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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…

24 replies on “Is RAID enough to protect your pics?”

How many RAID drives you have won’t make any difference if the whole thing is stolen/attacked by axemurderer/melted in hell fire…

Some people think this online backup service (which name escapes me now) is the best thing since probably even before sliced bread. Not sure how well protected they are against theft/axe murderers/hell fire/chapter 11 though.

Sort of yes. RAID 1 will give you mirroring but there will always be a risk that both drives will fail. (A decent power surge would do it). You also have to remember that there is also the risk of fire, flood or burglary. Big shiny hard disk enclosure is really easy to steal. If the stuff is really important then use something like that day to day but periodically back it up to DVD or CD and store it. (Yes, I know that optical disks claim 75 years life but are often only a few years, if you do a complete DVD backup every 5 years and store them somewhere else it should be reliable) Give them to the in-laws to put in the back of a cupboard. The alternate to using NAS is to just attach a USB HDD to the mac and use time machine.

What’s the problem with Flickr as an offsite photo backup? Surely, unless you’ve got a draconian fair use ISP contract, you could user Uploadr to backup hundreds of files overnight?

The other thing that worries me about home NAS is this – http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/12/07/western_digital_drm_crippled_harddrive/

Yeah, the offsite thing is an issue. I didn’t realise Flickr Pro accounts were properly unlimited – might be worth fiddling with Automator to do a regular backup script for that. Pretty sure my ISP would allow that.

Yeah, saw the NAS file sharing thing. Bloody stupid.

>>Yeah, the offsite thing is an issue.

Not really. DVD media costs pennies. Every couple of years isn’t a major hassle, and even if you forget a couple, there is still a very good chance that the original disks are still readable. By the next set of backups you’ll be on blu-ray or similar – which will be quicker and cheaper. Eventually network connections will be quick enough for full on-line backups. The in-laws are far enough away to be safe up to the point of meteor strike and it’s not like they would be put out.

Sorry, didn’t make that very clear – by “issue” I mean it’s the one thing I don’t currently do, but should.

>>might be worth fiddling with Automator to do a regular backup script for that. Pretty sure my ISP would allow that.

Or just get into the habit of uploading to flickr every time you put the pictures on the PC. Just flag it as private for the ones you don’t want to share. Press go whenever you go away to do owt. There’s an iphoto plugin for flickr, I think.

It’s already been pointed out above, but a raid system is good but normally the HD get conked out by something “local” i.e. power surge – and it will destroy both making the point of the twin HD, um, pointless.

I’d go for:
* HD
* External HD – (can be completely disconnected/stored elsewhere)
* Online Backup (Flickr et all)
* Local DVD
* Remote DVD

It’s actually java. According to Humyo, the drag n drop functionality works on a mac. They’ve only got a beta windows client for advanced functionality at the moment.

>>Windows Home Server?

Really? At £100 just for the software? A non-DRMed NAS would be much better. If that was the route I wanted to take I think that making your own linux box would be the way to go. (Home servers (not that many are available other than HP Mediasmart (which don’t support wireless btw)) are just shuttle-type PCs with multiple drive bays)

In any case, it only backs up in the same way as time-machine on the mac. No more offsite capability than that.

Oh, and the recent revelation that if you use Vista Photo Gallery, Windows Live Photo Gallery, Microsoft Office OneNote 2007, Microsoft Office OneNote 2003, Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, Microsoft Money 2007, SyncToy 2.0 Beta, Quicken, Quickbooks or Bittorrent you will probably lose lots of your data. It does solve the backup issue if the server corrupts all your data. Nothing to backup!

> It’s £30 a year for 100gb and £40 for every additional 100Gb.

That’s really not bad. Though fuck knows why the price goes up when you give them more custom. Doesn’t that just encourage people to get around it by taking out more than one account?

Those 1Tb Raid drives are rubbish – I had a maxtor one. One drive failed, and the unit stopped working. there is no way to rescue the RAID array, no way to transfer the drive to another PC and rescue the data, because the array is proprietary. Either use a proper RAID card in your PC, where you can at least control, monitor and rebuild the RAID arrays, or simply buy lots of cheap hard disks and backup to those.

RAID is brilliant, when done properly, but these consumer units are micky mouse affairs that offer no more protection than a standard external hard drive. In fact, Id’ go so far as to say they offer less protection – at least with a normal hard drive you can try and rescue the data on another PC!

Thanks Simon. I didn’t know any of that.

I’m leaning towards a plain networked drive for storage and then online backup. Seems to be the way ahead.

I’m keen to suss this out not just for backup, but for work too. I’m working across four different machines at the moment – can’t use the office in the mornings when baby’s sleeping in a room a few feet away – so I’m chucking a lot of files around between machines. Having a network drive would save me a great deal of hassle and prevent an awful lot of duplication, but unfortunately the Lacie one I’ve got is firewire, not ethernet.

I think I’m going to give that MozyHome a go. Seems the best value option, although I’ll hang on till after MacWorld just on the offchance .mac gets a capacity boost.

Oh, absolutely. I’m thinking of using both – Time Capsule as a central server/backup and then MozyHome for remote backup.

I’ll need to write like a demon to afford them, mind you.

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