Tech Corner: Backup Strategies (Part 1)

Backup Strategies – Part 1

In part 1 of this series, I discuss backups and introduce Darth Raider, my Drobo backup device.
(In part 2, there is a discussion about how and why backing up to the cloud has become a really good idea.)

Hard drives fail and it’s not if, it’s when. You’ve all heard this and, unfortunately, it’s true. All those moving parts are going to wear out, on average in about four years. What you need is some insurance against data loss which is why there are backup plans that will, at the least, protect vital data from joining the ozone layer.

For some time, I’ve used a backup scheme that protects me both onsite and offsite.

My Onsite Backup

Onsite I use a raid array device made by Drobo known here at Casa Roberts as Darth Raider. A raid array consists of multiple hard drives connected in such a way that data is written across more than one of the drives. In effect, data is duplicated across all drives, in my case four 1T (terabyte) drives.

My Darth Raider enclosure has some elegant software built into it (firmware) that takes care of allocating the data and monitoring the health of my drives. When one drive started failing about two years ago, DR’s monitor light turned from green to amber, which was my cue to hustle down to Fry’s and buy a new drive. As instructed, out came the old drive and in went the new and DR never missed a beat. It started formatting and reallocating my data at once. It took almost a day to do its thing, but eventually all was well.

My Offsite Backup

Each month, I copy all the data on the Darth Raider drives to an external 4T drive that I keep in my safe deposit box at the bank. The backup to this drive is incremental thanks to a service I use called Crashplan (more on Crashplan in Part 2). This means only new or changed data is added each month, which makes backups quick and easy.

By the way, each of my hard drives, both those in my computers (I have both a PC and an iMac) and in Darth are standard high capacity drives known as HDD. They have spinning parts and do in fact wear out eventually.

TIP: Upcoming Trend – SSD Solid State Drives will be the standard for photographers to use when backing up their data.

There are several new drives now coming on the market which use flash memory, called SSD (solid state drives). These drives are pricey and not available in large capacity yet. But I estimate that they will be the standard in the very near future. In fact, the latest Drobo systems have enclosures for SSD drives. For more about Drobo, click here.

Extra Reading: A Comparison Between HDD and SDD drives.

The green monitor lights and blue capacity lights of the Darth Raider

Darth Raider showing the green monitor lights and the blue capacity lights.

It’s all well and good that there’s hardware for backups but you also need software for backups to make it all happen. There are many apps that will get the job done and none is more effective, at least for Mac users, than Apple’s built-in app, Time Machine. Time Machine works seamlessly in the background quietly backing up all your data to a designated external drive connected to the Mac.

In the PC world, there are several great apps that perform backup tasks in much the same manner. Microsoft has an app called File History built into Windows 10 and it’s pretty good though not as user friendly as Time Machine.

For my needs, Time Machine won’t backup to the Drobo. This is due to Apple’s OS (operating system) not recognizing PC networks. So instead I use Crashplan’s free app to backup both my iMac and my PC to Darth Raider. Crashplan has a default schedule that works for me and since it’s working in the background I never notice it.

That’s the current backup plan and while it may seem a little kludgy, it works to keep my images safe and secure. But as you’ll see in Part 2, there’s a new plan afoot.

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