My own collection, which includes a healthy mix of CDs and downloaded high resolution audio files is now approaching the 30,000 files mark. This occupies 1.2TB of disk space for the FLAC master library and 1.4TB for a replicated Apple Lossless library. I am totally paranoid over the consequence of losing all of this to a HD failure. I have endured several HD failures in my lifetime, so I know that they happen more often than you would like, and generally without warning. I don’t want to imagine how much time it would take me to re-rip my CD collection, and re-download all my downloaded music. I don’t know if that would even be possible!
There are various ways to address this issue. First, is the obvious one, back it up! I must confess I don’t like backup utilities
much. They seem to be overly
complicated, designed as they are to deal with the myriad complexities of the
gamut of computerized data. I always
suspect that when I need to use it, I won’t be able to work it! Another option is to keep a nice simple copy
of everything on another HD somewhere.
The problem is that you get lazy, and you don’t back up as often as you
should. But in general, backing up and
copying strategies can be quite successful.
The solution I favour is to put everything on a Networked
Attached Storage (NAS) unit. A NAS is a
very powerful device, but can also be very expensive. There are cheap units at the $200 price
point, and expensive units at the $1,000+ price point. And that’s without any HDs! The cheap units are more than likely going to
be less reliable, and that completely misses the point of using a NAS for
storing your audio data. The most expensive
units have a higher level of performance (read/write speeds, ability to connect
simultaneously with multiple users with little performance loss, etc) and are
aimed mainly at corporate applications.
As usual, the best deal is to be found somewhere in the middle. I bought a Synology DS411j unit a couple of
years ago and it has worked flawlessly for me.
Tim has a similar one.
After you buy your NAS, you have to kit it out with multiple
Hard Drives. Mine takes four 3.5” hard
disks. These disks are then formatted
into what is known as a RAID array. RAID
is a scheme whereby the data is distributed across the multiple disks in such a
way that if one disc should suddenly fail, then none of your data is lost. You just replace the failed disk, rebuild the
RAID, and you are back again at full operation.
Some NAS units will let you do that without even having to power it down
(so-called “hot-swapping”). There are different “Levels” of RAID, and
they all have different characteristics.
Some will even allow more than one disk to fail with no loss of data. When I started out, I built my NAS with four
500GB HDs, but soon learned my lesson and swapped them out for four 2TB
HDs. Configured in “Synology Hybrid RAID” this gives me 5.8TB of storage, and I can
survive the failure of any one HD without losing any data. As well as my music, I can store a whole load
of other mission-critical data on there too.
My NAS is also plugged into a UPS so that if the power fails it can shut
itself down gracefully. The whole
shebang sits in a room in the basement, next to the network router, well out of
My paranoia leads me to also be very picky about which model
of HD I put in my NAS. Ordinary consumer
grade HDs fail – in my experience – at a rate higher than I feel comfortable
exposing myself to. Therefore I only buy
“Enterprise Class” HDs. These have a
much lower failure rate, but, as you might expect, cost a good 50% more. My own HD of choice has been the Western
Digital RE4 family, and I own several of these without having incurred a single
failure. At one time they were in short
supply and I had to buy a pair of Seagate Constellation ES 2TB units. One of these subsequently failed – actually,
the Synology warned me of its impending failure before it actually died, and
Seagate were happy to replace it under warranty based on the warning alone –
and the replacement unit has so far functioned without further incident.
I can attach an external USB drive to my NAS, so I have
plugged in a spare 1.5TB external LG unit.
I place a further double-paranoid copy of my FLAC library on there for
safe keeping, just in case...
If you are keeping tally, that’s about $1,200-$1,500 spent
on my file storage system. 6TB of cheap
storage capacity will set you back about $600, so that’s an awful lot extra to
budget for little more than data security. You may feel differently from me as
to whether it is worth it. But so long
as you have taken the time to pause and think it through, then that’s good
enough for me.
Back to Part IV.
Part VI can be found here.