Home Backup Project - Part 1: Identify the Problem

This is the first post in a series about how I have implemented what I hope is a solid data backup strategy for myself. I may be completely off of my rocker, but I feel a lot more secure about where my data are, and to a geek, this is important!

A couple of months ago, I decided that I needed a better backup strategy. Too much of my data were in one of the following locations:

  1. On a primary OS hard drive, doomed to likely failure in the next 18-24 months
  2. On DVD
  3. On a generic removable drive that has, at times, decided it no longer wanted to be a hard drive

I set out to figure out how to remedy this in a reasonable and cost-effective way. I don't want to break the bank or waste my time with ridiculous backup systems that are more of a hassle than anything else.

Data Snapshot

Here's what I determined I had to worry about losing and where it was stored:

  • Documents and other archived files I need/want to keep - ~8 Gb
  • Digital Photos - ~16 Gb
  • Music - 200 Gb (I'm an avid collector!)
  • Digital Video and Movie backups - _?? Probably 2+ TB (yes, that's terabytes), recorded to DVD+/-R _
  • Non-CD Application Installers (Mac and PC) - ~18Gb
  • Installation Media - ??

Scope of Backup and Other Considerations

Obviously I couldn't plan to back up EVERYTHING properly. I'm not going to sit down and re-copy all 300ish DVDs of video just to make sure I don't lose anything. I put them on DVDs for the very reason that they're something I could technically afford to lose. I have renter's insurance to cover my purchases. Same goes for my music, but since I access that a LOT more, I'd rather have it backed up digitally somewhere so that in the event that p00p does indeed go down, I can still hear my favorite tunes.

Any regular backup system I came up with needed to be 100% transparent. I don't want to sit at my computer every morning and approve something, or check something, or audit something. This has a low WAF/PAF ratio.

There are also many files I only have in hard-copy that I should probably have a digital copy of somewhere, so that's something I'll need to build into a project plan.

Initial Project Sketch

This is what I came up with to begin this process:

  1. Do a quick backup to an external drive NOW just so I'm covered.
  2. Figure out the end game for my data as well as what are some acceptable "for now" options
  3. Figure out any intermediate steps or tasks to prepare my data to be backed up
  4. Assign a time line and any additional resources
  5. Budget for anything worth budgeting
  6. Implement!

Relevant Links

Each of these were inspiring or helpful in some what throughout this process:

In Part II, I'll get into what my "vision" is regarding my data. In addition, I'll set up a basic project plan for how I'll accomplish this new initiative.

Oct 12th, 2007