Is RAID enough to protect your pics?

Mrs Bigmouth wanted to watch our wedding DVD the other week, so she popped it in the player and said some very bad words when it froze. The disc has a slight scratch, rendering it unplayable a few minutes in. No worries: I’ll fling it through Handbrake, rip it to the Mac and make another one.

Nope. Too scratched for Handbrake.

I downloaded and tried a whole bunch of DVD ripping programs without success, but eventually Mac The Ripper came up trumps (on the third attempt) – so I’ve been able to rip the disc, ready to burn another one. Phew.  But if that hadn’t worked, I’d be up shit creek without a paddle: as far as I’m aware, the firm that actually did the DVD is no longer trading.

That’s got me thinking. As you can imagine, since Baby Bigmouth appeared I’ve taken a lot of photos, and a fair whack of video too. CDs and DVDs die, and recordable ones die more quickly than commercially pressed ones. And the photos and videos I’m taking are things I want to keep not just for weeks or months, but for years. Decades, even.

For now, I’m doing a couple of things. I’m backing up the best pics to Flickr, and I’m ripping video from mini-DVD to hard disk (not a pleasant task on the Mac, incidentally – Panasonic’s software doesn’t work on Leopard yet) and storing it in MPEG format rather than anything camera-specific. I’m then backing up to an external Lacie disk.

The problem is that I’m rapidly running out of room. The MacBook Pro is close to stuffed already, and the Lacie disk is filling up too. And there’s only so much you can stick on Flickr, particularly when you’re shooting hundreds of photos at very high resolutions.

So I’m thinking that the way forward is a networked RAID drive, something like the Western Digital 1TB model I’ve been looking at. It’s about £200 and has two 500GB drives in a RAID configuration, so everything you copy is duplicated from one drive to the other. That means I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping stuff on my various Macs and PCs – I could just dump it on the network drive and be confident that even if one drive fails, the other one will work.

I can, can’t I?

What I want to do is move key stuff – photos, video, iTunes library, archive of work documents – from individual machines to a network drive. Is a twin-disk RAID system robust enough for that, or should I look at something else entirely?

Any advice would be appreciated…