Hands On: the ioSafe Solo
People are always approaching me with the same basic question. If I am now trusting all of my irreplaceable family data (family photos, digital home movies, tax records, etc) to one computer, my Windows Home Server, what do I do if something happens to it?
The answer comes on several layers. First, you can enable data duplication for folders which makes sure that each file is on at least two physical hard drives. This is so that data is never in jeopardy if a single hard drive fails.
That's fine and good for something like a simple hardware failure, but what about the case of catastrophic failure such as flood or a fire? Most of the talk has revolved around cloud storage such as Jungle Disk or the Amazon S3 backup solution found on the new MediaSmart Server.
Cloud backup has it's pluses and it's minuses. First of all, it's slow. Even with today's broadband capabilities found in many households, upload speeds are still relatively slow. According to speedmatters.org, the national average upload speed is a mere 230kbps.
Second, it can be costly and have recurring fees (at least as in the case with Amazon's S3). I have all of my family photos stored on S3 and pay around $8/month in storage and monthly access fees. I can't even imagine how expensive it would be to also store all of my music and videos on S3 (or how long it would take to transfer).
Third, many people take issue with storing personal data in the cloud, even on secure systems such as Amazon's S3. Sure the data is encrypted, but it's still stored on someone else's system. Who knows when the day will come that some hacker breaks in and looks at photos of my dog. I don't see this happening any time soon, but some people do. Of course, I don't think the moon landing was fake and some people do (you know who you are).
Off Site USB Drives
So what's a fella to do to protect his data without resorting to cloud storage? Well, you could get a USB drive and keep it at an off-site, secure, undisclosed location (Dick Cheney's not using it any more, so why not). This requires you to pro-actively move things around. I don't know about you, but I'm too lazy for that.
In fact, that is the exact procedure described in the WHS help file:
But there is another option, ioSafe's Solo USB hard drive that is fireproof (up to 1550 degrees) and waterproof (up to 10 feet for 3 days). No, seriously. ioSafe has taken a standard 500GB, 1TB or 1.5TB Seagate drive and encased in a fire/flood proof case. The thing weighs a metric ton, but will give you peace of mind.
Here are some unboxing photos that I've places on the Windows Live Group for WHS (you will need a Live ID and will probably have to join the group if you haven't one so already):
|Dimensions (inches): 5.0W X 7.1H X 11.0L||Weight: 15 lbs|
|Ambient Temperature Operating.................40 - 95°F Non-operating...........0 - 1,550°F Up to 30 minutes per ASTM E119||Humidity Operating (non-condensing) 20 - 80% Non-operating: 100% Up to 72 hours @ 10' depth|
Pricing for the ioSafe Solo can be complicated when you are on their website. There is the cost of the unit itself and then there is an upfront charge for the data recovery service and then there are promotional discounts. Here is the bottom line:
3 year warranty 1 year disaster recovery service
3 year warranty 3 year disaster recovery service
5 year warranty 5 year disaster recovery service
* do you see those little asterisks? They indicate that the 1.5TB drives comes with a free upgrade to the 5 year disaster recovery service. So a 1.5TB with a 5 year disaster recovery service (i.e. "the works") is the same price as a 1TB drive with 5 years and only $50 more than both a 500GB drive with a 5 years and a 1TB drive with 3 year.
So unless money is tight (and how can money be tight with a disaster recover plan), spend the $299 and get the 1.5TB drive and the 5 year disaster recovery service. You can read about the various Disaster Recovery Service plans, but again, my suggestion is to go with the Full Ginsburg.
I just love how the non-operating temperature is over 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. Watch this cool video from CES2009 where the ioSafe people both drop it in a swimming pool and set the unit on fire! the video is a little long (9 minutes) and you can tell the guy on the video likes to talk, but the demo is pretty cool.
Creating a WHS disaster recovery plan
How can you effectively use the ioSafe Solo as part of your Windows Home Server disaster recovery plan? As far as I see it there are two approaches that you can take:
With this approach, you build a system comprised of a standard SATA system drive and use two or more ioSafe USB drives for data storage. With data duplication turned on, you will have all of your files (minus re-creatable system files) stored on disaster proof drives. If you ever experienced a fire, the WHS would be destroyed (you can rebuild that), but all of your data will be secure.
Once the ioSafe drives are back (you need to send the charred remains back to ioSafe to be recovered), simply plug them in, rebuild the system drive using the system recovery DVD and you are back in business my man!
Plan A is more costly (requiring multiple ioSafe drives) but provides complete protection for all of your data. Note that because your entire system (minus the system drive) is running on USB connected drives, the data throughput speed will not be as snappy as with internal SATA systems.
The other less costly approach is to build up a standard system utilizing standard drives, like the one you probably have right now. Power Pack 1 introduced a feature that will let you backup certain high value shares to an external hard drive. Plan B would make that external hard drive a fireproof/waterproof ioSafe Solo drive.
- Plug in the ioSafe Solo USB hard drive into your WHS.
- Open up the WHS Console and click on the Server Storage tab.
- You should see the the newly added drive appear under Non Storage Drives
- Right click on the drive and click Add
- The Add a Hard Drive wizard will run. Click Next at this initial unnecessary screen.
- Select Use this hard drive to back up files that are stored on your home server and click Next.
- As this is a new drive, you can skip the formatting. The ioSafe drive comes pre-formatted as NTFS, so just click Next.
- You will be prompted to give your new drive a name. Probably not Spot or Rover, but something a little more memorable. I chose BURN BABY BURN. How cold I possibly forget which drive that was?
- One more confirmation screen and we're ready to go. Click Finish to proceed.
- Milliseconds later (if you chose not to format the drive) and the process is complete.
- Click Done and you should see BURN BABY BURN under the new heading Server Backup Hard Drives.
We now have the drive setup as a backup device. But how does WHS use it? It's not as automated or glamorous of a process as you might have hoped, but it does the trick.
- Click on the Computers & Backups tab.
- Right-click on your server's name and click Backup Now.
- Choose the shared folders that you wish to back up. I chose my 82GB Music share and my 65GB Photos share. You will probably want to keep these setting for next time, so check the box.
- Go out to lunch, this will take a while. Better yet, seen any good movies lately?
- During the backup, the blue "runway lights" on the front of the ioSafe Solo will flash blue/purple. This is very subtle and it took me awhile to detect that it flashing at all.
- After a good night's sleep, I woke to this dialog:
- 25,759 file were successfully copied, but 30 files had failed due to long filename problems. This was a problem corrected on server storage drives with PP1, but because this backup drive is an NTFS partition, fully qualified path names are restricted to 260 characters. I consider this a flaw in Home Server Backup strategy. On the other hand, I'm going in right now to try and decrease my path name for those 30 files.
- After correcting my long file names, I did the backup again and everything is right a rain. One cool feature of the server backup is that it will only keep one copy of a file on the external drive. So when I did another complete backup, the new backup only copies the 30 files that it was unable to copy before. The rest of the 147GB worth of files will simply be links, but this is transparent to the user.
So there you have it, 147GBs of my precious family data is now secure. I can now purge my Amazon S3 account and stop Jungle Disk from doing it's nightly thing, saving $8 per month.
At $299 for 1.5TBs of disaster-proof secure onsite backup, the ioSafe Solo just may be the ultimate Windows Home Server external hard drive. It's relatively low cost, large capacity and speed over cloud storage make it a no-brainer. My Solo 1TB drive is on loan from ioSafe, but they may need to come to my office and pry it from my cold dead hands if they want it back!
Have you gone out and bought one yet? Why not? Do it now!