Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Automated, Real-time Hard Drive Backup

As I've said before, I'm a big advocate of backup systems because I've gone through the hell of hard drive failures. A 2007 study by The Computer Science Department of Carnegie Mellon University states that:

We find that in the field, annual disk replacement rates typically exceed 1%, with 2-4% common and up to 13% observed on some systems.
With statistics like that, you better believe it will happen to you some day.

I currently use Mozy for remote backup in case I throw my computer out the window because Vista has me so frustrated. Remote backups are great and a must have in my eyes (they also give you that warm fuzzy feeling), but they are not perfect. For instance, it could take weeks to actually recover your 50 gigs of data from a remote service. You will eventually get it all, but it won't be a quick recovery.

Want zero down time? Enter RAID. Accordance Systems has a really cool backup device called the ARAID that automatically and transparently backs up your hard drive by mirroring it. Now mirroring hard drives isn't anything new, but the cool part about the ARAID device is that it acts like a normal hard drive on your computer and you can simply add it to your box without having to do anything crazy like reformatting your hard drive or installing raid controllers to get it running. And if a hard drive fails, you won't be waiting weeks to recover, in fact you won't even have to stop working because the mirrored drive takes over.

Here's the skinny on how it works:
  1. You shutdown your computer (or course)
  2. Replace your master hard drive with the ARAID unit
  3. Put your master hard drive in the top bay of the ARAID
  4. Now you start up your computer and it runs like normal as if the ARAID weren't there
  5. Now you insert a second drive into the bottom tray (yes, you can do this while the drive is
  6. The ARAID will now synchronize the master drive to the second drive on the fly
  7. Now you have a fully functioning mirrored RAID 1 array where your data is always backed up to the second drive so if one drive fails, the other takes over with no downtime.
This is pretty cool stuff, especially because they made it so easy to setup. I would definitely recommend using something like this along with a remote backup solution just in case your office burns to the ground.