Backups?! We don’t need no stinkin’ bac…DATA ERROR: Abort, Retry, Panic?

As the old adage goes: He who laughs last was checking to see if his backup job finished.

There are plenty of online polls showing that most users don’t backup regularly and I was proud to NOT be one of those people.

So you can imagine my dismay when my portable USB drive failed and I lost a couple months worth files (my backup schedule was burning to CD/DVD every six months).

That incident lead me to purchase a network attached storage device, a ReadyNAS Duo with two 500 GB hard drive in a proprietary X-RAID configuration (basically mirrored). At first my plan was to continue backing up to CD/DVD every six-months – but now I had the added security of knowing my files were being immediately mirrored to the other hard drive in the NAS.

Well the time for backups has come and gone. And gone and gone and gone. It would seem I’m part of the majority who doesn’t do backups now.

Among the many great features of the ReadyNAS is the ability to schedule backups to an attached USB drive (USB DVD burner are unfortunately not supported – by any NAS I’ve looked at). Some of the other great features of the ReadyNAS Duo are the consistently high performance benchmarks, an active community, and an involved engineering group. In particular Netgear (the new owners of ReadyNAS) encourages the development of add-ons and publishes an API as well as instructions on hardware mods – unlike some NAS manufacturers who consider their box a closed system and everything inside is magic as far as you’re concerned.

So now I’m looking at a USB hard drive to backup my network attached storage device.  I figure I’ve got three choices to chose from:

  1. The typical USB drive;
  2. A USB to SATA dock where I can swap drives easily (and take one off-site for safe storage); or
  3. Online/cloud based backup service.

From the spreadsheet below we can see the cost of 1. and 2. are relatively comparable.  But going for option 2. would allow me to easily swap-out a drive and take it off-site for even more security.  The more drives I add to the rotation the more economical it becomes to use a hard drive docking station rather than a typical USB drive.

You can do some easy comparison shopping using the Price Guides from Hub Canada.

Another interesting feature of this spreadsheet is by comparing the Average $/GB column with the cost of online storage we can see how un-economical it really it is. And don’t forget you pay for your online storage every month, not to mention the cost of your ISP access which needs to have sufficient bandwidth for your backups, and the inherent concerns of entrusting your files to a third-party.

The latest ReadyNAS firmware comes with ReadyNAS Vault – powered by elephantdrive.

The pricing of ReadyNAS Vault is bit onerous though: USD5.95 per month for the first 5 GB of data, plus another USD0.50 per GB per month after that. That means your first five GB will cost you USD1.19 per GB – considerably more than what a USB drive would cost you per GB!!! And this is only the cost of the service – it ignores the additional bandwidth fees your ISP might slap on you when you have some big files to backup or the fact this cost is recurring!

So for the moment it looks like I’m going to be ordering a USB hard drive dock and at least two hard drives so I can get back on track and backup my precious photos of my precious ones!

Cross-posted on Cameron-Schultz at Backups?! We don’t need no stinkin’ bac…DATA ERROR: Abort, Retry, Panic?


  1. I’m a La Cie convert. I bought a Quadra d2 1TB for backups via Time Machine, with occasional thumb drive dumps that I offsite.

    Ultimately I think a Drobo like mirrored/hot swappable solution is the way to go, but that offsite component is always needed (be it high or low tech).

  2. The Drobo is cool idea, but an expensive one:

    The LaCie are nice looking drives, but on the expensive side too.

    And ultimately the moving parts are in the hard drive – not the enclosure. But I can’t find anywhere what drive is in the LaCie (feel like cracking yours opening and having a look?! 🙂

    Anyways, kudos to you for actually doing your backups. I guess when your computer comes with an easy to use backup system it’s more likely to happen – ever tried using Windoze built-in backup solution?

  3. I used to SyncToy back in my Windows days (usually on the weekends). Under XP, I was never able to have the scheduled backup task work (both the original and v2.0 of Synctoy). The Manual backup worked great. I’ve never been a big fan of the backup software that came with my Maxtor 1-touch drive.

    There will be no cracking open of my LaCIe drives. I’m all for discovery and science, but we have to draw lines somewhere…

    I’d love to untether my macbook pro, and have a Time Machine/Time Capsule style backup, but most consumer NAS require Windows drivers. Like the Drobo, I find Time Capsule a little on the pricey side. So for now, I’ll keep my MBP plugged into my LaCie (at least its a Firewire 800 connection) as often as I can.

  4. Bring the LaCie over to my place – I always (usually) manage to put things back together again!!!

    As for Windows NAS drivers, that might have been true of earlier or lower end offerings (ex.: the Netgear toasters) but these days most NAS are a dedicated Linux server with support for multiple protocols (CIFS, NFS, AFP, etc.) and Mac’s are improving their support as well so it’s come together quite nicely.

    A good place to start looking is

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