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My father is a wedding photographer who produces around 50GB of data a week that needs backing up. He wants to guarantee the data he's backing up for at least a year.

Currently he has three off the shelf NAS boxes, each with two 1TB drives in a RAID 1 config. This seemed good, but the boxes were cheap and very unstable - the RAID arrays didn't work, and the two drives in each box were not identical when we pulled them to check. (One in each was full, the other was only 70-80% full - seemed that the RAID had broken at some point and the NAS was only saving to one disk.)

Having played with the three NAS boxes he has, they don't seem fit the purpose and we are not confident that they are able to store this data.

I have suggested that he buy a cheap computer with plenty of hard drive bays, and use Linux to set up the drives in RAID1, then set up Samba to copy files onto them.

Is this the best solution here? What would you do in the same situation? What's the easiest way to set up Linux in this way?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

I still think a very reliable off-the-shelf NAS would be the best solution. Although NAS's are usually Linux/BSD based, they provide a friendly web interface and hide much of the unnecessary detail.

If you do opt to build, a full Linux install may require more maintenance than a professional photographer would want to worry about. I would recommend either Windows Home Server or FreeNAS.

Superuser has a couple recommendation threads for both options:

Finally, my own recommendation: I've used a D-Link DNS-323 with two 1TB drives for 1 year and have not had a problem.

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Drobo might be a good compromise between WHS and a NAS, if you don't care about the OS-backup/web-sharing/other WHS features. – Andrew Coleson Sep 7 '09 at 6:31

To be honest I believe the question is 'How much do you want to spend?'. Based on that and how available you want the information to be is where you can start from.

For example, you could get a NAS box with several drives in it, not just 2. Then you have the option of either RAID 5 or 6 (Here is a basic RAID information page, and here is a more advanced explanation of what RAID does (very dry)), where even when you have a drive failure, you can still access the information you need for the business whilst the failed drive is being rebuilt onto the spare automatically. At least then if your Dad's photography business is very successful he can add drives to the NAS instead of buying more seperate 2 drive NAS boxes.

You don't need linux to create a RAID, unless you are doing it without a RAID controller. If you are unfamiliar with Linux then a RAID controller is probably the best thing for you.

With regards to your existing NAS solutions, if the drives in questions are different in size and they don't work out of the box as advertised you may have grounds to return them since, as you put it so well, they are 'not fit for purpose'.

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50 gygs a week? Does he store all his images in .RAW ?

50 gygs times 52 weeks = 2.6 terra bytes each year...

First of all, how much do you want to spend? Second, RAID 1 is very expensive when you have to backup large ammounts of data. It duplicates the ammount of drives needed for the job.

RAID 10 or RAID 5 will do the trick. However, for him to be able to save one year of work, he needs in excess of 3 terrabytes... Which will be a lot to handle... I best suggest he compresses it a bit when backup up the data...

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Yeah, it is RAW. It doesn't really compress either. Remember that 1TB is around £60-£70 these days, so 3TB isn't much per year. – Rich Bradshaw Aug 24 '09 at 13:26
What's a gygabyte? – Travis Aug 24 '09 at 15:05
Hahahaha, it is a secret new G00gle project they probably haven't told you about! ;) G'y'ggle.... – Aaaaaaaaaha ERLEBNIS Aug 26 '09 at 9:06

Qnap have a large range of NAS units more directed to small businesses that may fit your need. More drive bays, good performance and a few more features. They are quite expensive though so it might be out of your price range since you didn't specify one.

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