My Digital Life

How do you store your irreplaceable digital data?

I’ve always been a data collector, and the digital age has only made it easier for me to collect and keep tons of data. Going back twenty five years, I remember collecting hundreds of floppy disks, each with their own text, code, game, picture, etc. Now nearly my whole life is digital. My taxes, my checking account, my paychecks … everything is digital.

With digital data comes the problem of ‘permanent storage’. This is a hard thing to define in the technology industry. What is permanent? Hard drives fail (I’ve had a few crap out on me). Is copying data to a CD-ROM permanent? Nope, those CD-Rs may fail after only a few years. DVD-Rs are even worse.</p.

So what’s a digital geek supposed to do? The answer is redundancy. In whatever form, you need to plan for data storage to fail. At the base of the redundancy theory is you keep multiple copies of the data at all times. If one copy fails, you immediately replace the lost copy from one of the remaining good copies. The chances of having all copies lost at the same time is small. Increasing the copies will further reduce the chances of losing all copies.

In the computer world, this system is known as RAID. Essentially you allow a computer/device manage multiple copies of your data on multiple drives. If one drive fails, you are notified and can replace the drive without any data loss. Most corporate data is stored on RAID systems. All Internet applications are backed by RAID storage. In the past the cost barrier has made these systems only available to companies, but over the years the cost has come down to reasonable levels.

Since so much of my life is digital, I decided to finally get a RAID system. Today I ordered an Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ 2TB X-RAID NAS [RNV2-S4-X450 ] from mwave.com. This is a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, meaning it connects to your local LAN and shows up as a set of shared network folders. This model has 2 terabytes of storage, spanned across four 500GB drives. Because of the redundant nature of RAID, the total usable space should be closer to 1.5TB — still a ton of storage (hopefully enough to last me a few years).

The main reason I went with the Infrant (over the cheaper “home” RAID solutions) is Infrant’s X-RAID . While I haven’t used it yet, the docs seems to indicate on-the-fly upgrading possible. I’ll post some more info once I set it up.

Hopefully my digital life will be protected now.