Robust Data Storage

Recently I posted a description of my company’s efforts toward becoming paperless. The post mentioned that a solid & redundant back-up system is key, and that I’d write a separate entry addressing the nuts and bolts of this.

Interestingly enough, the way our back-up system came into being did not have so much to do with going paperless. I enjoy taking photos and am learning about videography. The related computer files are large and important to me, so I had to find a way to store them. After countless hours (days, weeks) exploring different options, I settled on the following.


Our system is comprised of four 2TB disks, configured as RAID 5 (read more about that here), would leave me with a little over 5TB of useable storage. In the event one drive dies, the remaining three have sufficient data to rebuild the replacement drive. Some overhead is needed to accomplish this, hence there are 5+ instead of 8 TB available. An added benefit of RAID 5 is that large files are written from 4 drives all at once, much faster than when a large amount of data has to be provided by a single disk. We keep one spare disk on hand, just in case.


The RAID is our second line of defense as a back-up. The first line of defense is that every computer also has a dedicated external drive supervised by TimeMachine. This provides a current copy every hour. Of course we want a copy of the RAID as well. So we have two external drives in rotation for that task. Each week one of these drives goes off-site, and the previous off-site drive is brought back into the system.

One unanswered question you may have is “If your RAID has a capacity of over 5TB, what kind of external drives of similar capacity are you using?” I admit that this a weak, albeit minor, link in the system. We have yet to cross the 1TB border in terms of data in need of storage. For that reason, we now have (2) 1TB drives that provide redundant back-up. When they’re full, we’ll buy two drives with 2TB or larger capacity. We also have two old power back-ups that were revived with a new battery.

Cloud Storage?
In conversation with other business owners who face similar challenges, the topic of cloud storage has come up more than once. The reason I am not yet onboard is that file transfer to the cloud is simply too time-consuming. It may be fine for Excel and Word files, but not for large still and video files.

Hardware In Our Office
RAID: Synology DS-410, filled with
(4) Seagate Barracuda 2TB drive, Green, plus
(1) Seagate Barracuda 2TB drive as a spare

Synology DS410, G-Technology and APC 650 battery back-up

Synology DS410, G-Technology and APC 650 battery back-up

Redundant Back-up
(2) G-Technology 1Tb drives (for redundant back-up)
(4) external drives for Time Machine purposes (either Lacie Rugged or G-Technology mini drives)

Not counting labor to configure and bring the system to life, the investment in hardware was about $1,400. While a fair chunk of change in itself, to me that’s quite inexpensive. Can you imagine losing important accounting files, or, worse yet, crashing an entire disk?

Please share how your business deals with critical data storage and back-up.


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