I’ve had several friends with drives going out recently and it occurred to me that I should really look into getting a decent backup system. At first I thought of just burning DVD’s periodically or getting one of those 1-2 TB drives which attach to your USB port; but it all seemed to be a bit labor intensive. I just know that I would forget to backup at just the wrong time and lose critical files.

If you do anything business related on your computer, I think you will find that a good backup solution, even if it is only used ONCE, will pay for itself many times over.  Just think about all of the work that goes into creating and organizing the files on your computer and if your time and effort is worth anything, a few hundred dollars will seem like a pittance; especially when you consider the fact that, with a good backup solution, you can simply replace your drive and be back up and running with a few hours as if nothing happened.

Network Attached Storage

The solution which I feel is finally coming of age, for the home user on a budget, is Network Attached Storage (NAS); particularly NAS systems which support at least RAID 1 mirroring or similar setups which allow for redundancy.

While most of us can get away with having an external drive that we periodically copy our data to; there is still a good possibility that this drive will crash. If you are using this drive to archive files, then you will have lost data. So it is imperative to have a mirrored system to hold your data.

I waded through the various systems out there and the reviews. I found many which are “adequate” but inflexible; because they do not allow for future expansion. For example, I saw many which allow you to swap out drives; but cap the number of Terabytes you can have in the array.

Well, after a night of searching, I ran into a combination which gives you a total of 2TB (redundant, actually 4TB total) on a nicely featured NAS box.

Mirrored Hot Swappable 4TB Network Attached Storage System for Under $600

I recently ordered one of these diskless NAS boxes for under $200 after rebate:

It runs a tiny version of Linux and supports a variety of backup and file system protocols including Apple’s “Time Machine”. One nice aspect of it, is the fact that you can plug in any SATA or SATA II hard drive and have it do RAID 1. So you can always buy a larger drive in the future.

I saw this interesting bit of info in one of the reviews:

“It does Netgear’s own proprietary XRAID mirroring (but not RAID 0). XRAID apparently allows the automatic upgrade to more then two drives, if you would use it in a Netgear box, which supports more then two drives. Unlike with other home office NAS, the firmware is saved in a flash and not on the drives itself. The drives are hot swappable and rebuild themselves automatically unlike with many other personal NAS products. The NAS can share directories via CIFS, NFS, AFP, and HTTP. It also can do FTP and TFTP, which comes in handy in the lab.”

So if a 3TB drive came on the market and you wanted to incorporate it into your box, you would just pull one of the 2TB drives out and pop it in; then it will copy the data over. Then you would pop the other 2TB array out and the data on the newly copied drive would be copied back; so you can expand the array easily.

When you toss in 2 x 2TB Western Digital Hard Drives, the whole system with 2TB of redundant network accessable storage came out to under $600.

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