Recommendations for long term storage: RAID or ??

Started 5 months ago | Discussions
WryCuda Forum Pro • Posts: 10,266
Re: Recommendations for long term storage: RAID or ??
1

DerKeyser wrote:

gilliano wrote:

So I have reached well over 1TB of photos/ video. Although I have a fairly robust multi-copy backup system in place I do not want to use a dead end like an external HD for any kind of long term storage (long time field researcher and data manager, seen way too many people do that and lose everything). My internet connection is slow and not unlimited and I am aware of the ways cloud systems can go away/ go out of business so cloud back up is not my preference. I'm looking at RAIDs but not really sure what is practical / affordable for a small operation like mine. Any specific recommendations? Anything to consider? Alternatives? Assume I know nothing about them, which is basically where I'm at.

Also atm I am limited to USB 2.0 on my current computer but in the next year or so will upgrade to a new computer with 3.0 or faster file share capability. Not sure if I should wait or if most systems can handle both types of connection?

Actually there’s a lot of considerations to take depending on what result you are looking for.
Let’s just get this one out of the way: RAID is not backup. It’s just a single disk with better physical hardwáre redundancy

I wrote the blog post below a few years back, and I have litteraly had more than a hundred people writing me and thanking me for making them aware of all the “other” things to keep in mind when designing a solution.

I’m not saying that my solution is the best - it’s just a very good low cost way of solving all the “problems” some/most of the offered solutions in this thread inherently contains (even though they are either denied by the author, or extremely unlikely).

Just read it through and identify the qualities you would like your solution to have. Then you can create that completely different from mine if that is your best solution. I don’t care - I only care about you getting a proper workflow/backup solution that will persist through human error, hardware errors and natural disasters.

Using a NAS to secure your workflow.

There’s some interesting ideas there, but with a heavy emphasis on immediate backup that few will need.

My “LeisureFlow” gives me various security options...

  • SD cards rotated and only formatted when needed.
  • Poor images culled; best images on “photo computer” (SSD)
  • Processed images sent to “photo server” (HDD)
  • 2x HDD backups of “photo server” (separate secure storage)

All this happens in a relaxed manner that is easy for other family members to use. Non-photo data lives on another server with separate backup.

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afterburn Senior Member • Posts: 1,272
Few things...

gilliano wrote:

So I have reached well over 1TB of photos/ video. Although I have a fairly robust multi-copy backup system in place I do not want to use a dead end like an external HD for any kind of long term storage (long time field researcher and data manager, seen way too many people do that and lose everything). My internet connection is slow and not unlimited and I am aware of the ways cloud systems can go away/ go out of business so cloud back up is not my preference. I'm looking at RAIDs but not really sure what is practical / affordable for a small operation like mine. Any specific recommendations? Anything to consider? Alternatives? Assume I know nothing about them, which is basically where I'm at.

Also atm I am limited to USB 2.0 on my current computer but in the next year or so will upgrade to a new computer with 3.0 or faster file share capability. Not sure if I should wait or if most systems can handle both types of connection?

RAID is not backup. It is not going to provide you with backup features and it is not going to help you with your backup strategy.

RAID is not even storage

RAID is just a technology that can be used to mitigate the risk of data loss caused by hardware failures of physical storage devices aka harddisks.

With that out of the way, I assume you are looking at a NAS or a DAS that supports RAID. So the first question is why?

Do you want protection from hardware failures?

Do you want to be able to create a single large storage device using multiple smaller and cheaper physical devices?

Do you want files to be available over your home network?

What is it you are trying to achieve that you are not able to get from just using an external disk?

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a_c_skinner Forum Pro • Posts: 10,094
Re: Recommendations for long term storage: RAID or ??
1

I'm happy with a Synology Diskstation NAS.  I make backups of it to USB disks attached to the NAS directly.  I've four copies of all the data with two off site.  The NAS has copy and backup options built in.

You don't need RAID, which isn't about data security, it is about continuous availability.

The lower end Diskstations are about £100.

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OP gilliano Regular Member • Posts: 111
Re: Recommendations for long term storage: RAID or ??

a_c_skinner wrote:

I'm happy with a Synology Diskstation NAS. I make backups of it to USB disks attached to the NAS directly. I've four copies of all the data with two off site. The NAS has copy and backup options built in.

You don't need RAID, which isn't about data security, it is about continuous availability.

The lower end Diskstations are about £100.

Thats similar to what I'm going with but I will back up off site automatically and will run RAID 1 on a dual bay NAS to prevent data loss in case of a drive failure locally. Continuous availability is pretty important to me.

Lots of bizarre answers here regarding storage and backup (and some good recs too, thanks!). Recommend anyone else looking for specifics on consumer level equipment go to stackexchange instead of this site. Got some great info there including on which drives to choose for the NAS and actual networking layouts for speed and efficency

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DerKeyser Contributing Member • Posts: 686
Re: Recommendations for long term storage: RAID or ??
1

gilliano wrote:

a_c_skinner wrote:

I'm happy with a Synology Diskstation NAS. I make backups of it to USB disks attached to the NAS directly. I've four copies of all the data with two off site. The NAS has copy and backup options built in.

You don't need RAID, which isn't about data security, it is about continuous availability.

The lower end Diskstations are about £100.

Thats similar to what I'm going with but I will back up off site automatically and will run RAID 1 on a dual bay NAS to prevent data loss in case of a drive failure locally. Continuous availability is pretty important to me.

Lots of bizarre answers here regarding storage and backup (and some good recs too, thanks!). Recommend anyone else looking for specifics on consumer level equipment go to stackexchange instead of this site. Got some great info there including on which drives to choose for the NAS and actual networking layouts for speed and efficency

Good choice - very much like my suggested solution. Remember to enable snapshotting on the NAS as that is a really really good measure against human error and ransomware attack.

just to clarify before I’m challanged on that statement. Yes NAS snapshotting is an excellent measure against ransomware attack on client workstations. They all see the NAS on a file level network protocol (smb, nfs or afp). The NAS implements snapshotting on a block level below the file system, so there is no way the clients can see nor touch that on the file level protocol. The snapshots will persist across a client encrypting the intire network drive (NAS) - so you can just press “revert” after the client has been disinfected/cleaned, and your NAS files are back 😄

Snapshots are an extremely nice feature - and has a very very low diskspace overhead in normal usecases. 
To have the snapshots destroyed (cannot be encrypted as they are read-only on a filesystem level), you would need to delete them or kill the intire volume. That requires a full hack and exploit on you NAS - extremely unlikely to happen at the same time as your client computers are under ransomware attack. 
should that happen, well then, there’s the automatic daily cloud backup to rely on - with versioned files if encrypted filed should be copied to the cloud before the disaster is discovered.

A pretty bullet proff solution - especially if you automate it as I suggested in my blog post. That will eliminate the BY FAR most common case of lost data: user error or lazyness combined with myrphys law in manual procedures around backup.
That’s the most difficult thing to explain to the hardliners of manual drive rotation schemes and such. But obviously - if they really are that good at doing it day in and day out - year after year - without fail, it’s not a problem. Statistics CLEARLY shows they are not, but until the accident happens to them personally - they keep believing it only happens to “other people” 😄

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a_c_skinner Forum Pro • Posts: 10,094
Re: Recommendations for long term storage: RAID or ??

For reasons I need not go into I'm a few weeks off having two buildings a few miles apart both with 1Gbit/s internet connections and I suppose I could have automatic off site and use either one seamlessly. I'd use a second Synology, but in the mean time USB disks will be a lot less trouble.

If you need continuous availability RAID of some sort will help, it would take a day or so to restore that amount of data over USB3, but disk failure isn't the only cause of data loss, actually probably a minority one, so please no one should think it reduces the number of backups needed.

I've not looked at snapshotting.  My only concern about it (as opposed to off line duplicate data) is that NASs are common now and I'd worry about people targetting the more popular ones.

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Katamax
Katamax Forum Member • Posts: 93
Re: Recommendations for long term storage: RAID or ??

Billiam29 wrote:

No RAID configurations offer backups. Full stop.

+1 !!!

RAID is something an air-line online reservation system needs. Hundreds of field connections in all time-zones, each minute of downtime costs more that the total disk storage and processor power. For the rest of us, available/affordable disk capacity should be organized in a well thought our, multi-location grandfather-father-son scheme.

And not knowing what is meant by "long term" in this particular case, IMHO, with the volume mentioned in OP  there is no alternative to the regularly refreshed hard drives in your physical possession. If "long-term" implies your children and grandchildren, their motivation is the weakest link.

Jon555 Veteran Member • Posts: 7,027
Re: Recommendations for long term storage: RAID or ??

gilliano wrote:

So I have reached well over 1TB of photos/ video. Although I have a fairly robust multi-copy backup system in place I do not want to use a dead end like an external HD for any kind of long term storage (long time field researcher and data manager, seen way too many people do that and lose everything). My internet connection is slow and not unlimited and I am aware of the ways cloud systems can go away/ go out of business so cloud back up is not my preference. I'm looking at RAIDs but not really sure what is practical / affordable for a small operation like mine. Any specific recommendations? Anything to consider? Alternatives? Assume I know nothing about them, which is basically where I'm at.

Also atm I am limited to USB 2.0 on my current computer but in the next year or so will upgrade to a new computer with 3.0 or faster file share capability. Not sure if I should wait or if most systems can handle both types of connection?

It depends on how you are planning to interface to the NAS. Strictly it would be a DAS not a NAS if you connect via USB rather than Ethernet. (A lot of NAS wouldn't allow an incoming USB connection BTW.) For USB maybe buy a cheap PCIe USB3 add-in card?

Whatever you do you will want a backup of the storage that isn't on-line, so if you get ransomware it won't get nuked along with the NAS.

Budget is a factor too. Also don't go too low-end on a NAS, check what write speeds it supports with encryption enabled.

For speed you could use SSDs at the capacity you are talking about. Although mechanical drives will saturate any likely computer connection so SSDs mostly offer low access times and quietness.

With a NAS noise and power consumption can be issues.

BTW get drives from the NAS manufacturer's approved list or support will most likely respond to problems by saying first get approved drives...

You could backup a NAS to a plugged-in-to-it USB3 drive (assuming fault tolerance isn't required of the backup, although you can get RAID dual USB3 boxes too - I have one beside me as I type). But that doesn't provide much disaster-tolerance. You want it further away for that.

I got a bit confused when you talked about having an automatic off-site backup after mentioning a too slow Internet connection?

NAS can be a bit techy sometimes, usually just after something went wrong.

(BTW never upgrade NAS firmware just as it comes out, wait and see if people are screaming about it on the manufacturer's forums - unless it has a critical-to-you fix that is.)
I have three NAS currently. Never lost anything. Have had the odd exciting moment. I'm very computer and linux techy...

P.S. Network options:
(1) Fast WiFi
Need a router with 802.11ac AC1800 or faster
Need a computer WiFi card at least that fast
Plug NAS1 into the router
Want a fast media bridge so you can put whatever NAS1 backs up onto at the other end of the house.

(2) Power Line Networking
Never messed with this, some people love it

(3) Ethernet up the house with 1G, 2.5G, 5G or 10G

P.P.S. Cheap-ish option
2-bay NAS (Qnap TS-251D-2G?) mirrored with two 4GB WD Red drives
4GB USB3 external drive to plug into NAS when backing it up, leave it a long way away the rest of the time
Optional second external drive for off-site backup, rotate with first one

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DerKeyser Contributing Member • Posts: 686
Re: Recommendations for long term storage: RAID or ??
1

a_c_skinner wrote:

For reasons I need not go into I'm a few weeks off having two buildings a few miles apart both with 1Gbit/s internet connections and I suppose I could have automatic off site and use either one seamlessly. I'd use a second Synology, but in the mean time USB disks will be a lot less trouble.

If you need continuous availability RAID of some sort will help, it would take a day or so to restore that amount of data over USB3, but disk failure isn't the only cause of data loss, actually probably a minority one, so please no one should think it reduces the number of backups needed.

I've not looked at snapshotting. My only concern about it (as opposed to off line duplicate data) is that NASs are common now and I'd worry about people targetting the more popular ones.

Snapshotting can in NO  circumstances be used “as opposed to” offline duplicates. Snapshotting like Raid - Is NOT a backup! .... well technically it is, but since it resides on the same spindle(s) as the dataset, it will fail with the drive or filesystem or storagebox. 
so you still need a backup even if using snapshots. The advantage is that the need tu restore from actual backup becomes much much more unlikely, and restore speed becomes near instant as opposed to copying files from cloud or external drives.

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kelpdiver Veteran Member • Posts: 4,391
Re: Recommendations for long term storage: RAID or ??

gilliano wrote:

Lots of bizarre answers here regarding storage and backup (and some good recs too, thanks!). Recommend anyone else looking for specifics on consumer level equipment go to stackexchange instead of this site. Got some great info there including on which drives to choose for the NAS and actual networking layouts for speed and efficency

Though true (esp the banal 'raid isn't backup' religion here), it sounds like we don't need to spend any more time helping you then.

I'll just note that Amazon isn't going anywhere.  It's more likely to take over the world and kill us all (Skynet) than to go out of business.   Same for Google, MS, Apple.    All are safe cloud storage providers.   At just about 1TB of need, cloud is much more cost effective.   Raid array's value comes when you want reliable and/or faster performing data at sizes greater the typical drive.   Raid 10 means 2x the drive size, which is 20-32TB right now.   Buying that to store 1TB is not great from a value perspective, no matter how many snapshots you do.   2 SSDs would perform better for less.    But your OP didn't really cover the $$ angle.

WryCuda Forum Pro • Posts: 10,266
Re: Recommendations for long term storage: RAID or ??

kelpdiver wrote:

gilliano wrote:

Lots of bizarre answers here regarding storage and backup (and some good recs too, thanks!). Recommend anyone else looking for specifics on consumer level equipment go to stackexchange instead of this site. Got some great info there including on which drives to choose for the NAS and actual networking layouts for speed and efficency

Though true (esp the banal 'raid isn't backup' religion here), it sounds like we don't need to spend any more time helping you then.

Yes, “backup” arouses a certain degree of religious sentiment, and there’s also a good chance that some of the litany is rather imaginary, or at the very least, the recovery phase has never been tested.

Appropriate backup technology and technique is very dependent on the amount of data, a fact that is rarely considered in these discussions.

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Chris Noble
Chris Noble Veteran Member • Posts: 3,495
There is no long-term storage

2 copies, refreshed regularly, in different locations.

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OP gilliano Regular Member • Posts: 111
Re: Recommendations for long term storage: RAID or ??

DerKeyser wrote:

a_c_skinner wrote:

For reasons I need not go into I'm a few weeks off having two buildings a few miles apart both with 1Gbit/s internet connections and I suppose I could have automatic off site and use either one seamlessly. I'd use a second Synology, but in the mean time USB disks will be a lot less trouble.

If you need continuous availability RAID of some sort will help, it would take a day or so to restore that amount of data over USB3, but disk failure isn't the only cause of data loss, actually probably a minority one, so please no one should think it reduces the number of backups needed.

I've not looked at snapshotting. My only concern about it (as opposed to off line duplicate data) is that NASs are common now and I'd worry about people targetting the more popular ones.

Snapshotting can in NO circumstances be used “as opposed to” offline duplicates. Snapshotting like Raid - Is NOT a backup! .... well technically it is, but since it resides on the same spindle(s) as the dataset, it will fail with the drive or filesystem or storagebox.
so you still need a backup even if using snapshots. The advantage is that the need tu restore from actual backup becomes much much more unlikely, and restore speed becomes near instant as opposed to copying files from cloud or external drives.

This!! I work with huge datasets and a backup without a decent way to restore your data is not great. We just spent several days rescuing a dataset that lost it's associated DB catalog due to no maintenance- it was sitting on two hard drives for about 4 or 5 years, while every piece of software associated with it was updated several times and so when someone went back to it, it couldn't be opened or accessed. Had to get the experts involved and dig up some old hardware to get it all updated and restored and it took probably 2 or 3 man-days all told. Very common scenario if you do not tend to your data storage correctly.

I'll have the NAS with RAID 1 backing up my internal working drive/ providing extra storage and that will back up automagically to an offsite location once a day, and then I'll also have a big spinny external drive as onsite auto-backup/ restore option. Although I've not have much luck with the WD auto-backup software in the past hopefully I can get it to work this time.

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OP gilliano Regular Member • Posts: 111
Re: Recommendations for long term storage: RAID or ??

Jon555 wrote:

gilliano wrote:

So I have reached well over 1TB of photos/ video. Although I have a fairly robust multi-copy backup system in place I do not want to use a dead end like an external HD for any kind of long term storage (long time field researcher and data manager, seen way too many people do that and lose everything). My internet connection is slow and not unlimited and I am aware of the ways cloud systems can go away/ go out of business so cloud back up is not my preference. I'm looking at RAIDs but not really sure what is practical / affordable for a small operation like mine. Any specific recommendations? Anything to consider? Alternatives? Assume I know nothing about them, which is basically where I'm at.

Also atm I am limited to USB 2.0 on my current computer but in the next year or so will upgrade to a new computer with 3.0 or faster file share capability. Not sure if I should wait or if most systems can handle both types of connection?

It depends on how you are planning to interface to the NAS. Strictly it would be a DAS not a NAS if you connect via USB rather than Ethernet. (A lot of NAS wouldn't allow an incoming USB connection BTW.) For USB maybe buy a cheap PCIe USB3 add-in card?

Whatever you do you will want a backup of the storage that isn't on-line, so if you get ransomware it won't get nuked along with the NAS.

Budget is a factor too. Also don't go too low-end on a NAS, check what write speeds it supports with encryption enabled.

For speed you could use SSDs at the capacity you are talking about. Although mechanical drives will saturate any likely computer connection so SSDs mostly offer low access times and quietness.

With a NAS noise and power consumption can be issues.

BTW get drives from the NAS manufacturer's approved list or support will most likely respond to problems by saying first get approved drives...

You could backup a NAS to a plugged-in-to-it USB3 drive (assuming fault tolerance isn't required of the backup, although you can get RAID dual USB3 boxes too - I have one beside me as I type). But that doesn't provide much disaster-tolerance. You want it further away for that.

I got a bit confused when you talked about having an automatic off-site backup after mentioning a too slow Internet connection?

NAS can be a bit techy sometimes, usually just after something went wrong.

(BTW never upgrade NAS firmware just as it comes out, wait and see if people are screaming about it on the manufacturer's forums - unless it has a critical-to-you fix that is.)
I have three NAS currently. Never lost anything. Have had the odd exciting moment. I'm very computer and linux techy...

P.S. Network options:
(1) Fast WiFi
Need a router with 802.11ac AC1800 or faster
Need a computer WiFi card at least that fast
Plug NAS1 into the router
Want a fast media bridge so you can put whatever NAS1 backs up onto at the other end of the house.

(2) Power Line Networking
Never messed with this, some people love it

(3) Ethernet up the house with 1G, 2.5G, 5G or 10G

P.P.S. Cheap-ish option
2-bay NAS (Qnap TS-251D-2G?) mirrored with two 4GB WD Red drives
4GB USB3 external drive to plug into NAS when backing it up, leave it a long way away the rest of the time
Optional second external drive for off-site backup, rotate with first one

Great post, thanks for the tips on updates especially. Your cheapish option is almost exactly what I'm going to do, with some hardware differences. I am going with Synology- after doing a lot of reading about the UI I think it will work better for me. I can run ethernet but will maybe try a powerline too. I'll back up the NAS to a big spinny drive that lives in the earthquake cabinet for local backup.

In terms of long term vs archive I have various things I need to keep in rotation for 6 months to 3 or 4 years and work with throughout that time, ex. footage of a project over time. And I'll sometimes shoot 3000 or 4000 photos in a few days then take months to fully weed through and edit them. So I have more than 1TB of working data quite often, more than I can just keep on my internal HD and dupe.

Cloud: is reasonable with just a small amount of changes each day over my internet connection. I can't rely on it as a main off-site back up though, I'll have to rotate physical drives. Also: any kind of full restore from the cloud would be agonizing to impossible. If it came to that I'd have my dad who has fiber build me a copy and send it.

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a_c_skinner Forum Pro • Posts: 10,094
Re: Recommendations for long term storage: RAID or ??
1

I understand that it isn't backup but it never hurts to clarify for anyone else who might fall foul of a misunderstanding.

For me, like several on here, a well backed up NAS works well.  So far.  Touch wood!

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Chris Noble
Chris Noble Veteran Member • Posts: 3,495
A few corrected things
1

afterburn wrote:

RAID is not backup.

Wrong. Many backup systems, on-premise and in the Cloud, are set up as RAIDs.

RAID is just a technology that can be used to mitigate the risk of data loss caused by hardware failures of physical storage devices aka harddisks.

Your convoluted sentence can be replaced by the word "redundant". And it's not just that; some RAID schemes provide redundancy, but some provide faster I/O.

With that out of the way,

Hopefully.

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a_c_skinner Forum Pro • Posts: 10,094
Re: A few corrected things
1

RAID isn't backup but can be used for backup.

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afterburn Senior Member • Posts: 1,272
Re: A few corrected things
4

Chris Noble wrote:

afterburn wrote:

RAID is not backup.

Wrong. Many backup systems, on-premise and in the Cloud, are set up as RAIDs.

RAID is just a technology that can be used to mitigate the risk of data loss caused by hardware failures of physical storage devices aka harddisks.

Your convoluted sentence can be replaced by the word "redundant". And it's not just that; some RAID schemes provide redundancy, but some provide faster I/O.

With that out of the way,

Hopefully.

Sigh...

I'll say it again: RAID is NOT backup. It just isn't. Just because storage systems used for backup can be using RAID does not make that any less true. Please do not pretend otherwise. There are enough people on here that don't have a clue about the difference. Please don't insult my profession.

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Katamax
Katamax Forum Member • Posts: 93
What is a backup?

afterburn wrote:

Sigh...

I'll say it again: RAID is NOT backup. It just isn't.

In order to decide if something is or is not "backup", it is useful to understand the definition of the term: a device or action that prevents the negative impact of an adverse and unexpected incident.

There is a very long list of such adverse incidents, and RAID is preventing the impact of only one of those: hard drive mechanical or electrical failure. If this is the only such incident one believes he must consider, RAID may be considered a backup. This, however is poor planning: it leaves one exposed to such multitude of other incidents, that it is not really worth much. Instead of two drives in a RAID unit, two drives of which one is operational in the computer and the other is a periodic copy, disconnected and stored away from the computer as soon as the copy is made, provide better protection with the same amount of disk space.

Indeed, RAID is not backup.

Billiam29 Senior Member • Posts: 1,762
Re: What is a backup?
1

Katamax wrote:

afterburn wrote:

Sigh...

I'll say it again: RAID is NOT backup. It just isn't.

In order to decide if something is or is not "backup", it is useful to understand the definition of the term: a device or action that prevents the negative impact of an adverse and unexpected incident.

I personally feel that where computers are concerned 'backup' has a more targeted meaning than a dictionary-style definition of the word. Something along the lines of:

A point-in-time copy of data that exists independent from the status or functionally of the data's source (system).

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