How do you back up your gigs of goodies?


— 1:18 PM on August 13, 2008

In the wake of my post about data recovery services, an old buddy of mine from college, Dave Kirby, wrote me with a question about how to avoid needing to use such a service.  I think it's a timely question, since backup strategies for home users have become more difficult than ever.  He frames the question like so:

Problem: Joe six-pack has accumulated several computers and a number of large external drives, all of them are nearing capacity and all combined total ~1.5TB-2TB.  After a co-worker or friend suffers a catastrophic drive failure of their personal data, Joe six-pack realizes his data is not backed up (except maybe a few critical things like financial data).  He starts to examine the situation and discovers:

1) A good portion of his data COULD be recreated (i.e. MP3s and DVD rips of his physical collections), but he gets a class A migraine just thinking about the time involved.

2) Some of his data is not backed up at all, is completely irreplaceable and has high emotional attachment (i.e. personal digital photos over the last 5+ years).

3) Because the vast majority of his data is media centric, it is not generally compressible.

4) His data is heavily "fragmented" across multiple drives and not terribly well organized.

5) He doesn't have the knowledge or resources to purchase/build and (more importantly) maintain anything like a RAID or SAMBA server.  What is a good backup strategy for this type of consumer?

So how does the average guy protect his data?  More relevantly, how do our decidedly above-average and unusually attractive readers handle this challenge?  Me, I lean heavily on a combination of prayer, animal sacrifice, and RAID 1, supported by occasional backups of critical data to DVDs.  I suspect there are better options.

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