Backups, For Good

2007-04-08 21:48 - Tech

As with most of my blog posts with a purpose, this one will meander a while before it gets to the real point. Bear with me, it should be a good one.

When I was (probably) not even a teenager yet, I got my first computer. It was a 286, with two 5¼" drives, and no hard drive. There was an old drive lying around the house though. And when I say old, I mean it. It was something like a 60 MB MFM drive. But, when formatted with RLL it became a whopping 100 MB monster! When I got it it was something like 11 years old, with an 8 year estimated lifespan. Nevertheless, it served me well for a number of years.

That sort of luck with drive reliability stuck with me for a few years. Then, around ten to twelve years later, it faltered. In the laptop that I owned prior to the one I'm typing on now, I had two drives fail. Neither really failed dramatically, but they both started making very ominous and/or annoying noises and got replaced.

A year or two later, I had bought a new (used) machine to become my at-home server. It had everything but a hard drive. I bought a big 250 GB monster to put in it to hold everything. It stored, usually, the only copy of all the big and important stuff I had. It was the server, and that meant they were always available, whether I was on my desktop or laptop, or if I was at work or anywhere else. It was pretty nice.

But, drives started failing there too. I've lost count, but I've gone through at least a half dozen in two years or so, Maxtors and Western Digitals, and finally when I started getting desperate, a Seagate drive, because they come with 5 year warranties. I figured that meant I should be able to count on it. But nay, the first Seagate failed only three months after I put it in.

About halfway through this mess, to my distinctly great favor with only minor data loss, I started setting up a real backup scheme. I kept a second drive around, and would irregularly copy the entire system onto it. It worked, and helped keep my overall data loss over time minor.

I had some problems though. The backups were infrequent and irregular, because they were purely manual. Only when I thought of it and remembered to. I've finally fixed this as well.

I heard about the software package called rsnapshot a few weeks back, and I greedily bookmarked it. Then, I got a one-two punch on the perfect drive. I've bought a few things from Buy.com, but none too recently. They emailed me a 7% off coupon, then a list of deals, one of which was a fairly priced external USB drive, and on top of that a $25 rebate. I jumped on it.

So, now I have a 500GB external drive, and I'm keeping twice-daily snapshots, archived weekly and monthly for a period of two years. The important bit is that it's external. I already had an X10 home automation system here, and I've made use of it to programmatically control the power to the external drive. Only twice a day, for what seems to be a period of about 90 minutes, the drive powers on. The script automatically turns on the power, mounts the drive, and then runs rsnapshot to keep a backup of the current version, and dozens of versions back for two years. Of both my entire home server, and the whole home directory of my web server as well. My data is finally safe!

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