Every six to twelve months, I have to upgrade the size of my storage system to hold all the image files and related documents and web pages I generate. Being on a budget (like so many people) I developed a workaround that provides speed in storing information, and reliability in backing it up.
I’ve also developed a short checklist for maintenance that may prove useful to others.
Keep in mind that although I use a Mac most of the time, I do own two Windows boxes (gasp!) and many of the ideas and practices described here help in the Windows world, as well.
Hard Drive Storage
I don’t use a RAID setup, or even one of those new-fangled RAID boxes. They’re good, but also expensive.
Instead, I use a pair of 1TB external hard drives made by a reliable manufacturer. Lately it seems like the Lacie is one of the better ones, offering a 1TB, 7200 RPM drive incorporating four connector types (eSATA, USB, Firewire 800 and 400), and a three-year warranty. All this in a metal case, all cables, for about $150. Not bad at all. (by the way, I won’t buy a drive that has less than three-year coverage).
I have these two new drives connected via an add-on eSATA PCI card, which gives the 7200 RPM drives room to breathe at up to 3GB/sec speed. On my Mac tower, the eSATA card is an add-on, for about $45 – and increases throughput speed dramatically as compared to Firewire or USB.
Drive A is the new primary data drive, absorbing all my photo shoots, galleries, new web pages, and the like.
Drive B is the backup drive. Rather than use a RAID setup, I’m most comfortable with using a backup utility like Silverfast (many others like this around) that, on a regular, set schedule, will copy all new files/information from Drive A to backup on Drive B. This creates a virtual clone of the A drive, without any attention from me at all – which means it will get done every day!
What about off-site storage? There are a number of options; I can upload critical image files to my iDisk or to Amazon’s new data storage service, burn them to a reliable metal-based CD and store them in a bank vault, or copy large numbers of files to another drive and store it in a fireproof safe. The idea is to get the information in a protected place away from your main place of work. Another building will do, if only to help protect against fire or theft.
I’ve found this system to be very reliable. I’m pretty sure that in the past six or seven years I have not lost any images to equipment failure in storage. If one drive fails, the backup is there to “protect and serve”.
Not bad for six to twelve months’ protected storage – for just over $300!
On the maintenance side:
At least once a week, if not more, leave your computer on overnight – it runs important automatic maintenance routines in the early morning hours while you are sleeping.
Using Disk Utility, run “repair disk permissions” at least once a week on each drive that you use regularly.
From time to time, use a utility application like Tech Tool Pro and check the condition of the components in your system – memory, video, drive controllers, etc. A down to earth user interface makes this pretty easy.
Create an extra admin-type user account (system preferences>accounts) so you can still access your desktop and other important files if your primary user name becomes unusable. This little tip recently saved my bacon!
Create an extra boot drive, essentially a clone of your home boot drive. If your main drive goes south, you can still boot from here and, hopefully, make repairs.