External SATA RAID array vs. system replacement

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External SATA RAID array vs. system replacement

I work for a small business using a single hard drive on a shared desktop. We are currently running out of space on the machine and are looking for replacement options. We only have about 40 GBs worth of information and are trying to decide whether we should replace the whole system or setup a SATA RAID array externally. Additionally, we are looking to backup the system offsite. Naturally, this is a concern presently because we just had a data loss scare. Please advise.

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Safe Harbor

The answer to your question is less a matter of data volume than it is a matter of how mission-critical you believe your data is. How much can you afford to lose in the event that your single hard drive fails? Or, more accurately, how much will it cost your business if you lost the hard drive and its associated data compared to the cost of a RAID-protected disk array? Even without hearing your answer, I'm willing to wager that footing the bill for a RAID array is probably your preference especially coming off a recent data loss scare and considering the fact that RAID-protected disk arrays can be obtained relatively cheaply (ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars). Regardless of the disk solution, backing up your data is still a best practice. Whether or not you send the backups offsite will depend upon your business continuity requirements, but most customers I know usually do send their data offsite.

Now what I'm about to say is not a best practice from a storage management or backup/recovery standpoint, but if you're really cost constrained, and since it's such a small amount of data (40GB), it may work for you. You could protect the data simply by copying it regularly to multiple 100 GB+ portable hard drives -- one for each day of the week -- and take them offsite easily due to the small form factor. These portable hard drives are readily available from any consumer electronics store for a few hundred dollars each and some models can store data in an encrypted format for that extra level of security. However, be warned, I again want to emphasize that this is not considered a best practice from a data protection standpoint due to the questionable reliability of portable hard drive technology, security issues such as misplacement of the device and the danger of easily overwriting backed up data, among other issues. Therefore, I provide this idea as a consideration only rather than a recommendation.

This was first published in May 2007