Although all desktop computers, laptops, tablet devices and smartphones have local storage, in order to protect the data that is on the device it is always a good idea to have at least one other copy of that data. I am sure that it is everyone’s worst nightmare to discover that the hard drive on their computer has failed and none of the data that was on it is recoverable. With the proliferation of digital still and video cameras there is a real possibility that you could lose precious memories if these pictures and video are not backed up. Fortunately there are several things that you can do to protect your data, some of these include: off-site cloud storage, external USB devices and Network Attached storage devices.
Cloud storage solutions seem to be popping up all over the place these days. Options vary from free services to those that charge monthly fees depending on the amount of space that you require. The advantage of these services is that they provide simple and safe off-site storage that is accessible from any internet connected device. In most cases the process of backing up data can be done automatically as long as you are connected to the internet. The downsides are that the connection speeds are often slow, uploading or downloading data especially large video files will eat into your monthly bandwidth limits and the storage can be very costly. This type of service would be good for people who don’t have large amounts of data to backup and need access to it everywhere.
USB Storage Devices
USB storage devices are the simplest and most commonly used data backup solution. They consist of a disk drive that when connected to a computer or laptop through its USB port serves as an additional storage location. The user can then manually backup files to this external device. If the device is permanently connected to the computer then it is possible to automatically backup data using commonly available software. Most computers have USB ports that are capable of transferring data at speeds up to 480 Mbps and newer USB 3.0 ports can transfer data at up to 10 times this speed, making backup almost instantaneous. Portable units are available that easily backup data from laptops and don’t even require a power supply.
Network Attached Storage
Network Attached Storages devices or NASes are essentially a collection of one or more hard drives that instead of being connected to a computer by a USB port, it is connected directly to your local area network (LAN) via an Ethernet cable. In addition to the disk drives, NASes contain a simple computer whose job it is to effectively manage data going in and out of its drives. Once in place, any device on the LAN can use the NAS as a location to save files which can easily be shared with other devices on the same network. Newer models also offer mobile and web based applications that enable the user to safely access their NAS’s data from any internet connected device. NASes can also be a repository of your photographs, music or video that could be made available to media players, blue ray players or game consoles for viewing on your TV. As with USB drives, backups can be done manually or automatically with software that is usually provided with your device.
Since NASes usually contain 2 or more drives it is possible to provide additional backup protection by distributing the data across the drives in one of several ways known as RAID levels. RAID, which stands for redundant array of independent disks, has evolved into several levels based on redundancy and performance. Some of the common RAID levels are: RAID 0, which has improved performance but has no redundancy, so that if any drive fails all of the data is lost; RAID 1, often referred to as mirroring, in which data is copied across multiple drives, this level offers the greatest redundancy and requires at least 2 drives; and RAID 5, offers a good compromise between performance and redundancy as the array can be rebuilt if one drive fails, at least 3 drives are required for this level. Depending on how many drives are in your NAS you can choose the RAID level that will ensure protection of your data as well as offer the most efficient use of your drive’s storage. For example, with two 3 TB drives in your NAS, if you choose RAID 0 you will have 6 TB of storage available but you will have no redundancy; if you choose RAID 1 you will have the maximum amount of redundancy but you will only have 3 TB of storage space. With four 3 TB drives using RAID 5, you will have an array that can be rebuilt if one drive fails at the same time as increased efficiency of storage, 9 TB would be available.
The Western Digital My Book LIve Duo, an easy to set up and use home NAS device is reviewed here.
Whatever solution you choose it is important to remember to keep your data in at least two locations, three different locations with one being off-site would be the ideal solution.