It should come as no surprise to anyone that I rely on Phanfare to safeguard my photos and videos. They live happily in the cloud, in their original sizes and quality and I access them from wherever I need. I strongly believe in cloud computing. I think personal computers (Windows and Mac OS) are difficult to maintain, overly complicated devices that expose too much complexity to the user.
A personal computer is best as an internet terminal, replaceable with a different computer as needed, provided you install the necessary software. And I believe in the long run most consumers won’t buy general purpose computers. But we live in the here and now.
I am not 100% converted to cloud computing in my personal life yet. There is lots of legacy stuff I setup years ago. At home I have a Mac Pro desktop with 3 drives running the latest version of Leopard. Two of the drives were purchased about 3 years ago at the exact same time: 450 GB Western Digital SATA drives. I installed them in my Mac Pro (the Pro has 4 bays) and setup a software RAID 1 (full mirror).
On my personal RAID I keep my iPhoto library (I sometimes use iPhoto as part of my workflow), my iTunes collection, in progress iMovie projects and a VMWare Windows XP instance.
Well, I got back from a business trip to find that I had basically lost the whole RAID. The RAID was not mounted. I rebooted and it mounted. I checked on it in Disk Utility and found that one of the drives were marked FAILED and the other was marked S.M.A.R.T. failure, which is a early warning system built into drives telling you it is about to fail. The RAID was marked “degraded,” which means not providing redundancy, and some information in the Disk Utility interface recommended that I replace the one drive that was hanging on and move the data ASAP. I tried, but got errors when copying the files.
So I lost all the data. No big deal. The music is on an iPod, although a few months of ITMS purchases are not synched. The photos I care about are all on Phanfare and the VMWare instance is just a standard XP config with MS Office and some other files.
But I was really trying to NOT to lose that data. I had a RAID, the drives were fairly new, the home office is climate controlled, the computer is rarely moved, we have smoke alarms and heat sensors and the computer is on a UPS to protect it from vagaries in the power grid. And yet I lost it all.
Morale of the story: Keep your stuff in the cloud. I am going to find a service that will keep my iTunes collection (anyone have experience with mp3tunes.com?) in the cloud. And I am going to finally pull the trigger and stop maintaining personal files like tax records on home servers (that is not my only RAID- the other one is a DELL HW RAID in the basement waiting for a flood).
I tried Jungle Disk and it looks pretty good. Jungle disk is a SW layer that sits atop Amazon S3 and lets you store your files on S3 and pay only Amazon’s rates for storage and bandwidth. (Note that I don’t think the average consumer needs the complexity of Jungle Disk and personal S3 accounts, but some of the underlying applications I use don’t yet have good enough online services).
If I can’t manage to keep my data intact at home, I suspect you can’t either and frankly, why try? There is simply no comparison with the type of monitoring, redundancy and security you can get from an online service versus rolling your own in your basement.