Sunday, May 1, 2011

1st line of backup defence - external USB drive

So I can't stand the 100 KB/s upload speed for Amazon S3.  It's worse than that.  The gsutil is supposed to upload in multiparts in 1MB trunks.  Boto supports that.  But it may be true for Google Storage, but I doubt if it's for S3 too.  And I couldn't find out if there's an option to force multiparts.  A 2GB file failed when > 1.5GB was uploaded.

I still like the clouds but I made a pack with the devil, brought a 1 TB external USB drive as the first line of defense.  I never did that because for less you can have a bigger and faster internal drive.  And you can use the older drive for backup.

You fill better if all your drives are not in the same casing.  As you can see, the WD Element 1 TB can sit nicely in the smallest fire proof (1.5 hr?) safe with space to spare.

The WD Element is about 7x5x1.5 inch.  It's fully enclosed except for a small power jack, a small USB 2 connector, and a small LED, all next to each other.  It looks like it can survive being sprayed with a hose.

If you place the connector at the back side away from you, you will not see the LED, only a black box.  And actually the LED is brighter than you think, if you are not dead center looking at it, like sitting in front of a desk looking down at the desktop.

It's pretty quiet.  The plastic looked cheap but the box feels solid.  I bet the drives are so small that a lot inside are padding materials to make the box quiet and feels solid.  I would say it's portable if you wrap it in a little shock absorbing material just in case.  It was sent to me in the mail with air bubble packages.

There is the power cord and there is the USB connector.  It doesn't matter which one go first and you can't go wrong.  Once it's on and connected, a WD Element icon appears on my desktop, and I'm using Ubuntu Linux!  It's pre-formatted in NTFS, the Windows file system after XP.  It can be used in Linux, just that you do not have undelete when you delete a file.

The 1st thing I did was ran into a Ubuntu disk utility to test the drive.  I was luck that I ended up first is looking at the SMART data logged in my old disks.  Failure is imminent for my oldest disk.  I remembered that it was absent for a while, and I remembered it failed to spin up, sounding like a failing fridge compressor.

I downloaded some SMART in Windows but I never remembered to look at it again.  In Ubuntu it is pre-installed, which may have saved my life.

I tested the WD using the disk utility.  It passed the short tests, but the long ones cannot survive power management, which shut down something or put something to sleep.  It would be terrible to scan the entire 1TB for errors.  So I'll be watching the SMART data when there's more data stored in it.

Now the performance.  It's only about 20 MB/s for backing up huge files.  It's not particularly fair as I'm copying from a pretty full disk to an empty disk.  For the disk read-only benchmark test it is:

Max Rate 39.2 MB/s   Average Rate 37.9 MB/s    Access Time 16.0 ms   USB2
Max Rate 86.6 MB/s   Average Rate 67.9 MB/s    Access Time 13.4 ms   SATA

My motherboard should support USB2.0 but I used the monitor hub.  The SATA should be II, claiming up to 3 Gb/s transfer.  Again one drive is pretty full and the other is empty.

If I'm copying a small file (<1G), it doesn't matter that much.  If I'm backing up it will not be interactive and the time taken doesn't that much.  It will matter if you need overnight to backup your things, then one night and two night will make a lot of difference.

It can't go too wrong.  There are more than a thousand reviews.  The model is old and established.  And it's cheap.

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