Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Geek post: Data back up

Dear Reader,

People who knows me a bit more knows that I am It savvy and knows quite a lot about computer stuff and general electronic stuff. Lately, our computer has been showing red alarm on storage space. I bought my current computer in 2009, it's an old i5-750 with 2x1TB of storage, the system is running off an SSD which is fast and responsive. Our usage is simple, I do photography editing/exporting through Adobe Lightroom, I do a lot of TV recording, we have a TV tuner and I mainly record some blockbusters along with some hd documentary (the ones from BBC for example). It's better than downloading them from the web, I am patient in nature. It takes a bit of time to process all of that, cutting the ads and all but it's worth while.
So far, my pictures archive is toping 250GB and video is over 400 GB and as it's growing at a certain pace. As I keep two copies of pictures and certain files, everything is taking more and more room. So I decided to buy some storage. A few options are available, firstly,  the external hard disk, it's easy you attached it to the computer and it's done and dusted. I could go that way but last year, I went visit a friend's home and he had all those external drive laying around, maybe 5 or 6. So I thought that it was not a good idea, it's far from being upgradeable and once you reach the limit your are done with it, you need to buy something else. Also, you need to manage the space and redundancy yourself.

So the other route is to go NAS. There are a lot of off the shelf NAS providing good transfer performance and somewhat good storage space. But boxes are limited in space, usually 2 bays devices are affordable but if you want more... It's a headache. Also more than 2 bays devices run hardware RAID and proprietary software so it's not safe against "what happen if the board fails? "

So I decided to go DIY route but it's still expensive, my main requirements are: It needs to run ZFS, if it runs ZFS, I need to have ECC memory (it's a type of RAM that does self-check to correct error). I don't want a big box so I would like to have a mini-itx format with the maximum disk that I can put in a box without too much waste all in a relatively small budget. After looking around and pulling my hairs around, I ended up finding a good deal: HP NL54 Proliang G7, a little box that can contains 6 drives on its own, memory ECC ready and that has 2 PCI-E slots available for upgrade, all for less than 1900 HKD (250 USD), I can't beat that price for the features it offers. Then, you add the RAM, the drives and all, you end up with 6.8 TB of storage for 6000 HKD (775 USD), 5 x 2TB drives in a Raid-Z redundancy set-up, so I can lose up to 1 drive before the system has issue.

The software side is handled by a napp-it to go appliance, it's a usb stick, you plug it, set-up the hard drive space and it works, I now have an network drive accessible from my computer with 6.8 TB of storage. Next, I'll probably talk about what else we can do besides acting as an external drive.

Thanks for reading this geek post...