Home RAID vs backup?

by Robin Harris on Wednesday, 30 May, 2007

I got into it today on ZDnet with one of the other bloggers, George Ou, who published Why dumb-downed no-RAID storage is bad for consumers. As I believe that RAID is an idea whose time is coming to a close, I responded with Why home RAID won’t fly.

So far, ZDnet readers seem more persuaded by George
I’m in my trailer, sulking. How could they?

The exchange has sharpened my thinking, as George and some other folks came back with some good comments, and a couple of the more perceptive – obviously – folks came to my defense.

While I like the Drobo storage robot concept and Geoff Barrall personally, I’ll be very interested to see what kind of market they develop. Which is marketing-speak for “I’m dubious.”

Why?
The secular trend in computers is that technologies scale up from consumers – not scale down from the enterprise. But so what? The real question is why.

Because consumer stuff is cheap and enterprise stuff is expensive. Because one is high volume and the other low volume. Because volume enables low-cost experimentation and improvement. Because building cheap stuff usually forces people to focus on what really works for customers who won’t open a manual.

Home RAID? I don’t think so
Why not? Let me count the ways:

  1. Complexity: RAID fails ugly. Pick the wrong drive to pull or copy and your protected data is no more. And due to the redundancy, RAID systems have failures much more often than a single disk does.
  2. Completeness: while RAID solves some problems, it isn’t a substitute for a backup. Getting customers to understand that is hard. Not all the ZDnet readers get it.
  3. Cost: HW RAID means a controller, a chassis. A lot of money before you buy the first disk. SW RAID is cheaper – with Intel’s ICH8 chip almost free – and consumers still need to understand why they are buying a second drive and not getting more capacity.

The vast fetid swamp of consumer ignorance
In my small town I often help people with computer problems. Often these are small business people who’ve been using computers for years. What I’ve found is that these people don’t have the faintest idea how their computer works or how the components work together. To most people computers are magick.

Case in point: a professional photographer lives across the street. Two Macs, scanner, several photo quality printers, a couple of fancy digital SLRs. One Mac does color correction. The other is her main machine. Photoshop and a bunch of other image processing software that she knows how to use. Pretty sharp lady.

And she doesn’t know the difference between disk and RAM. It is all “memory” to her. She never added RAM to the skimpy amount Apple provided, so her disks are thrashed all day. She’d let the disks fill up, not realizing that she needs at least 10% free space just for the OS to use. A few hundred megabytes sounds like a lot to her.

This is the person you are going to sell RAID to? She’s your target market, with hundreds of gigabytes of valuable digital assets to protect. How would you start the conversation?

She does understand the value and process of making copies, which she would still need to do even if she bought your RAID gizmo. So how do you explain your value-add?

The StorageMojo take
Home RAID for the masses is an uphill battle. Backup is the battle the industry can win. What kind is the issue. Across the net to Mozy, Carbonite or some more fully featured option? Local backup to a DAS hard drive or to a simple USB-attached NAS drive? Those “one-touch” Maxtor drives?

Comments welcome, of course. Leaving for Boston today. If you’re in the neighborhood this weekend, send me an email and we’ll do coffee. I’ll be staying at Copley Square. Moderation may be a little slower than usual, but moderate I will.

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Anonymous Thursday, 10 July, 2014 at 7:45 pm

I have had this experience myself both in the office and at home. RAID is not useful for home purposes.

Recovery is possible; but only with professional datarecovery solutions. If your raid goes down; just bite the bullet and bring it in.

My small business (4 employees) doesn’t have an IT dept. I’m it. When our server “hiccuped” with a storm, our raid went down and I was crazy agitated.

Our server grade tape drive couldn’t recover using the server grade backup software because we never had the IT professional to setup, maintain and test it properly.

Our saving grace was a wonderful data recovery (100% complete) by cbldatarecovery and a “file copy” backup of the drive I had happened to make 2 weeks prior. Those were the only 2 backups that worked.

RAID IS ugly. Necessary in the office server but when it goes down; you need to find an expensive professional with RAID experience to guarantee a recovery before you screw it up yourselves.

In the home environment, I now do the google method. 3 copies of the same data at any time. I try to put all important data on 1 partition and weekly image that partition to a second drive. Every 3-6 months; I image out to an external usb drive and move it to the office/different location.

HOPEFULLY that should work.

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