Saturday, May 10, 2008

WD320, she's sexy!

With me increasingly relying on my laptop these days, I had always worried about it crashing! For people like me, who rely on their laptops for a hell lot of things in their lives, the biggest fear is loosing all the data, and have NO backup! I believe that if data is worth keeping, it is worth backing up!
As, one of the numerous, old saying goes:
Being too busy to worry about backup, is like being too busy driving a car to put on the seatbelt.

So, some time back, I plunged into yet another research... choosing the best external hard disk. And guess what, I found her! She's sexy, sleek and efficient!

Isn't she cute: My WD 320

There are 2 kinds of drives, to choose from. And for a while I considered building a not-so-very-common thrid option too.
0. 5.25" external HDD, the one with bigger form factor
1. 2.5" HDD, sexier of the species, aka passport HDD.
2. Internal HDD in an enclosure, a home-grown solution.

I went with "passport", not because it's sexier, but because it fit my needs better than others. So, how does one decide on the HDD, I've come up with my own metrics. This, by no means is complete, but a good place to start.

0. Purpose
You will be surprised by the fact that too many people going out to buy HDD don't have a clue WHY are they doing so. When asked, they say 'To store data'! WTF, I gawk! What else will you do with a hard disk??? Shove it up your ___, huh? ... Coming to the point, I classify needs into two:
- Backup
- Increased Storage
You either want additional space for backing up all your critical data Or you want to _just_ expand your storage capacity for more data: viz. music, movies, ebooks, etc. And once you have decided on that, 80% of your job is done. But the rest 20% will take much logner. Choosing the right model.

If you want a backing store, reliability is the MOST important factor. The speed (5200rpm or 7200 rpm), the form factor, and noise are the least of your worries. You don't mind if it takes a hour to back up on a reliable HDD, but you sure as hell would be pissed off if you can backup everything in 15 minutes but there is no guarantee that you can rely on it the coming morning!

All the external HDDs that I looked at, the 5.25 ones were built with only one goal in mind: Speed! So all of them spun at 7200 rpm. And as a side effect, they run pretty hot, reducing reliability. To make it worse, most vendors these days don't put fan on HDDs! To cut the cost, of course. Thus, they rely on users to provide the right environment. As a result, the rate of failure is very high. So I ruled our 5.25" HDDs. At least all the current models.

WD320 is soooo hooked on to my lover, my TP-T43

1. Capacity
Now your job is easier, within the budget you have, you will want to go for the one with highest guarantee/warranty period and then highest capacity. Mind you, the manufacturer will ONLY replace the HDD if it fails, they will charge a @#$ing hell lot of money (of the order of a grands of dollars!) to recover your data. So be very paranoid about reliability when you buy HDD for backups. BTW, simple solution is to buy two and mirror the backup! (Yes, that's the result of taking Greg Ganger's Adv. Storage Systems this semester!) But it can be expensive, and more of a headache to maintain the 2 in sync.

For the same capacity, the passport will be more expensive than the bigger one. But mind you, do research on the reliability well. The market is flooded with so many models, that you might be tempted to take the latest and fastest one. I would recommend taking a generation of HDD older than the bleeding edge ones. The passport versions are really cool, actually the size of your passport, don't need external power supply and you can carry them around with you regularly. 5.25" ones, on other hand, are bulkier, heavy, spins faster and hence are much more noisy, generate more heat, have higher data transfer speeds, and needs an external power supply. You definitely can't carry these along regularly. But they have amazing capacities, of the order of TBs on regular consumer models.

So, what I chose is Western Digital My Passport 320GB (Model: WDME3200TN)
It's sleek, sexy, smart and very very silent. I don't care that it runs at slower 5400 rpm, I feel safe when I entrust her with my GBs worth of backup data. If you are looking to buy one, I strongly recommend only WD or Seagate. And yes, if you choose, you MUST buy a decent HDD hard-case to protect your prized possession, I recommend CaseLogic for that.

WD320 with CaseLogic hard case, I just love that red color!

For now, I just dd out the whole partitions to WD-320. What I am yet to do is device a nice incremental backup system from the off-the-self Unix tools. And any recommendations in that regards are most welcome.

Oh, I missed they third option, I bet you are interested. It's a simple solution. You buy a regular internal HDD, ones that go into your desktop PCs. They are hell more reliable than external ones. Buy a nice external enclosure, the one with good fan and thermodynamics. And BINGO! Fit your HDD into it, and you have your 5.25" equivalent external storage! But I failed to find a good external HDD case, and so dropped the idea. If you don't care about the looks too much, and are more hungry for capacities, I urge you not to rule out this option completely. It will definitely turn out much cheaper and more reliable than other options. Of course you won't get those jazy si-fi-movie-like glowing lights, if you care about it!

Photo Credits: Self
Equipment: Canon EOS 30D + Tamron 18-200mm


Sagar Bhanagay said...

Cool!! Looks damn sleek. Glad that at least some (ex-)N****ian believes in HA :)

Rahul said...

I didn't move as fast as you did, Atul, and paid the price. Take a look at this (Moving to an online life: April 2008,

Incremental backup:
Several years ago, I'd read an article about doing local backups using rsync - an unusual but smart use of rsync. Here's a more recent article about how to get it done.