Backup

Many many years ago, probably about eight, I lost a bunch of data due to a hard disk failure. My backup strategy wasn’t that comprehensive then and so even though I didn’t lose everything, I lost enough to learn the hard lesson! Ever since then I’ve always been paranoid about data backup.

The first backup system I used was a Travan tape drive that stores about 256MB of data. Not much storage in today terms and very slow but it was very adequate back then. But as hard drive capacity grew along with digital media content, I soon upgraded to the ADR tape drive that stored about 1GB of data natively. That lasted me for awhile until I got my first iPod and my MP3/AAC collection skyrocket!

For a long while, probably about an year, I was doing selective backups to try to cramp only the most important data onto two ADR 2GB tapes. Backup speed wasn’t that back either using FireWire but then the tape drive failed and I was left with no backup at all. That made me very uneasy and led to my shift of strategy from tape to disk backup and I purchased a 80GB hard disk from LaCie. I used (and still use) the excellent Carbon Copy Cloner to clone my entire PowerBook drive to one of the 45GB partition, leaving the rest of 35GB for Leah’s PowerBook’s backup.

This worked perfectly until last night when I performed the bi-weekly backup and I hit the partition size limit. My disk has finally passed 45GB and the backup failed. I ended up deleting a bunch of very old data and apps that I’ll never used to push the disk down to just below 43GB. After that I was able to backup for the time being but as soon as I add any new files such as photos or music in the future I will easily trip over the limit.

So disk shopping tonight and the speed of hard disk storage capacity growth means that I can get double the size with the same money. The smallest LaCie drive of the same range as my existing one is 160GB for the same price and with tripe interfaces (FW400, FW800, and USB2.0)! My existing two years old 80GB disk only has FW400, for comparison. This 160GB drive should give me plenty of head room to grow even if I take a lot of photos.

Another backup item that I’ve been meaning to purchase for over an year is a DVD writer. One of the major missing component in my backup strategy is off-site backup. It is great that I clone my drive to another disk but if my apartment goes up in flame tomorrow everything will still be lost. Unless for some freak reason I have my laptop with me and not in the apartment!

A dual-layer DVD writer will have enough capacity to backup all of my critical data (documents, photos, music, etc.) and portable enough for me to take the disks off-site. But then the problem becomes where would I store these DVDs? I don’t have a safety deposit box and I am not going to open up just so I can put some DVDs in it. I guess I can also store actual legal documents there too but dropping off DVDs to a safety deposit box can be a chore. Another option is to mail the DVDs to a relative out of state. Yeah, as if I am going to mail DVDs to my parents in the U.K. every month. Filling out customs export declaration form for each mailing probably take longer than putting DVDs in safe deposit box! Not to mention the postages.

So now I am stuck with the off-site location problem. I am definitely going to get both the larger hard drive and DVD writer soon but until I find an off-site location to store the DVDs, I am no safer than I am now.

(Of course if someone has a DLT drive and a few tapes to donate, I am more than happy to take them off your hand! I’ll even do the safety deposit box thing, how’s that?!)

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2 comments

  1. Gideon

    What about a fire proof safe, which you could still keep in your appartment and even take with you when you move?

  2. Alex

    Good point! I forgot about the fire proof safe.

    Fire proof safe will not but only in the case of fire. Not sure how well it would stand up against other events such as hurricane, or earthquark, etc.

    At least that is better than nothing!

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