And Now, Something A Little Lighter

Last week’s blog was heavy-duty, I know. So I figured this week I should tackle a somewhat less weighty topic. And so, I give to you a thousand words on the joys (or not) of backing up data.

This is something that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. In this all-digital age, my wife and I have all of our baby pictures and videos stored on various hard drives, and I’ve been sick with worry lately that some of those videos and/or pictures might not necessarily be backed up somewhere. And all it takes is one failed hard drive, and everything goes POOF! I’m not a big fan of POOF. So I’ve been contemplating how best to make sure that there are multiple copies of everything, so we don’t lose those precious memory-records.

We do have an external hard drive that (I think) everything is stored on. The problem is that the videos we took when our son was a baby are only found on that hard drive. So if that hard drive dies, we lose all those videos. And one thing I’ve learned from technology experts over the years is that hard drives fail. No exceptions. So I’m determined to do something to make sure we don’t lose irreplaceable videos.

Now, I won’t keep you in suspense about what we ultimately decided to do for our backup solution. We went the cheap route and bought a second external hard drive. The problem with just using a basic external hard drive for backup is that you have to transfer everything manually. Which is, of course, a pain. But hey, we got a 1 TB hard drive for $75, which I think was a pretty good deal. And 1 TB is a LOT of storage space, so I’m not too concerned about filling it any time soon.

There are, of course, other options for backing up data. One of the cheapest and best options is Carbonite. Granted, I’ve never actually used Carbonite myself, so maybe it’s not quite as good as advertised, but their advertising sure sounds spectacular. For $55 a year, Carbonite backs up everything on your computer. It only works when the computer is idle, so it doesn’t slow down what you’re doing. It does everything automatically, so you don’t even have to think about it. And there’s no storage limit. The catch (at least for me) is that it doesn’t back up stuff on an external hard drive. It only backs up stuff that’s actually on the computer. And since I have files that are only stored on an external hard drive (because my netbook’s internal hard drive is a paltry 160 GB), Carbonite isn’t exactly a great solution for me.

Another option would be to buy a larger internal hard drive for my netbook and then back it up using Carbonite. The problem with that is that I don’t know if my netbook’s hard drive is upgradeable, and if it is, I don’t know what kind of hard drive it uses, and I don’t really know where to find that information. Plus, it would probably be more expensive than just buying a big external hard drive anyway.

Yet another option would have been to buy a whole new laptop with a big hard drive, transfer everything over to that, and then use Carbonite to back it all up. That would probably have been my preferred option, to be honest, but laptops are expensive. And unfortunately, I couldn’t convince my wife that we needed to buy one. Oh well. Someday, perhaps.

A fifth option would have been to buy a home server. For about five hundred bucks, you can buy a server that stores all kinds of files and whatnot, and can be accessed by any computer on the same network. Kind of an intriguing idea, but then again we would have run into the problem that some of the videos on the server would not be available anywhere else, and so if the server’s hard drive failed, we would have lost that data.

A final option would probably have been the best if we had money to burn. This option would be to buy something called a Drobo. Basically, a Drobo is an enclosure that holds multiple hard drives. And as far as I can tell, your computer reads it as one drive. So if you stick four 1 TB drives in a Drobo, it’s like having one drive with 4 TB of space. You can even get Drobos with as many as 8 bays. Stick a 2 TB drive in each bay, and that would give you 16 TB of storage space. 16 TB! To put that in perspective, 1 TB is 1000 GB. My 32 GB Zune holds about 400 CDs. So if you filled 16 TB up with music, that would be the equivalent of 200,000 CDs. That, my friends, is a lot of CDs.

The other nice thing about a Drobo is that, as long as you have at least two hard drives in it (and I suppose it would be silly to have a Drobo if you were going to only put one hard drive in it), if one of the hard drives fails, all of the data that is stored on it is backed up on the other drive. So all you have to do is pop out the bad drive and replace it with a good drive. Assuming that it works as good as advertised, it’s pretty much foolproof back up.

The problem with getting a Drobo is that they are expensive. A basic Drobo costs 400 dollars, and that’s just the enclosure itself. The hard drives cost extra. Of course, that sounds cheap when compared to the top-of-the-line Drobo Elite, which starts at $3500. For that kind of money, I could buy a truly epic laptop.

Now you know more than you probably ever wanted to about backing up data. Aren’t you so glad that you read this blog?

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