Not such big claim here. This post is simply about a recent experience that decided me to put in practice what I have been praising.
For the past decade I always had several computers at home –two to five Windows PCs, a Mac, and another couple of Linux machines. Very early I was interested in having a storage unit I could share on my LAN between all my computers. Having one central unit to archive, backup, and serve medias (pictures, music, video) is pretty handy.
Back in 2004 I bought a 250Gb Ximeta Netdisk. Technically it is not a NAS (Network Attached Storage), as you have to install a small program on every computer you want to access the disk from. But the device worked just fine, and it still does. Later in 2007 I upgraded to a real NAS (i.e., using TCP/IP for all communications with the devices on the LAN) for my storage needs with a 500Gb LaCie Ethernet Disk mini.
Soon I placed all my data on my Lacie drive: email, business related documents, publications, presentations, C/C++ and Java code, tech articles, books, tax declarations, music, photos, etc. A few days ago, after 4 years of good service, the drive quit on me: it just ceased to power up. Since I had 260Gb of data on that disk, you can imagine my reaction. “Do not panic. The disk itself is fine. It’s only the drive mechanism or the controller that is fried”.
Here is the email exchange I had with Jon L. from Lacie’s support:
Jon: “[…] according to the serial information, the drive appears to be past the two-year warranty. […] Although the drive is no longer serviceable by our repair department, we strive to provide all of our customers with a positive experience with our service and products. LaCie would like to offer you a discount on a replacement product.”
Me: “Nice thought. But what about my data?”
Jon: “[…] a qualified technician may be able to replace the failed internal drive and reconfigure the unit to accept the new drive. […] We can not assist with this third party repair process.”
Me: “The most important part for me is to retrieve the data stored on the drive. It looks to me that the disk itself is fine –the electronic and control part just stopped to function. Do you provide data recovery service?”
Jon: “Pricing is simple:
- Single drive recovery, no clean room = $399
- Single drive recovery, requires clean room = $1299”
So retrieving my data via this service would cost about twice as much as what I paid originally for the disk four years ago. Come on, for $399 I can buy a brand new 4Tb RAID-1 Gigabit Ethernet NAS from Lacie!
The lesson: having a NAS at home is nice to share pictures and music. But if you want to use it as a central repository and backup, you need to think about what happens if that unit fails. Sure, you can use another disk to mirror the backup. Or use a RAID-1 disk, which adds redundancy for higher reliability. But it became clear to me that I was ready to put in practice what I have been advocating for the industry: use the cloud.
Don’t get a backup for the backup, just put the data in the cloud. Then you can always access it –instead of carrying around an external hard drive, as I used to do. Use a service that guarantees replication and redundancy to preserve the integrity of the data, even in case of catastrophic event (e.g., the recent hurricane on the east coast that flooded a few hosting data centers). Encrypt the data at the source, so that nobody but you can read the data.
Eventually I recovered my data for $99 (a fourth of the price Lacie quoted to me) at a computer repair shop in Mountain View. Since then I have been hunting for some cloud data service. I will share my findings and my experiences in a couple of weeks.