Is FlexRaid truly reliable as a backup tool? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 32 Old 12-06-2012, 06:35 PM - Thread Starter
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I have done a bit of research on FlexRaid and from what I could gather is that it works with the data rather than at the drive or file system level. So its way more reliable than any other form of RAID and chance of losing data is minimal with OS crash or component failure. Even accidental deletions or data corruptions can be remedied since you need to manually update the RAID parity. So as long as you notice the problem before updating the snapshot, the parity drive can act as a backup and restore the original data.

I am currently implementing a typical backup everything to external drive scheme. But its getting expensive having to buy 2 drives at a time everytime I run out of drive space. Can I simply get rid of all of my backups and instead designate a couple of external hard drives for parity? The externals will be disconnected after the parity is updated. The main data will reside in the internal HDDs. Will this be as reliable as my current 1:1 backup scheme or is there a catch?
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post #2 of 32 Old 12-06-2012, 06:50 PM
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No.

No raid is a true backup. And certainly not a substitute for true backup of critical non-movie/tv files.
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post #3 of 32 Old 12-06-2012, 06:54 PM
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Unless I am completely mistaken, parity drives will not have any accessible data like when copying files. They are of no use other than to rebuild failed drives in the configured setup.

note: the post above is my opinion. as such, when reading any recommendations from me, please do you research and seek out other recommendations and make up your own mind on your next course of action. i mean, most reasonable adults should know that, but it seems this should be stated anyways.
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post #4 of 32 Old 12-06-2012, 09:19 PM
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Originally Posted by aliaskary77 View Post

Unless I am completely mistaken, parity drives will not have any accessible data like when copying files. They are of no use other than to rebuild failed drives in the configured setup.

That's correct.
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post #5 of 32 Old 12-06-2012, 09:44 PM
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So then, I believe that parity protects against hard drive failure, but will NOT protect against accidentally deleting your files, virus ravaging everything, etc. So is it safe to say that parity only protects against hard drive failure?
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post #6 of 32 Old 12-06-2012, 09:56 PM
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Originally Posted by rc05 View Post

So then, I believe that parity protects against hard drive failure, but will NOT protect against accidentally deleting your files, virus ravaging everything, etc. So is it safe to say that parity only protects against hard drive failure?

Correct. RAID (as is usually discussed here -- used for redundancy) will not protect against accidental file deletion but can protect against hardware failure. FlexRAID also has a drive pooling feature which help to manage (or not have to manage) large collections of data across several disks.

A way I like to distinguish between redundancy and backup is with redundancy all copies of your data are "live" or "online". WIth backup, at least one copy is "offline". I think for a media server there's a place for both.

 

 

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post #7 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 01:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by rc05 View Post

So then, I believe that parity protects against hard drive failure, but will NOT protect against accidentally deleting your files, virus ravaging everything, etc. So is it safe to say that parity only protects against hard drive failure?

I am well aware of the pitfalls of standard hardware and software RAID configurations and have hence avoided them like the plague for years until I heard about FlexRaid. From what I have heard FlexRaid seems to be a little different. I still have my doubts hence I am asking here to cover all bases.

It seems unlike ordinary RAID which updates parity in real time, FlexRaid has a manual system that allows you to update and sync the parity drive at your convenience. So even if my data drives are ravaged by virus or data corruption or accidental deletions, I should be able to perform a successful restore from parity drives right? Perhaps my understanding is totally wrong but does corruption of existing data affect the recovery process from the parity drives where the parity information is still not corrupted?

Uptime is not that important to me and I can live with a few days downtime in the case of disk failure. What's more important is that my data is safe and can eventually be restored.
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Originally Posted by StardogChampion View Post

A way I like to distinguish between redundancy and backup is with redundancy all copies of your data are "live" or "online". WIth backup, at least one copy is "offline". I think for a media server there's a place for both.

But in the case of FlexRaid you can keep the parity drive offline to an ext. HDD which is essentially where the backup information is.
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post #8 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 02:38 AM
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Originally Posted by prazsky View Post

So even if my data drives are ravaged by virus or data corruption or accidental deletions, I should be able to perform a successful restore from parity drives right?

Well you can only restore as many discs as you have parity drives.
So lets asssume you have 4 discs, one parity and 3 data. If you have a valid parity, and one of the data drives gets corrupted by a virus, you could restore this drive with the help of the parity - but if all your data gets corrupted by a virus or deleted, you cannot restore it anymore.
If you take 2 drives for parity, and 2 data, you could restore a total data loss, because you have 2 data drives and 2 parity drives, basically all data is duplicated. In such a setup, a real backup with the same disc count might be better, though.
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post #9 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 03:59 AM
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What is the best OS to install flexraid on? WHS 2011? Windows 7?

I know nothing about WHS but if its lighter weight then windows it would be nice to use.

My one concern going with a windows solution is background processes running potentially causing a slight stutter while streaming.
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post #10 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 04:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Murilo View Post

What is the best OS to install flexraid on? WHS 2011? Windows 7?
I know nothing about WHS but if its lighter weight then windows it would be nice to use.
My one concern going with a windows solution is background processes running potentially causing a slight stutter while streaming.

I use WHS 2011 in my Goliath server and love it . It never gives me issues and there is almost no maintenance. . Most of the W7 drivers work in WHS so no issue there . As with any Windows OS . I don't recommend using the automatic update utility. You want to set this up to get important updates only and then you decide what gets installed .

Most folks feel that if your using your server as your htpc then use W7 . If your using your server as a true NAS then WHS 2011 is better . Yes, WHS2011 is a much lighter weight os . MUCH cheaper to purchase also .

Stuttering ? No , I have none of that . I use an Intel G630 with 8 gigs of ram and NEVER get stuttering . That usually is a result of a solw or improperly set up network connection
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post #11 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 04:22 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Nevcairiel View Post

Well you can only restore as many discs as you have parity drives.
So lets asssume you have 4 discs, one parity and 3 data. If you have a valid parity, and one of the data drives gets corrupted by a virus, you could restore this drive with the help of the parity - but if all your data gets corrupted by a virus or deleted, you cannot restore it anymore.
If you take 2 drives for parity, and 2 data, you could restore a total data loss, because you have 2 data drives and 2 parity drives, basically all data is duplicated. In such a setup, a real backup with the same disc count might be better, though.

I did some more digging and it seems you're correct on that front. The FlexRaid wiki says I'm protected against renames & moves but vulnerable against deletions and edits. Data corruption basically falls in the latter category. I have been bitten in the past with this problem and cannot take the chance again. I think I will stick with my current backup scheme which has served me well. Thanks for enlightening me.

The question that keeps spinning in my head is that, if FlexRaid is no safer than a typical hardware RAID 5 then why would anyone pay for the software? All desktop mobos already come with free onboard RAID.
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Originally Posted by Murilo View Post

What is the best OS to install flexraid on? WHS 2011? Windows 7?
I know nothing about WHS but if its lighter weight then windows it would be nice to use.
My one concern going with a windows solution is background processes running potentially causing a slight stutter while streaming.

If I were you I wouldn't be worried about Windows causing any problems. I have been using a cheap netbook with Windows 7 for file serving and streaming duties for a long time now. No stutter or lag issues whatsoever. It's also significantly faster than any entry level NAS box. I can also use the netbook to browse the internet at home instead of having to turn on my power guzzling desktop.

And yes, as advised by flocko, you need to turn off any automatic updates and that goes for all updaters like Windows, Adobe, Google etc. Remove all unnecessary programs from startup using msconfig.
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post #12 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 06:53 AM
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What kind of back up do you need ? How much data ? What kind of data?

Flexraid is perfect for a movie server but not for a commercial pc or sensitive files.

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post #13 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 06:59 AM
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Originally Posted by prazsky View Post

...The question that keeps spinning in my head is that, if FlexRaid is no safer than a typical hardware RAID 5 then why would anyone pay for the software? All desktop mobos already come with free onboard RAID.
...

I believe the primary reason is that FlexRaid allows the use of different size hard drives while with RAID 5 all your drives should be the same size (all drives in the array will be treated as the same size as the smallest). There are also other drawbacks with onboard RAID 5. No online expansion, no control over parity.

Also, if the motherboard or the sata controller goes bad you must replace it with the exact same motherboard or all your data is gone.

personally, I use a hardware RAID5 (Areca 1230 controller). My primary reason is speed. I transfer a lot of large files across my network and I love the speed (as fast as the Gigabit network can go).
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post #14 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 07:00 AM
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Originally Posted by prazsky View Post

I did some more digging and it seems you're correct on that front. The FlexRaid wiki says I'm protected against renames & moves but vulnerable against deletions and edits. Data corruption basically falls in the latter category. I have been bitten in the past with this problem and cannot take the chance again. I think I will stick with my current backup scheme which has served me well. Thanks for enlightening me.
The question that keeps spinning in my head is that, if FlexRaid is no safer than a typical hardware RAID 5 then why would anyone pay for the software? All desktop mobos already come with free onboard RAID.
If I were you I wouldn't be worried about Windows causing any problems. I have been using a cheap netbook with Windows 7 for file serving and streaming duties for a long time now. No stutter or lag issues whatsoever. It's also significantly faster than any entry level NAS box. I can also use the netbook to browse the internet at home instead of having to turn on my power guzzling desktop.
And yes, as advised by flocko, you need to turn off any automatic updates and that goes for all updaters like Windows, Adobe, Google etc. Remove all unnecessary programs from startup using msconfig.

Hardware raid 5 should be used to ensure uptime of data being served. It is not a backup solution and never will be. The benefits of using a software raid solution is that you are not tied to specific hardware, and in the case of flexraid your data is stored in a non-proprietary format so even if you cant rebuild a lost drive in your array the others are all still there.

You are correct in observing that there is risk in using any solution where the disks reside in the same system/location. Fire, theft, virus, malware multiple drive failures etc can destroy your data. Personally i have 8 drives in my server which uses flex raid and stores a lot of data. I am just as worried as you and I also keep external copies of my data stored off site (actually its kept at my parents house in their safe, but off site sounds better tongue.gif) I like the convenience of having all my data centralized and I also realize that this creates risk. My solution mitigates this risk while still retaining functionality.

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post #15 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 08:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zagor View Post

I believe the primary reason is that FlexRaid allows the use of different size hard drives while with RAID 5 all your drives should be the same size (all drives in the array will be treated as the same size as the smallest). There are also other drawbacks with onboard RAID 5. No online expansion, no control over parity.
Also, if the motherboard or the sata controller goes bad you must replace it with the exact same motherboard or all your data is gone.
personally, I use a hardware RAID5 (Areca 1230 controller). My primary reason is speed. I transfer a lot of large files across my network and I love the speed (as fast as the Gigabit network can go).

This as well as a few other advantages.:

-You don't have to wipe data off the hard drives when adding them to the Flexraid array
-Data is not stripped, meaning if you lose two hard drives when you only have one parity drive you only lose the data on those drives instead of all of your data
-the drive doesn't have any special formatting, and you could conceivable remove a drive from your array, plug it into another computer, and read all the data off of it

There are probably other advantages, but the ones described generally make Flexraid a very good solution for media servers. Also, FYI, I have no trouble at all saturating my Gigabit connection with my Flexraid pool.
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post #16 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

This as well as a few other advantages.:
-You don't have to wipe data off the hard drives when adding them to the Flexraid array
-Data is not stripped, meaning if you lose two hard drives when you only have one parity drive you only lose the data on those drives instead of all of your data
-the drive doesn't have any special formatting, and you could conceivable remove a drive from your array, plug it into another computer, and read all the data off of it
There are probably other advantages, but the ones described generally make Flexraid a very good solution for media servers. Also, FYI, I have no trouble at all saturating my Gigabit connection with my Flexraid pool.

Good points..If I had to do it over, FlexRaid would be my choice (just set it up on a friends media server last week) but back when I started with RAID (2005) I don't believe FlexRaid was available. On the Gigabit saturation, I assume you are using Snapshot and not Real-time RAID, because if you are using real-time and saturating your network then I am really impressed.
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post #17 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 08:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Zagor View Post

Good points..If I had to do it over, FlexRaid would be my choice (just set it up on a friends media server last week) but back when I started with RAID (2005) I don't believe FlexRaid was available. On the Gigabit saturation, I assume you are using Snapshot and not Real-time RAID, because if you are using real-time and saturating your network then I am really impressed.

I'm using snapshot, which I think makes more sense for a media server anyway.
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post #18 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 08:48 AM
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Most folks feel that if your using your server as your htpc then use W7 . If your using your server as a true NAS then WHS 2011 is better . Yes, WHS2011 is a much lighter weight os . MUCH cheaper to purchase also .

Can you elaborate on this a little more? Other than being cheaper, why is WHS "better" than W7 for a home server?
Also, I recall reading WHS has been discontinued by Microsoft. What has it been replaced by?

Thanks
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post #19 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

I'm using snapshot, which I think makes more sense for a media server anyway.

I agree. Snapshot is the way to go with media files. I was just curious about the speed. I will definately go with FlexRaid when I rebuild my array in the future.
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post #20 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 12:11 PM
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Can you elaborate on this a little more? Other than being cheaper, why is WHS "better" than W7 for a home server?
Also, I recall reading WHS has been discontinued by Microsoft. What has it been replaced by?
Thanks

WHS2011 is available for $39.99. Cheaper is good.

It's perfectly supported by MS, not sure what your thinking there. It's very new software. newer than windows 7.

It's ligher weight- and run a bit more solid and smooth IMO. It's designed for security, solid reliability- and for server applications. It's windows 7 at it's heart so it's not that much different. Just with extra SERVER related aspects - and it allows remote desktop, headless access, automated backup, to name a few.

WHS and WHS2008 and WHS2011 are all different so you need to be more clear what your asking.

We are recommending the WINDOWS HOME SERVER 2011 because it's cheap- effective and easily available.



http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832416443


It goes on sale for $39 often.

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post #21 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

WHS2011 is available for $39.99. Cheaper is good.
It's perfectly supported by MS, not sure what your thinking there. It's very new software. newer than windows 7.
It's ligher weight- and run a bit more solid and smooth IMO. It's designed for security, solid reliability- and for server applications. It's windows 7 at it's heart so it's not that much different. Just with extra SERVER related aspects - and it allows remote desktop, headless access, automated backup, to name a few.
WHS and WHS2008 and WHS2011 are all different so you need to be more clear what your asking.
We are recommending the WINDOWS HOME SERVER 2011 because it's cheap- effective and easily available.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832416443
It goes on sale for $39 often.

Thank you.
Here's what I read:
"Upon announcement of the Windows Server 2012 platform, Microsoft confirmed that Windows Home Server 2011 will be the last release in the Windows Home Server product line."
So, WHS will no longer be updated it seems. Still, no reason not to buy WHS 2011 I suppose.

I have a spare license of W7 Ultimate ready to use so cost is not an issue to me but it seems WHS2011 will be better for my home server needs so I may buy that.
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post #22 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 04:12 PM
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Mine updates the first tuesday of every month like clock work....

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post #23 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 04:15 PM
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also.. I am not sure what you would need updated beyond security updates

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post #24 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 06:46 PM
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Originally Posted by prazsky View Post

But in the case of FlexRaid you can keep the parity drive offline to an ext. HDD which is essentially where the backup information is.

If the parity drive is being read/written as part of the noraml use of the RAID array (which I assume it is), it's not offline -- it's part of your live data. Offline data by it's nature would have to be a snapshot of the state of the data, it can't be real time.

Anyway, technical aspects aside, I stil think there's use in both RAID and backup depending on the data. I could have all my photos for instance on the RAID array but also have backups burned to DVDs of all the previous years of photos. It's not like they're going to change so I can back them up once and put them away somewhere. Most media data is like that. It's not being constantly edited so backups don't get very stale. Last years documents, photos and home videos aren't going to change once you back them up. The exception might be documents but those can be backed up to the cloud easily since they aren't very big. And maybe all those movie rips, which you have a hard copy of anyway, you could take your chance with them only being on the RAID array knowing the only thing you lose if everything dies is the time spent ripping them again. To each their own.

Also, consider RAID doesn't do you any good in flood, fire, etc. The disks are co-located so physical damage to one from some outside force probably means damage to all of the disks.

 

 

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post #25 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by StardogChampion View Post

Also, consider RAID doesn't do you any good in flood, fire, etc. The disks are co-located so physical damage to one from some outside force probably means damage to all of the disks.

Fortunately there are good solutions for that for $5/month smile.gif
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post #26 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 09:04 PM
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Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

Fortunately there are good solutions for that for $5/month smile.gif

Is CrashPlan+ the right one to get for WHS2011? (looks like it -- 1PC, unlimited data)

Looks simple enough: http://www.theosquest.com/2011/10/24/crashplan-on-windows-home-server-2011/

 

 

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post #27 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 09:12 PM
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Originally Posted by StardogChampion View Post

Is CrashPlan+ the right one to get for WHS2011? (looks like it -- 1PC, unlimited data)
Looks simple enough: http://www.theosquest.com/2011/10/24/crashplan-on-windows-home-server-2011/

It is cheap and it has unlimited storage so yes I think so.

Just it takes like a week at your upload speeds usually.... but once it's done it's cool.

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post #28 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 09:13 PM
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Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

Fortunately there are good solutions for that for $5/month smile.gif

Yup.

Good advice.

I think crashplan is priced for normal folks that don't have the storage we do. So it's a bargain for us.

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post #29 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 10:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by StardogChampion View Post

If the parity drive is being read/written as part of the noraml use of the RAID array (which I assume it is), it's not offline -- it's part of your live data. Offline data by it's nature would have to be a snapshot of the state of the data, it can't be real time.
Anyway, technical aspects aside, I stil think there's use in both RAID and backup depending on the data. I could have all my photos for instance on the RAID array but also have backups burned to DVDs of all the previous years of photos. It's not like they're going to change so I can back them up once and put them away somewhere. Most media data is like that. It's not being constantly edited so backups don't get very stale. Last years documents, photos and home videos aren't going to change once you back them up. The exception might be documents but those can be backed up to the cloud easily since they aren't very big. And maybe all those movie rips, which you have a hard copy of anyway, you could take your chance with them only being on the RAID array knowing the only thing you lose if everything dies is the time spent ripping them again. To each their own.
Also, consider RAID doesn't do you any good in flood, fire, etc. The disks are co-located so physical damage to one from some outside force probably means damage to all of the disks.

It's possible to keep the FlexRaid parity drive totally offline. Let's say you update your movie database snapshot once a week. You then disconnect the ext HDD like any backup drive and keep it in a fireproof box or something. You only need to take it out once a week to update the parity but as I have learnt the downside of this is if somehow data gets corrupted in the meantime due to malware or slow hard drive deterioration in one or more of the drives, it will jeopardize the entire recovery process.

I really wish I could do away with all the backup drives because its getting expensive to maintain 1:1 copies but I know I will never get around to ripping everything again one by one if somehow the array goes belly up and recovery is not possible. It will take a monumental effort considering the size of my media collection and how much encoding I have done over the years.

I also heard of some self-healing option in FlexRaid's new real time RAID config that protects against data corruption. It sounds all too good on paper but I need to be 100% sure that I can trust my data on a software.
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post #30 of 32 Old 12-07-2012, 10:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

Yup.
Good advice.
I think crashplan is priced for normal folks that don't have the storage we do. So it's a bargain for us.

I like the sound of crashplan. $3/month is an amazing deal. But my Internet is way too slow to even consider the option of cloud backup.
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