I've recently gotten into photography and now have a largish data problem. I also have never really had much on my home pc that I would cry over if I lost so don't have a good backup plan in place.

My current idea is to put 2 1TB drives in my PC and have them set up in a raid 1 configuration and then backup to a external usb drive once a week and keep that at my work office.

Can Vista to the raid 1 for me if I put in 2 sata drives?

What about other solutions? Would a NAS be fast enough for photo editing? How about something like a drobo? I like the idea of raid 1 because if something totally fails I can just drop it in another machine. But then if I have the backups I can use that and rely on the raid for drive failures on my primary machine.

I don't really want to hit the bleeding edge of storage space, rather get enough for a year out and wait for prices\size to get better. 1TB should cover me for another year or so unless I start taking way more pics.

  • I think your current idea is practical, especially since you said this is temporary. Vista can do a software RAID. I can't think of any real concerns. Just that if your RAID is the boot drive, I think you may have to ensure the mirror has the System Reserved partition as well. I mean you need that, but I can't remember how Windows deals with it. – Louis Apr 25 '11 at 2:07

I don't consider a NAS (or rather the network connection) to be fast enough for photo editing, at least with a fresh batch of RAWs. Far better to do this on your local disk and backup the best RAWs and any TIFF/JPEGs to a NAS or to the external hard disk. With a gigabit connection and a small (<100) number of RAWs in a folder, it's OK to re-load the thumbnails etc. into your RAW convertor at a later date from the NAS, but the first time it's frustrating.

Consider whether you really need RAID (and its configuration hassles) or whether a two/three stage backup is sufficient (a backup of your hard drive, and a backup of that). I used to have RAID 1 for my photo/video partition and gave up with it in the end; I now edit fresh RAWs on local disk, then backup the keepers to the NAS which backs itself up nightly. That then goes to an offsite backup monthly. I've heard good things about Drobo but never used, and my 1Tb NAS+1Gb external drive cost under £200 together, which is somewhat cheaper than those integrated solutions.

  • 1
    1 Gbps LAN connection adds very little overhead to disk access. Trust me, it would be just like a local disk. – KovBal Jul 21 '09 at 14:24
  • OK, if that's the case then either the NAS is a bottleneck or something is wrong with my network. – Alistair Knock Jul 30 '09 at 19:10
  • @AlistairKnock: I switched from an old Qnap to a newish ReadyNAS with x86 on the same Gigabit network - speeds doubled or tripled. So CPU makes a lot of difference (and maybe other internal components). – RipperDoc Apr 25 '12 at 9:29
  • @RipperDoc Agreed, RAM as well; I upgraded to an HP Microserver with 5Gb and a whole bunch of disks, and it works great now. I hardly call it a NAS though; it's a server. – Alistair Knock May 5 '12 at 16:42

Have you considered signing up for flickr ? They have around US$25 per year, unlimited storage, etc.

  • I want to keep the raw files at 20MB a pop I don't have the bandwidth for an online storage solution. Currently I have around 10k files – Matt Price Jul 15 '09 at 12:54

If I were you, I'd keep my files on my local PC, both for editing and as primary storage. Don't get too hung up on RAID: RAID is not backup.

For backup, I'd use, at the very least, both:

  • a USB, FireWire or networked HDD (or another computer, if you have a spare computer on the same network as your main PC).
  • online backups.

There are several companies whose products will handle both sorts of backup (local and online) simultaneously. Some will even let you send mail a hard drive with your data on, to jumpstart the online backups.

Crashplan and Mozy come to mind, but I expect there are others.

  • Crashplan and Backblaze have very good value for sizes of TB (e.g. $50 per year), whereas Mozy scales very poorly above 125 GB (which is a small library if handling RAWs!) - 500GB at Mozy seem to cost around $340 per year. – RipperDoc Apr 25 '12 at 9:28

One thing to consider that might shift your price point is that your not going to need any RAW files, that are over a couple of months old, readilly available on your disk. They could be on the slow NAS with only the most recent ones on your computers drive, saving you the cost and hassle of an internal RAID setup. Chances are you could keep your existing disks and just add NAS.

If you've got the RAID with all your files on this can be backed up to an online service or simply another external drive (no need for 2 expensive NAS drives).

Of course if you regularly work with much older files this goes out the window :)


I am in the process of completing the following setup:

  1. Sort photos in a year-by-year structure (I'm making the assumption that you more often work on recent photos rather than the old ones).
  2. Get a NAS with RAID, x86 processor and Gigabit Ethernet (to have enough CPU to not be a bottleneck, and the side-benefit of being able to run normal backup apps)
  3. Move your older photos, e.g. all years up until your last 1 or 2 years, to the NAS and mount it permanently as drive. The NAS should be fast enough for good experience, if you need to edit them, but most of the time you won't need to.
  4. Either find a friend with a NAS and use rsync daily/weekly to them, or sign up for Crashplan, the cheapest unlimited backup service that supports Linux. Setup Crashplan to run on the NAS - if you have an x86 NAS, it should be enough to follow the Crashplan instructions for Linux installation.
  5. Either use rsync, Crashplan or other backup to also backup your most recent 1-2 years, on your main drive, to the NAS, and make sure they are in turn included in the offsite backup.
  6. If you are paranoid, take monthly backup of the NAS to a large USB drive and keep it safe.

So, for example:

/2012/ Main drive, backup on NAS, backup on Crashplan, backup on USB

/2011/ NAS, backup on Crashplan, backup on USB

/2010/ NAS, backup on Crashplan, backup on USB

This becomes an almost fully automatic solution, that can handle TB of photos, without requiring your main computer to have a gigantic HDD or RAID, and avoiding network lag where possible (as your working set is normally on your main drive).

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