Digital Storage at Home: My storage story

For years I never had any kind of storage or backup plan. From the late 90’s to early 2000’s, I had used 1GB Iomega Jaz drives for storage but over time, I thought I could resort to using CD-ROMs. I also kept adding larger hard disks figuring that I wouldn’t need anything serious. Four years ago, one day I managed to run into a wall of problems as I couldn’t add any more disks and my available space was so low, I had to do something drastic. Faced with a mess, I purchased my first consumer NAS: QNAP TS-409 Pro.
Now, with one terabyte of storage (using four disks), I realized that I had been missing out. Network Attached Storage was not only for me, but really for anyone who cared about their data. A simple four-disk consumer NAS was, at the time, the perfect band-aid but eventually, I outgrew it’s capacity. I knew that I wanted something that suited my needs and that while the marketplace could provide something, I probably wasn’t willing to part with the money.
Over time, I came to the conclusion that I was looking at five specific requirements (in no particular order):

  • Storage for all my media (video, music, etc.), my documents and application data (ISOs, install executables)
  • Some level of RAID redundancy (hardware or software RAID)
  • Upload to an off-site/remote backup location (rsync or some other automated mechanism)
  • Expansion! The ability to add more disks or replace disks if needed
  • iSCSI support for my virtual servers for (Citrix XenServer and now VMWare ESXi)

My research lead me to the conclusion that most if not all consumer-based NASes can meet all of these criteria but the price per disk grows substantially prohibitive after four to six disks. Rather than spend upwards of $900 on a six or eight disk solution, I set out to make a huge NAS that would meet all of my needs for a price at or below what the market could offer.
Why should people think about digital storage? Isn’t a computer or laptop good enough? While storage capacity has grown dramatically, disk failures are still eminent. No one expects their hard drive to fail and yet it can happen. What about cloud services like Dropbox, Skydrive or Google Docs? Cloud storage services are a great solution for those who don’t need a lot of backup storage and need a low budget solution, but even cloud storage can have some minor drawbacks. If you’re serious about your data, you need to think about digital storage seriously.
One last personal story – I recently found four backup CDs that I had made dating back to 1999. I was eager to look at what I had saved. It took hours to extract and some of the data was unreadable. All four CDs are in excellent condition and yet I wasn’t able to recover everything. Now, most of the data I had saved wasn’t interesting, but I had managed to save a handful of documents and media files that when I found them I was elated beyond joy, even if it was for only a few minutes. It’s interesting at how the documents we save, pictures we keep and the music or video we store are artifacts of our past and the memories attached consciously or unconsciously. I can’t imagine what I will treasure in the next five years, but I know that I will want that opportunity to uncover digital relics from my past. I hope that this series of articles will inspire you to have that same joy of uncovering something from your past years, maybe decades from now.
In our next mini-series article, we’ll look at specific details and steps into how to pick and choose your digital storage solution.



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