How Do I Manage My Data?

I often get asked how I manage the data on my computer, and how I handle backups and disaster recovery. Particularly, with how I have my hard drives / data laid out. Rather than relay this information separately to individuals, I have decided to describe my setup here, so I can redirect these types of questions to this site. And for those of you that mistakenly stumble onto this site, it might help someone with their setup as well.

My Desktop Setup

My main desktop has three internal hard drives. Why three, let me explain…

Hard Drive #1 – 160GB SATA – Boot Drive: This drive is strictly for the Operating System installation and application installations. 160 GB should be more than enough.

-I use Acronis True Image to backup my boot drive on a nightly basis and dump it to a file on Hard Drive #2, which also gets backed up. So if my hard drive crashes on me, I simply replace the drive, boot off a True Image boot CD, and re-image the drive. (Re-image takes me roughly 20 minutes)

-I also use TrueCrypt to encrypt my entire boot drive. On a side note, I do the same for any desktop or laptop I have. (Except my MacBook Pro) I also utilize Windows Encrypted File System on hard drives #2 & #3. So, if you can’t boot the desktop, you can’t access any of the data on the drives, even if you pull it out and insert it in another desktop.

Hard Drive #2 – 1 TB SATA Drive – Data Drive: This is where all my data resides; documents, pictures, movies, music, Outlook data file, etc.

Hard Drive #3 – 1 TB SATA Drive – Backup Data Drive: This drive is used to backup Hard Drive #2. Every three hours, I run a automated batch script that uses ‘Robocopy‘ to sync files from Hard Drive #2 to Hard Drive #3. If anyone wants to download and use a sample script, please follow this link.

Data-Drive Layout

External Copies

Everything mentioned above is housed internally to my main desktop. Now let’s talk about backing up data externally.

Every month, I sync files from my ‘Data’ drive, Hard Drive #2, to an external hard drive and store it off-site. Store it somewhere safe, anywhere but in the same location as your desktop. I would highly suggest encrypting the data on the drive using TrueCrypt.

Another option that I have taken advantage of is Amazon’s S3 service. On a weekly basis, I upload new data and have it stored in the ‘cloud’. Since Amazon S3 is more of a back-end service, I use Jungle Disk to mount a drive on my desktop, then use my batch scripts mentioned above, to sync the files over. Just a quick note about this; I do not send every single file up to Amazon’s S3 service. I only sync up the important documents, photos, video, etc… Amazon has encryption available when you store the files on their drives, but the way I look it, they probably have the keys for them, so I rely on TrueCrypt to encrypt the data.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, I take my data and security very seriously, because you never know what might happen. Years and years of data is on my drives! It’s better to be prepared! Worst case, I’ll never have to go recover from backup. I can go much deeper into every topic I mentioned above, but that’s for another time.

If you have any questions/comments/suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below or please contact me.

To see how I handle my data on the OS X side of things, follow this link!

Hal
February 20th, 2009 at 8:01 am

Great looking blog Peter.

I pretty much do the same thing as you for backup, with the exception of using Amazon. I’m not sure I trust online backup. Annually, I burn most of my data to DVDs and store them in a safe place. This frees hard drive space for the coming data.

Most of my ‘stuff’ is on a Mac now, so I use Quicksilver for backup to external HD and Silverkeeper to back up to whole system.

Mo Dowd
May 30th, 2014 at 8:46 pm

The batch scripts mentioned above, to sync the files. Can you link to a page where all of us could copy and paste to our computers?
Congratulations for the nice website. You used to have a page with your favorite links. Can you post it again? Thanks.

June 7th, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Mo, thank you for visiting and for the compliments. I updated the post with a direct link to a sample robocopy script that I have used for many years. Update the variables to your needs. Let me know what you think. Thanks again!

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