Tony Duckles on programming, photography, and general geekery

Simple Off-Site Backups...?


Lately I've been consumed with the idea of getting more serious about backing- up all the data I have. I tend to be a digital pack-rat: my music collection, digital photos I've taken, all the songs I've ever recorded, various tarballs filled with code-stuffs for college projects I did, etc. There's a wealth of nostalgia there, and I realized that I really wouldn't want to lose a lot of that stuff.

I already use a quasi-RAID system: I have two identical hdd's in my file- server box and I rsync the “master” drive to the “slave” drive every so often. Not only does this provide me some amount of rollback-ness (i.e. because I only rsync so often), but the decision to not RAID-mirror the drives was intentional: if the filesystem or partition table on the RAID somehow became corrupted, all my data could be lost.

But…what if my house burns down? (*gasp* Oh noes!!) Yes, that would be sad indeed! So, rather than just providing a single layer of redundancy locally, if I really want to invest in the survival of my important data, I really need to spread that data around; I need to diversify.

I've looked around at various web-based back-up solutions like Amazon's S3 service, but those don't seem very optimal for me because of the amount of data I want to backup (~150GB) and because it seems like it would be a PITA to do a full restore over my home cable internet pipe. Not to mention the monthly fees, paying someone else to store my data safe and sound. But, dare I trust my important (and partially sensitive) data to a stranger?

Currently, I'm tempted by a seemingly simple solution: just get an external USB hdd, mirror my data once locally, and then throw it at a friend's house and use rsync to keep it up-to-date. The main cost involved is the cost of the new hdd; there's no monthly fee because I already need to pay for my internet- access. And I can even return the favor by hosting drives on my end too. And this could even be expanded to a multiple people, if you wanted to back-up your data in multiple off-sites. This seems almost too easy to me, but it seems perfectly effective. Anything, it's making use of the hidden geek- factor: you're a geek and you have geek friends, so why not make the most of it and use them for geeky endeavors like helping each other backup each other's data? ;)

The main problem I have with this plan is that my data wouldn't be encrypted at all. I'm not sure how paranoid I really need to be about my friends snooping around my data. Though, I think this is basically the general idea as: what would happen if someone stole your computer? So, that's really more an argument that I should be locally encrypting my data so that even if prying eyes were to get at my local/master copy, they still wouldn't be able to do much with it.

Has anyone else given thought to getting more serious about backing up their data?