Protecting Your Content

Assuming you’re ripping and decoding your own media, you’ll find that the process is slow.  How slow depends on your specific hardware.  You can expect a DVD rip and encode to take at least 10 minutes or so though.  Even longer for a Bluray rip.

This isn’t too much of a hassle when buying and then ripping discs which you have purchased, but it can be extremely painful when you’re first ripping all of your existing discs.  Due to this, you’ll want to take the right steps in order to ensure that you do not need to rip the discs more than once.

Backup

The most important thing to do in order to protect your content is to come up with a backup solution of some sort.  There’s no hard and fast rule for how you should back up your content.  Instead you’ll need find the balance between cost, hassle and effectiveness that makes sense for your needs.

The simplest backup solution would be to have an additional external hard drive of an appropriate size for you to copy your data to on some regular basis.  This approach tends to be fairly fast and not very expensive and will help protect against loss caused by mistakes made on the server or a failure of your disk.  This approach however will not help if something was to happen to your home.  A fire could easily take out both your primary server and your backup disk.  Perhaps this is an acceptable risk for you, or at least the least of your worries in the event of a house fire.

Another inexpensive method requires that you have a friend with a server set up as well.  You can choose to mirror each other’s content over the internet in order to provide both of you with a backup plan.

Another option is using an online backup solution.  Personally I use Crashplan.  Crashplan has a free option which provides for encrypted backup to other people’s computers for no cost.  Alternatively they offer backup to their own servers for a pretty reasonable monthly cost.

Finally, you can roll your own solution using one of the various cloud providers out there.  Box.net, Dropbox, Google Drive, Rsync.net and others all offer large amounts of file storage for purchase.  The costs, compatibility and performance will vary from service to service.

Storage Redundancy

While offline backup is critical for ensuring your data, recovering can be time consuming and painful, so any steps you can take in order to avoid needing to do it is useful.  The simplest step is to protect yourself against disk failure by using some form of redundancy.

The most common form of this sort of redundancy is a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks, or RAID.  RAID comes in different levels which provide for different amounts of protection.  They range from RAID1 which completely mirrors your content between two disks, and RAID5/RAID6 which allow you to combine a number of disks together to increase your storage capacity while putting aside one or two disks for parity.  These parity disks allow you to survive losing a disk or two in your array without losing your data.

The other solution is ZFS, which is a newer system developed by Sun Microsystems (now part of Oracle), and open sourced as part of OpenSolaris.  It was then made available for FreeBSD and now a port is available for Linux as well (although it does have some licensing issues).

ZFS works a lot like RAID, but provides a lot of advanced features too including snapshotting, transparent compression, and remote replication.  It’s a good choice for NAS devices or Linux systems if you’re an advanced Linux admin.

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