State of the Backups

In the past few weeks a couple of folks have asked what I’m doing for data backups. Here’s the story.
First, I bought a ReadyNAS NVX with RAID, so I could stop worrying about a single hard drive crash ($1,400). This was more money than I wanted to spend right now, but it forms the hub of everything data-related going forward.
[A brief digression rationalizing the expensive NAS purchase. The ReadyNAS is also an iTunes server, so I can pipe music upstairs to the big-rig stereo once I buy another gadget to connect the wifi to the stereo preamp. I like the Squeezebox Duet, but it’s a little long in the tooth and I’m hoping to hold out long enough for an 802.11n version, which I have to assume they’re developing and will deliver at some point. There’s nothing wrong with the current version, but the rest of my network is 802.11n instead of b/g, so I’d rather wait. Someday I hope Apple builds a home media server, but the AppleTV ain’t it for me, especially since even they claim it’s only a hobby.]
For off-site backups I bought a NewerTech Voyager Q bare hard drive backup unit ($99), based on Dan Benjamin’s review. His followup review is also useful.
I bought two WD Caviar Green 1 TB drives, and will probably buy more for rotation. Amazon has them for $109.
Then I got some WiebieTech anti-static cases to carry them around, $7 each.
I use SuperDuper! to do the actual work of copying stuff to the bare drives. I will also – soon! – make a SuperDuper! schedule to back up the laptop to the NAS. Right now I do it manually to an external hard drive and also to the off-site bare drives.
Essentially, K carries the bare drives in their anti-static cases to her office, and I ask her to bring them home when I want to do another off-site rotation. A bank safe deposit box may also be in my future to make this easier. Note that these bare drives are unencrypted, so if she or I lose a drive data is exposed. We treat them like a pile of $10,000 bills. I.e., don’t leave them in the car while going to the gym.
The NAS is currently a 1TB setup (two 1TB drives in a mirrored RAID config) with two empty drive bays. So right now I can back that up to an external 1TB drive. But when I add another 1TB drive to the NAS it will be a 2TB setup (with one empty drive bay). Then I’ll need a $300 2TB drive for off-site backup. If I get to a 4TB NAS setup I’m hoping they have 4TB drives, or that I can easily split the data and backup to two 2TB external drives.
My brother, crazier than I am but also with more reason to go the extra mile, actually bought a second NAS and a foam-padded hard case to hold it, and backs up his primary NAS to the secondary one, taking the second one to and from the office. That’s certainly the most robust method, and if one goes down, there’s no restore – just plug it in and give it the same IP address. But that’s an expensive solution.
The online backup stuff I looked at, including the ReadyNAS Vault service, ended up pretty expensive, around $125/month for 250GB. If you don’t have all that much data check out JungleDisk which is an interface to Amazon’s cloud storage. It’s $0.15/GB/month, and gets good reviews. It takes a long time for initial upload but it’s probably fast enough on the nightly deltas.
The biggest thing I’m worried about right now is a fire or theft of the NAS. I’ve probably got a decent weekly schedule going for off-sites, so the impact would vary depending on exactly when disaster struck. I’ve thought about moving the NAS out of the office, maybe hidden in the basement ceiling far away from the furnace, possibly near a basement window. Then your typical pawn-shop house thieves (or maybe former investment bankers) would be less likely to rip it just because it’s there, since it wouldn’t be visible and blinking its lights at them, looking all valuable and come-hither. And if the house were burning down I could potentially break the window, root around and yank the thing out of the ceiling. I suppose if the house were going to be empty for more than a weekend I’d do a round of off-site backups and move the disconnected NAS and hide it somewhere. But not in a dresser or a closet, since that’s the first place to look for valuables.
If I ever build a house or an office outbuilding, I’m definitely making a secret room, or at least a secret storage stash for stuff like this.