Large data/long-term storage/backup solutions?

Having just had a Drobo pack it in (hopefully I can transfer the drives to a new Drobo and not lose 4 years worth of shows and other data...), I was wondering what others might be using for large data storage, long-term storage and backup plans.

I introduced the Drobo 5n a few years ago as a way to allow upgradeable storage with some redundancy (not! backup). For those not familiar, it's a clever network attached storage (NAS) solution which allows for different sizes of drives, features auto-recovery from single-disk failures, and generally works well. I've replaced drives before, and even keep a spare drive here just in case, but just today the power supply seems to have blown, leaving me with.. nothing. (Potentially..)

We don't have a data backup plan, aside from the fact that I use multiple machines, keep most documents in Google Drive, and have a Dropbox account. (Technically, two Dropbox accounts, one of which is my paid subscription with more storage that I occasionally use as overflow when the work account gets full.)

I've been considering something like Backblaze for backup, although I'm not sure if there are any issues dealing with the backup of intellectual property (such as the archiving of old shows that have copyright music in them).

I'd also be curious about how people handle lots of crucial data, especially when it comes to digital music libraries. We have a second Drobo tasked with nothing but storing music as a temporary measure (a place to pile stuff until a system is bought/built).


I admit that I'm not familiar with Drobo NASes, but over the
years I've worked with and had power supplies fail on a
Netgear ReadyNas, a Buffalo Terastation (the Buffalo nas I
did 2 different repairs on the power supply) QNap NASes, and
at one point I had an old Triton unit.  On the units I've
taken apart they've generally been fairly standard power
supplies, if it is a dead power supply you may be able to
purchase a replacement or repair the one it has.

If it is the same model 5N as on the drobo website, it looks
like it is just using a wall-wart power supply, if that's
the case it should be relatively easy to find a replacement.

Any chance you can try the power supply from your "spare"
drobo to test and see if that's the problem?

Already tested that; there is an indicator light on the external power supply which is blinking in tandem with the reset. Research indicates that the power supply is going into a "safe" mode, where it resets after having a request for too much power.

Tried with the other power supply already; no effect. It seems like it's a problem internal to the unit.

I'd be tempted to take the unit apart and see if there is
anything obvious such as a bad capacitor.  Likely there is a
blown cap or a shorted fet that is sucking power to ground.
But that's me, I know not everyone is comfortable with that
type of repair.  🙂

Regarding your question of long term backup, I don't have
much of an answer.  Several years back we tried burning
stuff to DVD's and such, but given the limited amount of
data that a single DVD can hold combined with the fact that
it is easy to get a bad burn, I abandoned that idea.
Similarly some folks have promoted tape backups as a good
backup strategy, although for a multitude of reasons I think
tape is a thing of the past.

I'm not a fan of the so-called "online" options.  If you're
using a service which is not located in Canada (with its
data center in Canada) then your data becomes subject to the
laws of the country in which the server resides (at least
that's what I've been told - I am not a lawyer).  And
there's also the question of what happens if the "online"
option suddenly goes bankrupt and shuts down without notice.

The best option that I've found is essentially what you're
doing - keep a couple of copies of data on different
systems.  This could mean having a couple of NASes set up
with one as the "primary" and another as your "backup" nas
and rsync between them.  Of course on your "backup" nas
you'll probably want to have some type of incremental system
so that you're not overwriting the same data each day which.
 After all if you end up with a situation where a virus
infects your main data, you don't want to overwrite your
backup data with that same virus.

As an additional you could purchase some large HDD's to take
periodic snapshots of your backup data, then put the HDD on
a shelf.  When the drive gets full buy another.  Drives are

One thing I would avoid is using one of the many proprietary
software backup programs out there which store the resulting
backup in their own format.  I once had a situation where I
got a phone call from a person who had used one particular
backup package and over time switched to a new computer /
version of Windows.  Years later he tried to restore
something from the backup and found that he no longer had a
way of reading the data - the "old" version of the software
needed to extract the data wouldn't run on the "new" version
of Windows, all his data was in a single proprietary format
"backup file".  In the end the only way to get his data back
was to dig out a copy of the "old" version of Windows (3.1),
find hardware that would run it, install the backup software
(fortunately we found the original install disk) and extract
the data.  It was not a fun process.

We use a standard server with raid array solution, modified to our limited budget. We have one old Dell server as domain controller, with dual redundant power supplies and all that. We have 3 other server boxes which have had all the guts replaced with better quality workstation motherboards, still with dual power supplies. One of those boxes has the RAID array which has our digital music library, another one is our logger, another does the webcasting. Nothing is perfect, we could have bad luck and lose several drives at the same time and be out some music. We probably should have a backup, and a backup of the backup to be safe.
It is useful to step back and look at the big picture. How much are you spending on making your data safe and how much do you really need? Besides current accounting and business info. and 7 years of tax files (most of which is saved to google drives or other program specific backups) how important is all the rest? We have put in a lot of volunteer time and effort to ripping all our CD library, but our mandate is really to play the new stuff, and the dust on our 20,000 CDs and a quick glance at the logs tells me that much of what we protect so zealously is just taking up space. Not that I want to cull the CD library, and it is important to value the efforts others have put in to create our digital library, but you still have to take a hard look at how much priority to apply to the task of saving it.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *