Backup advice

jhp64

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Jul 17, 2007
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Seattle
I'm looking for advice for how to backup our household's computers. We have four or five computers in the house, and if we do full backups of everything, it adds up to a bit over 1 TB. The machines happen to be macs, in case that matters. Right now we use an (old) Apple Time Capsule, but it just started flashing a yellow light saying that its hard drive was failing, so I am looking for a replacement. Here are some options I'm considering:
  • a new Apple Time Capsule ($400 for 3 TB)
  • something like the Drobo 5N2: RAID-like, able to be set up with lots of redundancy (around $900-1000)
  • something like the ioSafe 216nas: fireproof, RAID (around $900-1000)
  • an online system like CrashPlan ($150 per year for a family plan)
Right now I'm leaning toward Drobo, but I am looking for advice.

(Regarding Apple, are they discontinuing support for the Time Capsule? I thought I had heard that. Anyway, no RAID-like system is concerning. Regarding Drobo vs. ioSafe, it looks to me like a balance between data redundancy vs. being fireproof. I am also a little wary of CrashPlan and other subscription services: how much do I trust my data to a third party? Are they going to stay in business? Are they going to raise their rates?)

We are already using DropBox, Google Drive, etc. for some files, by the way, but I would also like full backups of everything.
 

SumnerH

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Jul 18, 2005
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The RAID options aren't worth the cost, IMO. You can get a pair of completely independent 3TB external drives for a combined $160 or so and have totally redundant backups without the hassle; the trick is putting them somewhere network accessible so you can access them from all the machines to back up. If one of your machines is a desktop that should be straightforward. If not, a lot of modern wireless routers can actually do that as well.
 

Scott Cooper's Grand Slam

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Jul 12, 2008
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Yes, unfortunately Apple's router division (including Time Capsule) is discontinued. I've said this before but the Airport Express was the best router I used because I never had to think about it.

Have you read this article from The Wirecutter? http://thewirecutter.com/blog/how-to-back-up-your-computer/. It's a great starting point, and their companion articles on cloud services might allay your (reasonable) cloud skepticism.
 

Gdiguy

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Jul 15, 2005
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I'm pretty borderline whether a RAID-ed NAS makes sense for a home; as @SumnerH says the major advantage of a RAID is that you can hot-swap drives and do fancy stuff like that with no downtime, if you're just using it for standard home backups it's significantly cheaper to just have two drives (and if both drives die simultaneously you're just as screwed either way). And I don't really believe that it's 'fire-proof' - if you want real protection from fire / earthquake / lightning striking your house / thief stealing all your electronics, you need something offsite (so either an online service, or physically shipping an external drive to a family member out of state once a month/whatever).

What amount of stuff are you actually wanting to backup online? As you said, a paid Dropbox account is 1 TB for $99 / year, which is basically what I'm using now as my 'backup' plan (as I needed that for work anyway, so it's effectively free). Some of the dedicated services are a bit cheaper than that, but you want to be careful about checking how much they hand-hold (and how much you want that); last time I looked into this a year ago at least a couple services were more the Time Capsule-style as opposed to the dropbox-style manually copy what files from what locations you want, which can either be a plus or a minus depending on your use.
 

jhp64

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Jul 17, 2007
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Seattle
Getting multiple drives is a good idea. I can do that plus try out CrashPlan for a few years for much less than Drobo. If I spend a little extra, I can get drives with an ethernet connection and plug them straight into my router (which does not have a functioning USB port); I may do that. I have a smaller USB drive now, so I will also test out how easy it is to connect to it from machine B if it is plugged into machine A; if that works well, I can skip the ethernet connections.

For any backup service, I think the more automatic, the better: not everyone in the household wants to bother with manually copying things. I personally want three systems: one for confidential files for work (those are stored on an approved cloud-based system), one for other files that I want to share between desktop, laptop, and phone (Dropbox), and one for everything in case of hard drive failure (something like Time Capsule). I think the other family members can get by with Dropbox + Time Capsule.

Have you read this article from The Wirecutter? http://thewirecutter.com/blog/how-to-back-up-your-computer/. It's a great starting point, and their companion articles on cloud services might allay your (reasonable) cloud skepticism.
I had skimmed it, but now I've looked more carefully at their discussion of cloud services. Thanks for the pointer.
 

SumnerH

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For any backup service, I think the more automatic, the better: not everyone in the household wants to bother with manually copying things.
For sure. You want something that automatically copies stuff nightly for everyone, maybe using whatever the newer Apple cron replacement (Launchpad or something like that?) is that's smart about laptops and machines that are off at the scheduled time.

My Mac skills aren't strong enough to hazard a recommendation but there have to be several good free and cheap options if you already have the network share set up.
 

B H Kim

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Oct 24, 2003
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Backblaze is the easiest, but it's $5/month per computer (including all external drives) ($95 if you pay for two years). It's worth it for me for two computers (my kids do all of their school-related stuff in Google docs and have photos backed up via iCloud, so they don't really need a full backup). I've had two external drives fail and just had Backblaze send me a drive with a complete copy of the failed drive. If you return the drive within 30 days here's no additional charge.
 
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jhp64

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Jul 17, 2007
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Seattle
For sure. You want something that automatically copies stuff nightly for everyone, maybe using whatever the newer Apple cron replacement (Launchpad or something like that?) is that's smart about laptops and machines that are off at the scheduled time.

My Mac skills aren't strong enough to hazard a recommendation but there have to be several good free and cheap options if you already have the network share set up.
I'm hoping I can get Time Machine to work, but if I need to use cron or something similar, I think I can handle that. I think I can figure out the software end of things, now that everyone here has convinced me what to do about the hardware.

Backblaze is the easiest, but it's $5/month per computer (including all external drives) ($95 if you pay for two years).
CrashPlan is $150 per year for up to 10 computers, so since I want to backup 4 or 5 computers (4 + one I don't really care about), I would probably use them instead of Backblaze.
 

AlNipper49

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Apr 3, 2001
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If you have one machine generally always on you can always use the free peer-to-peer to backup the other machines w/ Crashplan and then just backup that one main one to the paid cloud. That's what I do.
 

charlieoscar

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Sep 28, 2014
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I don't know about Macs but I used RAID for backup on one of my computers, only to later have the mother board crash and with it the RAID controller. Bye bye data. If you use RAID, have a separate RAID controller. I switched to solid state external drives. Get them on sale and back up twice along with having more than one drive in my computer. Lots of photos.
 

edoug

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Jul 15, 2005
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If you have one machine generally always on you can always use the free peer-to-peer to backup the other machines w/ Crashplan and then just backup that one main one to the paid cloud. That's what I do.
How long have you been using Crashplan? The most important thing in backing up your photos and whatever is that you know that the service you're backing up to will be around for awhile.
 

AlNipper49

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Apr 3, 2001
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How long have you been using Crashplan? The most important thing in backing up your photos and whatever is that you know that the service you're backing up to will be around for awhile.
It's been around forever. But if something else pops up then it's reasonably easy to move between providers.
 

HriniakPosterChild

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Jul 6, 2006
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It's been around forever. But if something else pops up then it's reasonably easy to move between providers.
So how do you work around that?

Due to these restrictions, we automatically exclude CrashPlan archives from your backup selection. If you want additional copies of your archive for redundancy, consider backing up to multiple destinations.