Storage advice - Drobo, FreeNAS, externals?

Started May 23, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Storage advice - Drobo, FreeNAS, externals?
May 23, 2012

I need some help in deciding how best to expand my storage capacity. Here's the current setup:

iMac for primary photo processing. Time Machine to external keeps second copy. When complete culling/processing, 'keepers' go to Smugmug via JPG export. Then get moved from within Lightroom to a 2 TB external. That gets copied via incremental backup using Carbon Copy Cloner to a 1 TB external every night. This is a simple, easy setup. The clone is a backup against data corruption (not perfect, I know). I'm working on offsite backup which should be implemented soon. However, the more immediate need is to expand my current storage size.

One of my main concerns is silent data corruption. I therefore have been thinking of getting a Drobo S or building a FreeNAS to run a ZFS pool. Both go 'beyond' basic RAID to allow for expanding the storage in the future and have a host of other benefits. At their most basic, though, I feel that any RAID option boils down to 'storage expansion' rather than 'backup'. In other words, if I can't fit what I need on a single drive or need ridiculous speed (ie striping), then I would go to RAID.

The Drobo is proprietary RAID and the internet is littered with reviews of data loss. FreeNAS would require more work on my end and I have read about a 'bad' drive being able to corrupt all data in a ZFS pool. While open source, it seems that getting data back out in case of corruption would require lots of linux work.

I don't actually feel the 'need' for the N in NAS. I just want a relatively fast directly attached storage system (at least as fast as current 7200rpm over FW800). Again, key is expandability and piece of mind to not have to worry about silent data corruption or catastrophic drive failure.

An alternative might be getting two new 3 TB drives (different manufacturers). Relegate the current 1 TB backup to the bank vault and let it sit there. The 2TB would be used for non-photo data (I currently have it partitioned to hold music, video files and serve as a Time Machine backup). Use the new 3TB in the same scheme as currently - but only for photos. Advantage of using incremental backups is that the backup drive has the data written to it from the most 'original' source. Carbon Copy Cloner also allows me to set up archived directories on the backup drive that hold data deleted from the primary. That should mitigate the chance of copying over corrupt data. I can then punt on a RAID until I max out the 3TB space.

I'm also planning to put in a 2-3 TB drive on a work server and run Crashplan to get offsite backup there.

Appreciate your thoughts on the choices above.

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