Good Question: Affordable Computer Backup Storage

Unplggd reader Jake had this following question:

I am a college student, majoring in game programming. Currently, I've been running out of hard drive space. I recently bought a 1tb internal hard drive for my desktop, now my overall hard drive space is around 1.6tb and I only have around 200gb left. I would like some advice in getting large amount of space for a backup hard drive. A lost of data would be a tragic situation I cannot afford. If it ever happen during finals week, I will have no choice but to repeat the classes to which I've lost data of. And, I am on a budget. No more than $250.
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Hi Jake, our initial thoughts went to stand-alone, two drive external RAID enclosures, which can be had pretty cheaply right about now. Basically, they are a box in which you can plug two HD drives. The ones that we have selected for you come with 2x1TB drives, so in total, that's 2TB of storage, if you use the RAID 0 setting. Since you are worried about the security of your data, we recommend that you get a drive like this and set it to RAID 1, data-mirroring. Even if one HD fails, all of your data will be safe. Plus, this type of enclosure gives you room to grow. You can swap out the 1TB drives and change them for larger ones.

We like the FD G-Force MegaDisk, that can be bought for about $185 thanks to this link. The other one is by Calvalry and is about the same. It's available for almost the same price, but with a mail-in rebate at Newegg. The only issue is with noise. The external drives can get quite noisy thanks to the fans. There is no way around this. Of the two, the Fantom looks quite spiffy. It's got blue LEDs.

If you are good with computers and you are willing to get your hands a little dirty, then you can try setting up a RAID array inside your computer. All you need to do this is a number of hard drives and a RAID controller. RAID controllers can be had cheaply nowadays. You can find one for $30 or $40 at Tigerdirect. Then you can install two additional hard drives through this controller, and set it to RAID 1. We found two Seagate drives for you for about $90 at Tigerdirect, though in my personal opinion, I'd stick with Western Digital, if you can afford them. Their warranty is the best if you ever toast your hard drive.

From your comments, we think that the 1st situation would be best for you, since you intend to use your solution as a backup drive. RAID is the way to go to make sure that your data is safe. Sure, one HD can malfunction, but both HDs? This is extremely unlikely. [top image by Eston, via creative commons license]