My personal data backup strategy

Backup Strategy with Drobo & DroboShare

Have you ever heard about Drobo? Drobo is a Network Attached Storage (NAS) from the Silicon Valley based startup Data Robotics. Last week I implemented a Drobo in my backup strategy. With this step I finally added a significant level of data safety to my IT system.

In a previous article, I presented the principals and best practices to create an individual data backup strategy. In this article I will describe my individual backup and data storage strategy and discuss the advantages and weaknesses



The initial situation

For a long time, I performed in more or less regular intervals a backup of my system to a USB harddisk. Sometimes I performed the backup once a month, sometimes I did it only quarterly. Since the USB drives were disconnected from the Laptop, it always a bit inconvenient to connect them, startup the backup application and perform the backup. The following drawing shows my initial situation.

Old System Backup Strategy

Until today I never lost data and I never lost a single harddisk. However I felt uncomfortable having such large time gaps between my backups. While the available USB disks were filling up, I was aware had that I have to increase the available disk space within the near future. The easiest solution would have been to buy another USB drive. As a combination of personal laziness and my negative attitude against piling up USB drives, I started to search for a better solution.

Improvement

The requirements for my new backup / data storage solution were, that it needs to provides:

  • data redundancy
  • bays for multiple harddisks
  • Ethernet
  • costs less than 500€

After having a look to a couple of NAS solutions, I found the Drobo, combined with a DroboShare to be the best and most flexible solution. Drobo offers

  • 4 hot swappable 3,5″ SATA harddisk bays
  • BeyondRaid, a redundancy technology similar to RAID6
  • Ethernet connectivity via the DroboShare
  • DroboShare has an AppStore which offers additional Software like FTP Client/Server, Cron jobs, iTunes Media Server…etc
  • Drobo (2. Generation) and DroboShare in a bundle for 420€ (without harddisks)

Integration of Drobo

Having Drobo in place, I decided to store the two old USB HDDs in a remote place in order to have a backup in a geographical separated location.

Data classification

Backups should be performed in an intelligent way otherwise you will end up increasing your data storage monthly. A full system backups for example will easily fill up your data storage within no time. So the question is: Is it necessary to backup all data? In my case, I classified the data in four categories.

  • Media & other files: In this case I use the Drobo as data storage. These files are stored exclusively on the Drobo. Thanks to Drobo’s RAID technology the data is stored redundant. I consider the importance of this data low. No additional backups are performed.
  • Pictures: My picture collection has a  high value to me. I synchronize the collection between the Drobo and my Laptop since I would like to have them in both places accessible. For the synchronisation I use Windows(XP) build in “Make Offline Available” function. My picture collection is additionally backuped less frequently to the encrypted USB HDD which is then stored in a remote place.
  • Backup: In regular intervals I perform backups of the my Laptop. All backups are stored in an encrypted partition on the Drobo. An additional system backup is stored less frequently on the encrypted USB HDD. The USB HDD is stored in a remote place.

New Backup Strategy - Data distribution

Backup timing

The following drawing illustrates my backup cycles.

  • Pictures: My picture collection is synchronized every time the laptop is connected to the local network.
  • Backups: When the laptop is connected to the network, my backup software (Acronis True Image) tries to perform an incremental backup twice a week. At the end of the month, the incremental backups are substituted by a full system backup. My backup strategy is laid out to store 6 full backups + the current incremental backup. Additionally, once a month a full system backup is performed to one of the encrypted USB HDD.

new_configuration_cycle


Next step (optional)

Thanks to the flexibility of my Drobo(Share), I can schedule tasks on the device. The next step will be to automatically download the daily backup I perform on my webserver. The implementation will look like this:

Web Server Backup Strategy

Final Step

I think that my current solution provides me sufficient safety, but due to personal laziness I would like to replace the two USB drives with a web based backup service like carbonate.  This final step would increase convenience. The only reason why I’m waiting with the implementation of this step is the price. Recently I alreadyinvested a bigger amount of money in my Drobo. I’m sure that in forseeable future the prices will drop for these services. So I’ll wait patently. The following diagram shows how the full integration will look like:

Perfect Backup Strategy

Conclusions

In this post I presented my personal backup strategy. I tried to eliminate the single points of failure as much as possible. The classification of data is an easy method to reduce the amount of necessary storage. The only weakness I currently see is my personal laziness (fetch the USB drives, make a copy and return them to the remote place) and the usage of Acronis as a single backup software.

-> Did I miss anything?

-> What Do you think?

-> Do you have Any suggestions?

-> I’m keen to hear how you handle backups!

About Tobias (DH1TW)

Self-confessed Starbucks addict. Loves to travel around the globe. Enjoys the technical preparations of Amateur-Radio contests as much as the contests themselves. Engineer by nature. Entrepreneur. For more, follow him @DH1TW

Comments

  1. What a great article – I retweeted it now – thanks for sharing! :)

  2. I was looking for an outline how to best backup my pc and came across your site. I already have one External HD and I’m in the process of buying a second one. For some reason I don’t like to backup my data online and will stick with the External HD with one of them being in a different physical location.

    This is a great article and it really nicely outlined your strategy and gave me a few good ideas. Thanks for writing this up!

    Ado

    • Thanks Ado! I’m happy if you got some good ideas for your own backup strategy out of the article.
      Best regards,
      Tobias

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