How can I *easily* backup terabytes of data to optical media?
January 2, 2011 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a good way to get a backup my photo archive to DVDs.

The question:

Is there a service that will archive terabytes of information to optical media for me?

The details:

Like a lot of folks that do any amount of shooting with a modern DSLR, I've got a huge number of files that grow faster than I can easily backup to DVDs. When file sizes were smaller, I burned DVDs every time I pulled images off the camera. With the output file size of today's cameras, that became so much of a hassle that I stopped.

I've got a decent hard drive backup system in place (and am working on a better one), but would like to dump everything to DVDs from time to time as well. So, what I'm looking for is a service where I can send them one or more external hard drives and get it back along with a set of DVDs containing a mirror of the drive's contents.

If such a service doesn't yet exist, does anyone have recommendations for a product that would let me do this myself? (The main thing I've been able to find is the Aleratec RoboRacer products.)

A few notes:

- I use "DVDs" above, but blu-ray would be an option as well.

- I know that I could use software to split the data myself and burn it via a built in drive, but I'd prefer not to babysit the process feeding switching out hundreds of disks.

- I've tried using online backup services, but my connection (which is the fastest I can get) is to slow to work effectively with them. If I stopped adding files right now, the first backup wouldn't complete until sometime in 2012.
posted by StimulatingPixels to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can't help you here. However, my experience with CDs and DVDs is that they only last a few years before they become unreadable. And I was using the supposedly good and expensive DVDs :-/ I'm currently buying 1TB drives to back up my raws. 1TB is about enough for 2.5 years of photography for me.
posted by TrinsicWS at 10:02 AM on January 2, 2011

Is there any reason your second backup isn't on hard drives as well? Nobody would recommend optical media as a backup solution in this day and age and it's hard to see any benefits over using more hard drives.
posted by turkeyphant at 10:11 AM on January 2, 2011

I would not use optical media for long term backups. The amount of work to create the back, test it before you file it away off site, test it again in a year and then replace it again after another year (most discs don't last too long) is just far too much. A pair of large harddrives would be much better and save you days of work.
posted by Brian Puccio at 10:15 AM on January 2, 2011

You might check out "Acoustica - Photo's Forever.
posted by JayRwv at 10:15 AM on January 2, 2011

Best answer: Agreed: There's no advantage to DVDs in what you're trying to do. Especially in the neighborhood of terabytes. Even if DVDs are marginally cheaper, they don't compete with the ease of redundancy use that hard drives can afford. Hard drives are the new DVDs -- optical will go the way of the floppy, and you'll be sitting on a mountain of plastic.

fwiw, here's my setup: I have three 4TB drives. One is my working drive, one is my backup for the working drive, and the third is another backup that lives at a friend's house and gets swapped with the second backup drive every week. Every night at midnight, my working drive gets backed up to whichever backup drive is currently also plugged in. Every monday, I take that backup to my friend's house and swap it with the other. That night, the working drive backs up to the second backup (via rsync), bringing it current. I only ever work with the working drive -- the backup drives are just that: backups to the working drive.
posted by Hankins at 10:46 AM on January 2, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks folks, I appreciate the responses.

TrinsicWS: Yeah, the reason I was looking for a super easy way to do it was so to make a regular 6-12 month burn run feasible.

turkeyphant: Based on this thread, I'm pretty sure I'll end up using drives as the secondary backup as well. It's just a bit of a paradigm shift for me since the optical stuff can be "write once". The conscious part of my brain knows the likelyhood of needing the secondary back and finding that it got overwritten somehow is so minor as to be almost unmeasurable. I'm was just trying to see if I could quiet the little "what if" voice in the background that's over-protectively paranoid (and often irrational).

Brian Puccio: Right there with ya. The amount of work involved is what slowly transitioned me away from using optical media in the first place. It's been a while since I've really dealt it with so I figured I'd check in and see if I missed something that would bring them back to a more automated solution. As I just mentioned to TrinsicWS, the only way I'd be interested in this is if it could be automated so as to allow for it to be done on an annual or semi-annual basis with minimal hassle.

JayRwv: I'll take a look, but it's looking like I'm going to be going the hard drive route which means I'll no longer need something like this.

Hankins: You bring up one point that I hadn't really thought through - the mountain of plastic this would produce and the issues with storing and disposing of that. The basic strategy you outlined is most likely what I'll end up doing. The only added wrinkle is that right now I've got slightly more stuff than will fit on a single 4TB drive. So, instead of a 1 working and 2 backups, I'll end up with 1 working (which is really file server) and 4 backup drives that will work in pairs.

Thanks again.
posted by StimulatingPixels at 11:39 AM on January 2, 2011

It gets spendy, but most NAS devices (QNAP, Synology, etc) let you sync from one NAS to another. Have one array for working with and one as a backup and store it off site. Drag it over once a week to sync or sync remotely if the deltas aren't too large.
posted by Brian Puccio at 12:28 PM on January 2, 2011

Here's two links in case you want more info that I should have included:
posted by Brian Puccio at 12:30 PM on January 2, 2011

Off-site backup utilities are a good thing in this context. I use Backblaze - $5 a month for unlimited storage space - and I highly recommend it.
posted by pmb at 5:30 PM on January 2, 2011

Another potential solution exists in magnetic tapes for data storage. Search something like "magnetic tape data storage" if you want to learn more, but the biggest barriers would be:

They're really expensive ($90 / 1.5TB tape).
You'll need new hardware to write to them, and that's expensive (Thousands of $).

However, each one holds 1.5TB max, and would generally be write once, which is similar to DVD/CD.

That being said I think more hard drives / NAS would be a better way to go, as others have suggested.
posted by joshhepworth at 8:31 PM on January 2, 2011

My NAS is an unRAID setup. If any one drive fails I'm safe because it's on my parity. For an offsite backup I use zenfolio. $100 for a premium acct for a year but they offer hosting, selling and all sorts of other options. Unlimited uploads and you can upload the original RAW files (straight from Lightroom if that's what you use).
posted by no bueno at 7:56 AM on January 12, 2011

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