. I accidentally deleted an entire folder of very important files and was able to get them all back. I didn’t even have to worry if I had already overwritten them in my backups. Nice!
What to backup
Now, I only have 1TB of cloud storage, so I can’t back up everything that’s on my NAS. I’ve got a lot of archive files (e.g., big ISOs and video files) that don’t really need to be part of my everyday backup, so I skip them. Some of them I just store permanently on a hard drive. The litmus test for what to backup is to ask yourself, “what would you do if you lost this data?”
People love to criticize cloud storage. It’s too slow or I don’t like losing control. I would agree if you are creating huge amounts of new files that need to be backed constantly. Video falls in this category. I don’t agree on the whole control argument however.
Some people also don’t trust RAID. Well, it’s battled tested and has been around for decades. It’s just a hard drive controller with added features and everyone with a hard drive must have a controller. That is really splitting hairs.
That all said, do what you are comfortable with, but do it. Back ups are a necessary evil. If you like swapping hard drives and physically toting them around, more power to you. Me? I’m lazy. I’ll stick to my method until something better comes around. If you can show me a more simple, more straight forward, more automated way to do large-scale backups, please let me know.