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Data access and maintenance cruising

dLj

.
Mar 23, 2017
1,777
Belliure 41 Snug Harbor, Lake Champlain
This is coming from another thread where the subject was getting to far from the original posting.

I'm exploring how best to store and maintain data, music, videos, movies, photos while cruising. My projected cruising grounds will take me to areas with sometimes limited but more often a complete absence of internet access for extended periods of time. I desire to have access to fairly large amounts of data, a large portion of which now currently resides on mirrored external hard drives. I'll also want to back up photos and data I may be generating while sailing. I'm skeptical that hard drives can withstand reliably within ocean environment aboard a sailboat. This had led me to explore SSDs but I don't have access to these and don't have first hand knowledge of how robust these really are other than reading the published marketing hype. Anyone with thoughts or experience on this I'd love to hear from.

Are there folks out there cruising that have computer backup systems they are using? Can you tell me about how you are doing this? I'm not a fan of cloud backup services for numerous reasons, but I'm looking to have no recurring payments of any type. Plus, it seems like a very limited functionality for my cruising grounds.

I'd love to hear from anyone on ideas of how either they are running backups or thoughts on what would work. Instead of writing a long intro here, I'll leave it at this for the moment.

dj
 
Sep 22, 2018
1,869
Hunter 216 Kingston
This is coming from another thread where the subject was getting to far from the original posting.

I'm exploring how best to store and maintain data, music, videos, movies, photos while cruising. My projected cruising grounds will take me to areas with sometimes limited but more often a complete absence of internet access for extended periods of time. I desire to have access to fairly large amounts of data, a large portion of which now currently resides on mirrored external hard drives. I'll also want to back up photos and data I may be generating while sailing. I'm skeptical that hard drives can withstand reliably within ocean environment aboard a sailboat. This had led me to explore SSDs but I don't have access to these and don't have first hand knowledge of how robust these really are other than reading the published marketing hype. Anyone with thoughts or experience on this I'd love to hear from.

Are there folks out there cruising that have computer backup systems they are using? Can you tell me about how you are doing this? I'm not a fan of cloud backup services for numerous reasons, but I'm looking to have no recurring payments of any type. Plus, it seems like a very limited functionality for my cruising grounds.

I'd love to hear from anyone on ideas of how either they are running backups or thoughts on what would work. Instead of writing a long intro here, I'll leave it at this for the moment.

dj
Thanks for starting the new thread. Since I was part of the hijack of the other thread I have a bit of a headstart.

Can you provide a little baseline to help keep the conversation somewhat specific to your situation? You mention you want access to fairly large amounts of data but can you put an actual size on that. The other thing that would help is what type(s) of device(s) will you want to backup and display your content?
 
Jan 11, 2014
7,748
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
My 7 year old Mac laptop has an SSD that has worked well and traveled well. There is/was an concern about early SSDs that frequent data rewrites can shorten the SSD's life, don't know if that is still a concern.

USB Flash drives are inexpensive and come in sizes up to at least 256gb. Store them in a sealed container with a desiccant to keep them dry.
 
Sep 22, 2018
1,869
Hunter 216 Kingston
I have somewhat of a tendency to get my geek on so feel free to reach out with a virtual slap to snap me out of it. ;) The following is simply my 2 cents for what it's worth.

Part of what your pondering I think is whether using SSD type drive(s) vs traditional rotational types would be "better" in a salt water marine environment. Like anything else this "which is better" analysis comes down to personal opinion and price/performance.

Both drive types have come a long way since they were introduced and their commonly known shortcomings have been addressed for the most part so in my opinion there is no clear "better".

SSD type drives have a reputation of being more robust as they don't have moving parts. Modern rotational drives are commonly found in laptops, automotive in dash nav and entertainment systems and other things that tend to move and bump around so although factually true are SSD's more robust?

SSD type drives are "faster" than rotational drives. I would agree again this is factually true however there are hybrid rotational drives that have a memory buffer and firmware that anticipates what is going to happen and quite often vastly improves read/write performance. Quite often the "system" might have other bottlenecks where the full speed of either drive type is not completely taken advantage of. Speed of this nature is typically only truly important for things like video editing, 3D modeling etc. where the system is NEVER fast enough ;).

SSD type drives have a limit to how many times they can be written to, so don't last as long as rotational types. (Trying really hard not to GEEK here ! ;) ) This is factually true and early versions definitely failed relatively quickly (compared to rotational types). Again brilliant people went to work on this problem and have built controller firmware that tries to spread the writing around on the entire SSD drive to lengthen the lifespan. SSD and rotational drives are now in the multi-year lifespan. Again no clear "better".

Both drive types suffer from data loss if used in a long term (multi year) archival scenario.
 

DArcy

.
Feb 11, 2017
1,201
Islander Freeport 36 Ottawa
There are so many ways to back up and store data. I am certainly not an expert but here are a few thoughts - without any cloud storage.
  • The simple way is don't worry about it - just load everything onto a lap top and go. No back up, cross your fingers and hope for the best.
  • The next easiest is bring one (or two, or three depending on how much data you have) USB flash drive. As mentioned already, these are available up to 256 GB which should take care of your pictures, documents and your music as well, maybe a second one for movies and TV shows. These are incredibly cheap these days.
  • Along the same lines would be to have an external hard drive, either SSD or traditional hard disk disk. SSD may be somewhat more rugged but even SSD don't like to be exposed to water or even high humidity for very long. The real advantage to SSD is the access times. People talk about the number of writes to solid state memory but even hard disk drives have limited writes. All drives fail eventually.
  • The next level is to set up a NAS (network attached storage) on your network with a RAID drive for redundant storage.
  • You can manually back up or get some kind of backup software. There are a lot out there and some external hard drives come with backup applications. Here are some to consider: The best Windows backup software
I had a NAS at home with a RAID drive which was great until the NAS itself died. The drives were OK but needed to be recovered separately after the demise of the NAS. Now I have two USB drives (hard disk drives) plugged into my wireless router which are BOTH used to back up my data. It is extra redundancy but if one dies I just get another and keep going.
 
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Oct 19, 2017
6,881
O'Day 19 Littleton, NH
Modern rotational drives are commonly found in laptops, automotive in dash nav and entertainment systems and other things that tend to move and bump around so although factually true are SSD's more robust?
Solid State drives are definately more robust in a multi-axis moving environment. The gyroscopic forces can ruin a spinning drive when axis of rotation is changed suddenly. The read/write heads will crash on a spinning drive if the cylinder's axis is tilted; suddenly a wobble develops and you can get what is referred to as a "perfect circle" scratched into your media.

HDs are hermetically sealed, so the environment is mostly a danger to the contact points, which is equally true of SSDs. High quality gold contacts are, of course, the preferred material.

In a sailboat environment, I suggest investing in devices that store onto high capacity SSDs, then, when in port and not moving, fire up the ol' external backup drives to download and upload as needed.
Store them in a sealed container with a desiccant to keep them dry.
do this.

-Will (Dragonfly)
 
Last edited:
Sep 22, 2018
1,869
Hunter 216 Kingston
The read/write heads will crash on a spinning drive
Most laptops and even some HDD have accelerometers that really limit this happening in “normal” use. If the drive suffers a real impact ie dropped then all bets are off but that sort of holds true for any electronic equipment. I agree that a SSD would never face a head crash but I’ve also witnessed a harried employee rushing to a meeting do a face plant with a running laptop, get up, enter the boardroom and use the laptop in their presentation. ;)
 
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Oct 19, 2017
6,881
O'Day 19 Littleton, NH
I’ve also witnessed a harried employee rushing to a meeting do a face plant with a running laptop, get up, enter the boardroom and use the laptop in their presentation.
True, that happens, but usually it doesn't happen in the middle of a drive access operation when the heads are in and out of contact with the cylinder. Normal use doesn't usually include rolling, pitching and yawing. Do not turn your gaming system from flat to up on edge while the optical disc is spinning. This will give you visual evidence of the "perfect circle" syndrome. Even minor head crashes can eventually lead to enough bad sectors that you lose function.

-Will (Dragonfly)
 
Sep 22, 2018
1,869
Hunter 216 Kingston
True, that happens, but usually it doesn't happen in the middle of a drive access operation when the heads are in and out of contact with the cylinder.
Oh the drive was in full operation, the person who tripped was downloading their presentation from a server and there was lots of 3D action during their Olympic dismount from the floor ;)

I don’t disagree with any of your recommendations just pointing out that smart people have somewhat dealt with that known limitation.
 
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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
2,648
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
If we're on the boat for several weeks, I rely on a couple of 16 GB memory cards for the camera. Those can last for weeks but that depends: I shoot in RAW so my individual photo files require 20 - 25 MB memory, each.

I can take several dozen or more photos on great days (60 or more at times). When one of those cards is full I'll download directly to my laptop and clear the memory card.

I can only store a year or two of photo files on my laptop. The rest of some 30K (and growing,...) images are on external HD's at this time.

My boat stays quite dry so I wouldn't hesitate to take an external HD (or 2-3) along but I don't need it for the duration we're typically out.
 
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dLj

.
Mar 23, 2017
1,777
Belliure 41 Snug Harbor, Lake Champlain
Thanks for starting the new thread. Since I was part of the hijack of the other thread I have a bit of a headstart.

Can you provide a little baseline to help keep the conversation somewhat specific to your situation? You mention you want access to fairly large amounts of data but can you put an actual size on that. The other thing that would help is what type(s) of device(s) will you want to backup and display your content?
Movies take a lot of space. I'll have to look, but I think in the realm of at least a couple of terabytes. I will get back to you on that however, with more concrete data requirements. This could be a somewhat dynamic number as I may add and delete movies over time. These could be on a dedicated separate storage system.

As far as backup and display, I'm just thinking a laptop. Typical windows type, although I've been looking into linux. I'm not much of an apple fan. But I could be moved in that direction with sufficient reason. So the computer will be what I download photos and documents onto. Then keep that data backed up to the backup system. At least that was my original thought process.

I have a fairly large collection of documents dealing with the areas I'll be traveling, things like handwritten maps and guides to areas with poor charts. I've got all my pilot charts, NOAA charts, manuals, wikipedia, electronic books, boat manuals, music etc. But all of these are really easy, it's truly the movies that are just huge data hogs. Actually, photos can get there also...

I'll use the backup system to keep all photos and data I'll create while cruising secure and duplicated between the backup system and the computer.

I would like to be able to restore the computer system if needed. Or someway have a replacement laptop interface with this.

TomY has brought up an excellent point. I will likely be shooting photos in raw format. I'm projecting to have this system functional for somewhere between 3 and 10 years. I mena, the longer the better, but realistically my sailing time with this system is probably going to fall within that time frame. I'm looking for both the reliability and storage capacity that I could need.

The reliability of either HDs or SSDs in a marine environment are definitely my main concerns. I am also a firm believer of the KISS concept. As Darcy mentioned, the system dies if one of the other components fails. The marine environment likes to eat electronics. I'm looking to figure out the simplest, least likely to fail system. The idea of multiple thumb drives never occurred to me, but hey, that may be a great way to go!

dj

P.S. - I'd answered this last night, but must have never hit submit... Now with new comments, this is also updated...
 
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Sep 22, 2018
1,869
Hunter 216 Kingston
I can only store a year or two of photo files on my laptop. The rest of some 30K (and growing,...) images are on external HD's at this time.
Wow that’s quite a library, well worth protecting!
I’m curious about your strategy of offloading the camera cards to the laptop. Do you wait until you are at a calm anchorage to migrate the data or do it live while sailing?
 
Sep 22, 2018
1,869
Hunter 216 Kingston
Given this is somewhat of a brainstorming session has anyone worked with products like the WD passport Pro (both HDD and SSD versions are available)? I don’t have any hands on with this type of product.

EDIT: There are two different products:
WD Passport Pro - HDD only
WD Passport Wireless SSD - SSD only

It might be useful as an alternative to the laptop centric approach. Or a least an alternative while the boat is in motion etc.

 
Last edited:
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Oct 19, 2017
6,881
O'Day 19 Littleton, NH
If you setup a small ethernet wifi hub on board, you should be able to keep your passport or other external drives connected through the wifi LAN and just download from your connected devices, as convenient.

-Will (Dragonfly)
 
Jun 14, 2010
1,713
TBD Looking for my next boat CT
The rest of some 30K (and growing,...) images are on external HD's at this time.
Tom, external drives tend to have the highest failure rates among all drive configurations. As a general rule they are placed in closed housings with inadequate ventilation, and cheap economy-engineered power supplies that are subject to failure including poor surge tolerance nor protection. They are also subject to higher g-forces, vibrations, temperature and humidity extremes when transporting in vehicles/boat etc. than they would normally be in a computer.
All this leads to my advice of backing up your backups. Nuf said.
 
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Sep 22, 2018
1,869
Hunter 216 Kingston
Movies take a lot of space. I'll have to look, but I think in the realm of at least a couple of terabytes. I will get back to you on that however, with more concrete data requirements. This could be a somewhat dynamic number as I may add and delete movies over time. These could be on a dedicated separate storage system.

As far as backup and display, I'm just thinking a laptop. Typical windows type, although I've been looking into linux. I'm not much of an apple fan. But I could be moved in that direction with sufficient reason. So the computer will be what I download photos and documents onto. Then keep that data backed up to the backup system. At least that was my original thought process.

I have a fairly large collection of documents dealing with the areas I'll be traveling, things like handwritten maps and guides to areas with poor charts. I've got all my pilot charts, NOAA charts, manuals, wikipedia, electronic books, boat manuals, music etc. But all of these are really easy, it's truly the movies that are just huge data hogs. Actually, photos can get there also...

I'll use the backup system to keep all photos and data I'll create while cruising secure and duplicated between the backup system and the computer.

I would like to be able to restore the computer system if needed. Or someway have a replacement laptop interface with this.

TomY has brought up an excellent point. I will likely be shooting photos in raw format. I'm projecting to have this system functional for somewhere between 3 and 10 years. I mena, the longer the better, but realistically my sailing time with this system is probably going to fall within that time frame. I'm looking for both the reliability and storage capacity that I could need.

The reliability of either HDs or SSDs in a marine environment are definitely my main concerns. I am also a firm believer of the KISS concept. As Darcy mentioned, the system dies if one of the other components fails. The marine environment likes to eat electronics. I'm looking to figure out the simplest, least likely to fail system. The idea of multiple thumb drives never occurred to me, but hey, that may be a great way to go!

dj

P.S. - I'd answered this last night, but must have never hit submit... Now with new comments, this is also updated...
There’s a lot to unpack in here but having read and re-read this post it would seem to me that you might want to consider splitting your requirements into two pieces.

1) Your voyage critical (charts, etc), photography and writing
2) Entertainment - Movies, music, leisure reading etc.

Number 1 being more dynamic likely needs frequent backup and multiple ways to view and/or edit.
Number 2 is relatively static, backup for disaster recovery - large dataset.

I have never “lived” on a boat but I think I understand that it is a harsher environment than the house in the burbs. Your concern about environmental wear and tear on “delicate” electronic equipment is well founded so I guess you could attempt to mitigate some of the risk by going the ‘military grade” route (Grid laptop etc.) and/or have enough redundancy in “normal” computing gear to keep everything in order.
 
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colemj

.
Jul 13, 2004
88
Dolphin Catamaran Dolphin 460 Mystic, CT
SSD type drives are "faster" than rotational drives. I would agree again this is factually true however there are hybrid rotational drives that have a memory buffer and firmware that anticipates what is going to happen and quite often vastly improves read/write performance. Quite often the "system" might have other bottlenecks where the full speed of either drive type is not completely taken advantage of. Speed of this nature is typically only truly important for things like video editing, 3D modeling etc. where the system is NEVER fast enough ;).
One other thing speed matters with is backing up. A full backup of my computer on a HD used to take all day. Doing so on a SSD only takes an hour or so. Besides having your computer back quicker, it saves power if one is running off an inverter. Also, my wife, like Tom, takes a lot of pictures in RAW. She was keeping these on an external HD, but as her library grew larger, accessing them with Lightroom became so slow she couldn't work on them. Moving to an external SSD solved that.

SSD type drives have a limit to how many times they can be written to, so don't last as long as rotational types. (Trying really hard not to GEEK here ! ;) ) This is factually true and early versions definitely failed relatively quickly (compared to rotational types). Again brilliant people went to work on this problem and have built controller firmware that tries to spread the writing around on the entire SSD drive to lengthen the lifespan. SSD and rotational drives are now in the multi-year lifespan. Again no clear "better".

Both drive types suffer from data loss if used in a long term (multi year) archival scenario.
SSD's are so over-provisioned now that write limits aren't an issue anymore. When used as backup/archive drives, this is even less of an issue because few data are overwritten often.

Mark