This post is part of my Upgraded Linux Backup series.
Before I get to what my new backup hardware consists of, it might be helpful to know a bit about my existing (old) setup. My home network consists of a workstation, a laptop, a netbook, a seldom-used garage PC, and a multipurpose server. Among it’s many duties, the server is a centralized backup server, allowing the various computers to back up files each night. It runs on an old AMD Athlon motherboard with 512MB RAM, using a 30 GB drive for the OS and programs and a pair of 200 GB drives for storage and backup.
Prior to this upgrade, the backup drive was regularly at 95% capacity. Even with the intelligent pooling technology used by the BackupPC software it had become necessary to limit the number of nightly backups I was keeping in order to make space for the unique data from the various PCs. So I decided it was time to upgrade my storage situation.
I had been debating for a while how to best increase my storage space while also ensuring the integrity and protection of my data. Having recently witnessed my parents’ misfortune and recognizing that if a similar tragedy would have happened to me that many priceless digital memories and large amounts of work-related data would have been lost, I knew it was time for a system that incorporated some kind of off-site backup.
One option I contemplated was an online backup service, where your data is stored in the “cloud” and available whenever and wherever you need to access it. The particular provider I considered was SpiderOak. I had one of their free 2 GB accounts already and I was very impressed with their security and privacy policies as well as their interoperability with Linux. However, the problem with such online backup options is their monthly fees. For the price of 100 GB per year at SpiderOak I could buy a hard drive ten times that size!
So that’s what I did – I bought two 1TB hard drives. This will allow for one hard drive to be in service and the other stored at a secure, off-site location in case of disaster. I’ll have tons of storage space and no monthly fees. A win-win situation.
Of course, juggling two different drives means additional complications with set-up and management, but those are later blog posts.
My original plan was to buy two bare drives and two USB enclosures. My server does not support serial ATA (SATA) drives, so USB seemed easiest for both compatibility and swap-ability. I’ll elaborate later, but to make a long story short USB simply was not adequate for my particular needs, so I ended up purchasing a PCI SATA controller as well. Thankfully the enclosures supported both USB and eSATA, so everything else was simply a matter of configuration (also another post.)
So finally, here’s the hardware I ended up using to make my backup plans a reality. All links are to Newegg, my personal favorite purveyor of computer parts. (The prices listed were as of July 2009, and I’m sure will probably become laughable as time passes.)
- 2 Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EADS 1TB SATA drives – $79.99 ea.
- 2 Vantec NST-300SU external USB / eSATA enclosures – $27.98 ea.
- Rosewill RC-210 PCI internal & external SATA controller – $19.99
Total cost – $235.93 (All the items qualified for free shipping at the time I ordered them.) Less than the cost of 100GB for two years through an online backup provider.
Thus far I’ve had no hardware-related problems, and everything has been superbly compatible with Linux (Ubuntu 8.04 LTS / Hardy Heron.) The drives are extraordinarily quiet. Since the server still has 3 internal hard drives and several fans, the new external drives are basically inaudible.
The only nitpick I’ve got is with the Vantec enclosures. There is a bright blue power / activity LED on the front the enclosure, and when you install the drive into the internal tray you have to plug the LED in as you put the enclosure back together. Two small, recessed screws hold the drive tray in place. I found (with both my enclosures) that if I tightened the screws all the way down, completely closing the gap between the tray and the rest of the enclosure, the lights would not work. If I backed the screws out just a few threads everything worked fine. I don’t think the gap is large enough to pose a concern, so it’s basically just a small aesthetic annoyance. Not a deal-breaker, but something worth noting.
That’s it for the hardware specs! Next up, formatting the removable drives and setting them up with LUKS encryption.