Saturday, May 31st, 2008, at 3:54 pm

Storage Device: Fast, redundant, fail-safe, easy

This is an idea that has been scratching at me for quite some time. The biggest reason: I need to find something like this!

The problem

Everybody has growing file collections. Some of us definitely have more than others—my photo collection alone is reaching 80 GB! A single recording session can easily reach 20 GB. Acquired media aside (purchased/downloaded music, movies, etc—as it’s replaceable), everyone has a need for an elegant solution to back up this data.

There are a number of products and services popping up that attempt a solution to this problem, but none do it quite right. I have to give Apple a lot of credit here—they figured out a way to make backup so simple, the masses can finally do the right thing! Time Machine is not perfect for everyone, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.

The purpose of this post is not to discuss software solutions, but rather the hardware that accompanies it. While the right software is what gets people backing up, it always requires the right hardware1 to make it work.

The current solutions


Online services (aka “cloud” storage) allow users to upload their data to online servers. Some of these include backup software and all tout the benefits of being failure-safe and secure.



Hardware solutions consist of external hard-drives, file servers, and more intelligent products such as the Drobo (which is extremely cool).



The cons of both online and hardware solutions exclude any one solution from being ideal for me. I am a heavy data user that wants fast access and redundant, off-site backup. There is nothing that easily and elegantly fills this need. Sure, I could purchase “cloud” storage and manually back things up, but that requires quite a lot of time. I want something I can set and forget in the Time Machine sense.

The ideal solution

This leads me to what I think is the ideal solution to meet all of these needs. There would definitely be challenges in doing it right, but I think the need would make the investment worthwhile.

The Hardware

First, there is a hardware device that acts as the primary solution. This hardware device needs to redundant, easy to use, and smart.

The Cloud

Behind the hardware device, sits the ever-present protection of an online backup solution. It’s only for the event of a truly catastrophic event.


A solution like this—done correctly—would solve backup problems for some time to come. It gives users access to data quickly, redundant local backup, and off-site protection. The beauty is that the software is irrelevent: users can use any software solution they like, e.g. Time Machine, SuperDuper!, Retrospect, FlyBack, or anything else.

It might not be a product that everyone in the world would need, but it would be great for power users, professional or prosumer photographers, and just about anyone else that doesn’t have needs quite as high as video editor. Most importantly for me, I would buy one.

1 In this case, “hardware” can mean online backup services as well.
2 As someone that has woken up in the middle of a house fire and lived to tell about it, this is a bit of an ever-present threat in the back of my mind. A fire is a terrible thing, but losing all of your photos on top of it is icing on the suck cake. Plus, you never, ever, want to worry about grabbing things like that when evacuating. We are fortunate we live in a time where we can store things like photos off-site and still have access to them!
3 I swear, I’m not being paid for this. That said, offers are always welcome.
4 Obviously, it should be as forward-looking as possible. That said, if any potential future file-systems have specific hardware requirements that are unrealistic, they would have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.