Since making the switch to digital a few years ago I’ve been paranoid about losing all of my “negatives” to a simple hard drive crash. We rarely print anything these days so our recorded memories would truly be lost in the digital ether.
Initially I kept a copy of all my photos on my hard drive and then occassionally burned CDs and DVDs. I quickly realized that the “occassionally” part was one day going to lead to disaster since the occassions grew farther and farther apart.
My first attempt at upping our insurance was to build a small RAID array using the built-in support on my motherboard. A pair of 160 GB drives in a RAID 1 configuration (more on RAID here for the curious) provided fully redundant storage. If one hard drive crashed the second drive would still have a copy of our photos.
This worked just fine and I figured I had a good 12-18 months before I would need to expand the size of the array.
When I upgraded from the 10D (6 megapixels) to the 5D (13 megapixels) I started filling up the RAID array rapidly. Upgrading to larger disks was an easy solution but one that wouldn’t necessarily last very long. I can blow through 2 – 4 GB of pictures on a busy weekend.
The solution I eventually settled on was adding network-attached storage (NAS) to my growing home network. NAS not only gives me a place to securely store files but also opens up a bunch of other possibilites, like streaming movies (even HD content) and music to other devices on the network, automated backups from all of our PCs and laptops, etc.
There were lots of choices. From the homebrew FreeNAS to the ultra sleek LaCie Ethernet Big Disk to the quite affordable Terrastation.
The ReadyNAS NV+ was a bit more expensive but had a good number of features that others didn’t have like built-in FTP and HTTP daemons, media streaming (iTunes, UPnP AV, Squeezebox, others), snapshot capabilities, built-in print server, and a host of others.
Perhaps the most important to me, though, was ability to easily expand the size of the array without resorting to arcane command line utilities. Slap in a new drive and the ReadyNAS array will automatically expand. (It sounds like magic but it is actually Infrant’s X-RAID.)
I purchased a bare ReadyNAS NV+ from Amazon during a sale, bought a pair of 500 GB drives from NewEgg and was off to the races.
Setup was a breeze. In about 15 minutes I’d added the drives and started formatting the disks. Another 15 minutes passed and I 450 GB of fully redundant storage on the network, accessible from anywhere at home. (The ReadyNAS actually has a built-in FTP server so I could open it up to the outside world… if I was insane.)
It took the better part of the day to copy over all of my photos, movies, music, documents and other critical information but everything is up and running now, safe and sound. In one fell swoo I managed to make our files safer and more accessible while simultaneously increasing my nerd quotient.