I have spoken a lot recently about NAS & RAID and allsorts of other technical stuff to do with data storage, but what does it all mean and what is the point? Hopefully, this blog post will help explain why it is important to protect your data and a look at the best ways to do it.
Imagine losing everything…
For many of us Photographers & Videographers, our data is our most important asset, arguably even more important than our camera gear. I still sell prints of images I took four or five years ago so the idea of losing my files fills me with a crippling sense of anxiety. However, it’s not just as simple as losing a few photos or a Lightroom catalog. I have invoices, agreements, personal projects and many other important documents that, if they were to simply disappear, would grind my business to a halt. Yet the vast majority of us only ever decided to protect our data ‘after’ we have had a major catastrophe, so now is the time to get proactive!
What are the options?
Before we delve too deep into some of the methods available, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. Most of us either work from home or an office but in almost all circumstances, we leave our precious data in one place. I, for instance, work from home and choose not too rent an additional office space as I have everything I need in a dedicated ‘office’ (spare room) at home. However, here is the first issue. All of my data is in one place. If I was to be burgled, flooded or if there were a fire, my data (hard drives) would literally go up in smoke, removing any possibility of recovering them.
With this in mind, it is important that we remember that many of the options that we will look at are not failsafes, they are not legitimate ‘back ups’ of your data. Only when the data is being stored in multiple safe locations (off site away from your home/office) and backed up on a regular basis can it be considered safe. To be honest, even then there are still risks involved.
If ‘offsite’ backup is a must, then it would be easy to think that cloud storage is a bit of a no-brainer. Though it certainly has an element safety, knowing that your data is ‘in the cloud’ and not vulnerable to such earthly things as fire and theft, the truth is, it’s not 100% safe. In a world of cyber crime, even large organisations such as the NHS have surcome to data being held at ransom.
The other downside to cloud storage is that most commonly, space is at a premium with even the more generous service only offering around 1tb of storage and there can be restrictions on the file types that can be stored. The other major issue is that depending on your internet connection, it can be painfully slow saving and accessing your data and if, like me, you have multiple terabytes of data, you’ve pretty much had it.
NAS & RAID
He we go with the technical stuff again. I will attempt to describe these in as basic terms of possible. One of the main threats that we have to our data is the chance of a mechanical error and losing a hard drive to a technical fault. Although there are services out there that can attempt to recover lost data, there is no guarantee. So a clever option is Network Attached Storage or NAS for short. NAS is a centralised storage device that can allow multiple users to access data view a network (or LAN). NAS’s are commonly made up of one or more hard drives which are referred to as a ‘Redundant Array of Independent Disks’ or RAID for short.
The purpose of RAID is to protect against loss of data by spreading or mirroring that data across multiple disks. We will look at a few common RAID options in a future post but see it as a carbon copier for your data. If you lose one disk, the other disks will have your precious data saved, ready to be restored to a new disk. However, the major downside of this is that although it protects against mechanical loss of data, it is still only stored in one place - so we still have the risk of fire/flood/theft etc.