The Problem of Peristance: Storing and Backing up One's Life a Gigabyte at a Time
I had a scare this weekend. Last week I flashed the BIOS on my lovely Intel Motherboard (you remember, the one I got last August for a song) and forgot about it. A few days later I had to reboot for some reason and after the intial BIOS POST...nothing. Just a non-blinking hard drive light. The weird thing is, if I let the box sit for an hour, it boots. But, if there's trouble, it won't boot again until I let it sit.
Needless to say, I was a little concerned as I was trying desperately to burn a series of DVDs from the seven hours of digital video I shot in Africa. I shot all these Digtal 8mm tapes then ripped them to my external firewire drive. It ended up being about 80 gigs of data. When my C: drive didn't boot, it got me a little panicky and I started thinking about storage.
Here's my setup:
- 45 gig Western Digital EIDE 7200RPM C: Drive
- Contains Windows, my desktop and profile. Also Program Files. No data to speak of. This is the SYSTEM drive.
- TWO 20 gig Seagate EIDE 7200 RPMs MIRRORED with a Promise PCI RAID card.
- The RAID card was the shiznit 4 years ago. It's a FastTrak66. I'm sure it's obsolete now, but it's non-certified Windows 2000 Drivers work fine in Windows XP.
- This array contains a 4 gig partition called DATA with all My Documents and Mo's Documents (her My Documents on her machine points here, although she doesn't know it). While I'm not a fan of partitions, I keep this at 4gig as I figure that's a good "working size" and it forces me to fit and backup all of the Family's Documents onto one single-layer DVD. I back this up to a DVD+RW weekly.
- The remaining 16 gig partition is called STORAGE and is random. I consider it secondary but persistant storage. I back this up less frequently, maybe monthly.
- 200 gig Western Digital External Firewire Z: Drive
- This is the media drive. All my Ripped Music is here, all my Video is here, and all my Audible Books are here.
- 75 gig No Name External Firewire Drive
- This drive is largely unused. I have used it for a Photoshop Scratch Disk or for a Virtual Memory Swap file. However, once it freaked out (I'm starting to not trust Firewire) and can't count on it.
Here's the issue. How do I truly back my life up? As we begin to collect all this 'Media' how to we protect it?
What to Backup of my Digital Life?
I have a ReplayTV with 80gigs of storage (80 hours of video) but arguably the whole drive is scratch. If I lost it all, I'd be sad, but hey, it's TV. There will always be more. Certainly I don't need to back it up.
My C: drive? No worries...well, some, but really, I could pave it and start over, as the DATA is on the RAID Array. I back up the RAID array weekly onto one DVD+RW, and put that in an off site location.
But what about the BIG stuff? How do I backup 200 gigs? 50 DVDs? Not feasible. More and more people are starting to backup their lives on Moving Magnetic Media, and I'm starting to think it's just a ploy to sell more $50 120gig drives.
No one outside of the enterprise seems to mention Tape Backup for the home. PC Magazine is much more likely to suggest that the Small Office/Home Office user buy a Network Storage Device (read: another computer with another hard drive) and suggest that it be hidden in the closet.
But if I really care about my data, how can I protect it?
I Can't Keep Everything
A good example is this recent rip of 80 gigs of video.
Digital 8mm Source Tapes -> 80 gigs of AVIs -> Nero Vision DVD Project -> Rendered DVD Image File -> Final DVD
I certainly can't keep 80 gigs of AVIs around, but if I yank them
Digital 8mm Source Tapes -> DELETED -> Nero Vision DVD Project -> Rendered DVD Image File -> Final DVD
What happens if I have to make a change to the DVD? Since the Project is really a series of timestamp "pointers" to the original video, do I just rip the video AGAIN and hope the pointers line up? If I take the advice of the MyLifeBits guy at Microsoft Research, I'd just keep buying Firewire drives and save EVERYTHING.
What do you do to protect your data?