Dealing with data overload at home

For the past several years, I have been accumulating digital media and other data and a pretty ridiculous rate. From digital photos to home video to MP3s to e-mail archives, I was quickly getting swamped with data. A few months ago, I decided to do something about it. The big requirements for me were redundant backups and ease of use/maintenance. I need a lot of storage (i.e. terabytes); however, I don't need to be managing a bunch of complicated apps or servers.

Below is a quick overview of the products and services I am using to avoid data overload at home. Each has its own unique benefits and , together,  they serve as a comprehensive home storage solution.


As I mentioned in a previous Practical Gadgetry post, I love the Drobo. It provides me with maintenance-free, expandable storage. I can mix and match up to 4 hard drives of any size and the Drobo keeps everything backed up. I currently have a 160GB, a 320GB, a 400GB and a 500GB drive in my Drobo. This provides me with around 900GB of redundant storage. Even if a drive fails, my data is safe.

I currently use the Drobo to back up all of my digital photos, all of my mini-DV home video tapes, all of my MP3s, about 30 movies that I ripped from DVD to use with my Media Center PC, documents and e-mail archives. Once I outgrow the current capacity, I will simply remove the 160GB drive and replace it with a larger one. The Drobo will make all of the necessary configuration changes and make the new capacity available immediately.

Windows Home Server

WHS logoI've been beta testing Windows Home Server for the past year or so. It is the perfect solution for backing up multiple PCs as well as providing redundant, network storage. I have 5 or 6 PCs in use in my house and, with WHS, I can back each of them up every night with WHS' automated backup tools.

Better still, if any of my PCs dies, I can recover the data and the OS using the Windows Home Server Recovery procedure. This allows me to choose any of the dead machine's backups that I have stored on my WHS box. So if I would rather start free with a clean install, I can select the first backup I made on the dead machine rather than the last. Very handy.

In addition to automating backups, WHS also gives you redundant network storage.

The best part about Windows Home Server is the ease of installation and maintenance. Simply install the client app on each PC you want to back up and WHS takes care of the rest. It will schedule your backups and install all of the network shares for Video, Photos, Music, Software, etc. After that, you don't need to do anything to keep WHS running smoothly. It is configured to receive updates from Windows Update automatically.

I currently have 3 300GB Seagate drives backing up all of the PCs in the house. In addition, I am backing up my digital photos, MP3s and documents. It is some of the same stuff I am backing up on the Drobo; however, I'd rather have too many backups of things like that than not enough.


Mozy is an online storage solution that allows you to back up files securely on the web. Having a Drobo and a Windows Home Server box doesn't do me any good if something terrible, like a fire or flood, were to occur.

I started using MozyHome ($5 per month per machine for unlimited storage) about 6 months ago as a way to keep my really important data off-site.

The Mozy client is simple to install and setup. Once you've told it which drives and folders you want to back up, Mozy automatically manages your backups which happen several times throughout the day. By default, these backups only occur when your PC is idle; however, you can configure the Mozy client to conserve bandwidth and run while you're doing other tasks.

I have over 100GB of data backed up in Mozy right now from my laptop. This includes digital photos, my MP3 collection, important documents and some of our home video. Mozy uses 128-bit SSL encryption to protect data during the backup process and 448-bit Blowfish encryption on all data stored.

How do you handle backups for your personal data? Post a comment in the discussion.