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Now that I’m going full time (retired and not working at all), I’m trying to figure out data storage in the RV for long-term/permanent living. Also what, if anything, I should do about a printer.

My hobby is photography and one of the cameras has large files. I’m Mac based and won’t be changing that (it works well for me). I have way too much data so cloud based storage would be cost-prohibitive, plus I’m not crazy about such things.

As a part-timer, I traveled with 2 portable hard drives, one for working files and one for backup. I don’t use the laptop’s hard drive for much beyond programs. When I get home I’ve copied the working files to an older 5 bay RAID device, set up with 2 drives mirrored and the 5th drive by itself, then erased the portable drives to use on the next trip. When the RAID device drives are full, I get new drives and store the full ones in cases. I can use a bare drive docking station to read the older drives if I want to go back to something.

That system won’t work now that I’m going full-time. My rig is very small, plus the RAID device looks frail for getting dragged around. So I’m not keeping it and am very open to suggestions for retaining lots of data now that I won’t have the RAID device.

I’m going to be getting an air cooled (swamp coolers) storage unit in Vegas for stuff, including my bare drives from the RAID device. I have a docking station that works with bare drives, and can read the drives from the RAID device on it. I am hoping that the swamp coolers will be adequate for storage of the hard drives.

I guess I should just stay with the portable drives, buying new ones as they fill up. Maybe once a year or so I can visit Vegas, get a new bare hard drive and copy the full disk to it, leaving it and the full portable drive in storage, erasing the second back-up portable. 

Are there other schemes that people use while full-timing? I’m interested in what others do, not sure my way will work particularly well. 

Second question - I rarely have a need to print anything, but it sure is nice to have the printer at the house for those times when I do. The one I have is an Epson scanner/printer with 2 paper drawers. Works great but is way too big for for my small rig. Plus I’m not planning on taking a WiFi router. 

I think I might forgo the printer completely, I can always use Kinko’s or the like for what little printing needs I have.

Does anyone have thoughts about using such places? Or traveling with a small printer (and which one for use with iPhone/iPad/MacBook Pro)?

Edited by Kirk W

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Neat, hadn’t thought about going with a laser printer, had been thinking in terms of ink jet, since that’s what I’ve had in the past (wanted color before). Like the WiFi direct option, doesn’t need a WiFi router, an advantage. It says compatible with MacOS. Still fairly big at 13” wide (my TT is small for full-timing), but lots to like about it. I’ve added it to my wish list for further research.

Any more thoughts or ideas?

 

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Hi, I have some of your concerns too.  I'll finally be hitting the road (full-time) this year, but will have fewer space constraints (40 ft 5th wheel).  Photography is also a hobby of mine, and I too, have thought a lot about file storage (Canon CR2 RAW files). I also have ripped music and DVDs that I don't want to lose.  I currently use 4 TB drives and will probably migrate to 8TB ones in a year or two.

Some observations/opinions:

    The cost of storage continues to decline, and probably still will over the next decade.
    
    Best practice is to store copies in at least three locations (e.g. truck, trailer and ?)
    
    The real-time redundancy of RAID isn't very useful for folks like us.  100% uptime isn't a big priority.  But mirroring does automate a type of backup, which can be convenient.
    
    How to know if a file has been damaged (e.g. bit rot) or mistakenly deleted? I've chosen to hash all of my photos and periodically (once a quarter) check that they are still valid.  Unfortunately, the utility I use (CORS Checksum), is only available for Windows.  I assume/suspect there is something available for Mac's.
    
    Assuming some of your drives are 1 TB or less - replace them.  For archive storage, the larger 3.5" drives (which usually require a power source separate from you computer) are almost always a better choice.  At higher capacities, they tend to be less expensive per unit of storage and more reliable.
    
If by "swamp cooler", you mean an evaporative cooler for low humidity environments, I don't think that's a good idea for electronics.  Better to constrain your backup activities to cooler mornings where heat, for a reasonably vented enclosure should not be a problem.

I chose to give up my printer many years ago.  I print a PDF to a USB stick and take it to my library, Staples, Office Depot ...  But I only tend to have an actual need to print a dozen pages a year on average.  So this wouldn't work for folks with frequent printing needs.

Best wishes

Edited by DanZemke

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Do you regularly view your pictures and delete what isn't good?  Perhaps you're just storing way too much stuff.

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First I totally back data redundant storage. Local copies allow for recovery from operator errors.

But as a long time consultant of protecting data centers, the major item missed by most planners is the loss of the facility.  In this case, the RV is highly at risk.  RV burn like crazy.

Any day duplication on local storage will go with the fire.  Cloud storage has become a relatively low cost option to off site back up.

Most of what RVers store on disk is irreplaceable. Financial records are obvious but it is really hard to go back and reshoot photos.

Cloud storage isn't free.  There is the storage service and then there is the data bandwidth to send the data to the cloud.  But what is the value of your data?  But you can shop and minimize the cloud storage cost.

Even if your have off-site backup during the off season, can you afford the lost of several months of irreplaceable data

 

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I've been running mirrored Raid storage for at least ten years in my 5th wheel I've had no issues at all with it. Not one. So I think it is reasonably reliable. 

I do weekly backups of anything major to USB-based memory. I rotate those and store them in my truck. NAS is in the trailer. I also use offsite storage, and these days I'm almost 100% Cloud-based, so the NAS is not getting much work. I'm about to take it down. I've been running Cloud-based for about three years now. I rarely find it an issue. But you do need good comm gear. 

With our business, we run it 100% cloud except video production/editing. You can say that is good or bad. I have mixed feelings. But it sure does seem to work well.

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We have an HP laser scanner/copier/printer/fax. While it is wifi, it can also be hard-wired, and I'll be doing that one of these days. We have a Verizon router that feeds our Time Machine, which is our actual wifi. The router's radio is turned off. One of these days I'll check into getting a new Time Machine just because this one is starting to get full and is several years old.

We print a few times each month and scan maybe one every 3-4 months. About once a year we actually copy something, and since we don't have a phone line the fax part is never used.

Like most people, our financial records are the most important data we have. I'm working with our son-in-law (app developer) and son (computer security) to figure out a way to safely store those records off-site without using up all of our data just storing stuff.

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I keep at least three portable hard drives--one with me, one is in a safe deposit box in Ohio near one son, and the third is in a safety deposit box in California near my other son.  Why not just at their homes?  Well, when one had to evacuate due to fires, they lost something of mine that was a family piece.  It is just too iffy to ask someone else to keep track of my stuff in an emergency, hence the safety deposit boxes.  My third device is in a small safe in my RV.  I switch them out and update the backups of the ones in the safety deposit boxes once a year when I go to visit them. 

It sounds as if you might need something much larger than mine, but that would still fit in a safety deposit box I think.

I also have a small printer that stays in its box with the original packing material.  It is a pain to get it out when I need it, but I think it is less likely to break when I hit a chuckhole this way.

Edited by Solo18

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Interesting viewpoints, very helpful and is helping me think this through better.  

I've tabled any printer purchase to later - my printing needs are very minor, such that I had to clean the heads on my inkjet type printer before printing the paperwork on the house offer.  I'll skip the printer for now.

I should probably explain the swamp cooler comment.  I don't need to access my old raw files (old photos) as a rule, but don't want to toss the files out (they've come in handy in the past).  So I was planning on leaving the hard drives in storage in the storage unit I'm going to be getting.  It will be located in Las Vegas and the units I can afford are ones that are "air-cooled" as in evaporated coolers/swamp coolers.  True climate controlled storage in Vegas is very expensive. Should I re-think this?

How many 3-1/2 inch plus storage case can fit in a safety deposit box?  Or will it?  That's an intriguing idea.

Thank you for pointing out that buying larger hard drives would mean storing fewer drives - that's very attractive.  At the moment all of my back-ups/original files are on bare hard drives (the kind one would find inside computers - no enclosures to break, which I've had happened) and are 1 or 2 TB.  So getting 4 or 8 TB drives would save a lot of space.  That will also mean doing the transfer, which takes time.  I did try to back up the one working hard drive that has an enclosure to one of my bare drives but it was very slow going (original drive is USB while the hard drive dock is USB3/E-SATA but I no longer have a computer with a E-SATA port/card).

16 hours ago, Jack Mayer said:

I've been running mirrored Raid storage for at least ten years in my 5th wheel I've had no issues at all with it. Not one. So I think it is reasonably reliable. 

I do weekly backups of anything major to USB-based memory. I rotate those and store them in my truck. NAS is in the trailer. I also use offsite storage, and these days I'm almost 100% Cloud-based, so the NAS is not getting much work. I'm about to take it down. I've been running Cloud-based for about three years now. I rarely find it an issue. But you do need good comm gear. 

With our business, we run it 100% cloud except video production/editing. You can say that is good or bad. I have mixed feelings. But it sure does seem to work well.

What RAID device do you use?  I have an older LeCie 5 bay Thunderbolt (thunderbolt 1) device, no NAS capability.  Last year, before deciding to go full-time, I thought about upgrading to a NAS device to gain the ability to set up a VPN when I'm on the road as well as a little extra speed, but decided it wasn't worth the cost.  I can start off buying larger hard drives and backing up what I have on the RAID device onto the larger drive(s).

I'm now thinking that it might be worth it to buy a new docking station with USB 3.1, that's faster than the one I have, with 2 slots for drives (mine has one).  But now I'm confused about the whole thing, I only have a vague grasp of computer stuff and need to look at the bare drives I have that I would want to put on larger drives.  Other option is to get 5 larger drives for the RAID device (though I'll need to research how big a drive it's capable of reading - there's always something isn't there?) and use it to transfer the files.

This has got my head spinning, as computer stuff does when I start thinking about changing something.

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I'm not full time and have never needed to print while traveling, no ideas there.  For travel storage we have a few external SSD drives.  No moving parts means no issue with vibration or being moved around, and they are super fast.  My wife and I both have newer MacBooks with USB-C so that's super easy and fast, as well as easily shareable.  We have several, this is my recent acquisition mostly for video and photography work...

https://www.bestbuy.com/site/samsung-t5-1tb-external-usb-type-c-portable-solid-state-drive-deep-black/6026202.p?skuId=6026202

I also still do full photo/video backups to iCloud so that's our backup while traveling.  We have a pretty large data plan so it works so far.

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The safe deposit box I have is a small one--2" high by 4.5" wide, and 24" long.  I could fit quite a few of my portable hard drives in one.  They are come in 3" heights and even larger.  I pay $75 per year in the one in a California bank and the one in Ohio is in my and my son's name, so it is free because he has an account there. 

I have a lifetime of photos scanned and stored, and having them in a bank makes me feel confident it will be dry and safe. 

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We have needed to print things from time to time so I bought a cheap HP printer.  It doesn't need a router to print wirelessly.  It works both with my android phone and my laptop.  Folded up it doesn't take up to much room.  It has really been handy, especially to print and scan documents for things that require signatures. 

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On 5/24/2019 at 8:37 AM, fpmtngal said:

Interesting viewpoints, very helpful and is helping me think this through better.  

I've tabled any printer purchase to later - my printing needs are very minor, such that I had to clean the heads on my inkjet type printer before printing the paperwork on the house offer.  I'll skip the printer for now.

I should probably explain the swamp cooler comment.  I don't need to access my old raw files (old photos) as a rule, but don't want to toss the files out (they've come in handy in the past).  So I was planning on leaving the hard drives in storage in the storage unit I'm going to be getting.  It will be located in Las Vegas and the units I can afford are ones that are "air-cooled" as in evaporated coolers/swamp coolers.  True climate controlled storage in Vegas is very expensive. Should I re-think this?

Put the hard drives, etc. in a sealed ammo box or a Coleman style cooler along with a couple of silica gel dessicant packets to absorb any moisture that may seep inside.  The cooler will stay the average temperature of the swamp cooled air surrounding it, while keeping excess moisture out.

You can make your own silica gel packets using cat litter and coffee filters.  Look at the ingredients on the package of cat litter, many contain pure silica gel . . . the same stuff as in those little dessicant packets.

Put some in a cheap coffee filter, fold it and staple it to keep it sealed and you're set.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7zdebMqov4

Don't use Dri-Z-Air or other dissolving type dessicants - they're corrosive.

Edited by Lou Schneider

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Online storage is far safer and cheaper than sticking a drive in a bank deposit box.  And easier.  And more up-to-date.

 

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I have been using Carbonite for many years, even before we went full time.  It works, and even if one of our computers totally failed, I can still restore everything from my Carbonite account.  I can even view anything backed up with my phone app.  It's not cheap, but losing important data can cost much more.  We travel with an HP desktop inkjet printer, sits on our desk in the fifth wheel, and have no problems with it.

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Regarding a printer, we were in the UP of MI two summers ago and my better half said that she wanted a printer. It is very rural where we summer in the UP and the Walmart is about 33 miles away so about a week later we went to Sault St. Marie to the Walmart and my better half asked the young man in the computer, cellphone, TVs part of the store that she wanted a small printer and he led us to the printers and there it was printed on the box "the worlds smallest printer". It was small and cheap so we bought it. As usual the ink is not cheap.

Another unrelated story, that Walmart had just opened and we were there on a Sunday morning looking around and I see a liquor store in the Walmart not far from the cashiers and it was slow that time of day, about 9:30am, so I asked one of the cashiers about the liquor store, she was as old or older them me, 69, and she stated that the liquor store was owned by Walmart. I noticed a closed sign at the liquor store but the cashier told me to get what I wanted and pay for it at her register. I stated but it is Sunday and she replied "who are they to tell us when we can buy liquor". I explained that being from the Bible belt in SE Texas all liquor stores were closed on Sunday.

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I'm with Lou on recommending dry storage for "rust" drives. We've been moving our home to Colorado from the tornado/humid/hot/flood-prone/bible belt/blue law laden South, to a real Rocky Mountain High. If your storage area is dry enough for swamp cooler use, you are likely missing a better, relatively cool, storage location.

IMHO, the low cost of storing data may contribute to data hoarding. I have twenty TB of drives all with different data and to be honest with myself, they are as foolish as any hoarder. Mine is writing and pics. I'm beginning to think that negatives were a good idea in terms of a single lifetime. I doubt my kids would do anything with my stored data, and there won't be any museums lining up for them. Logically we all know someone is going to start WWIII, and the EMP that results will wipe out all computer data not stored in a Faraday cage. But then we will be gone or going too.

I'm going through my stuff after we move and will be deleting everything someone else would not be interested in, and saving only the truly unique and interesting to me.

I have been archiving/keeping my good stuff along with the bad. Now there is so much I don't have the time to sort and cull. I will likely be deleting whole drives saving only about ten percent or less. And creating a catalogue as I go.

My wife did estate sales after the housing bust made us decide to stop flipping houses and her working in New construction. Go to estate sales and see what things folks thought were valuable enough to keep.

I store less than 500GB on my main system and backup system. And go to the stored data less often. I realize my kids would likely trash them all anyway.

Then just store what's left in a couple of dry cool places.

 

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I used the paid cloud service like Carbonite for several years. Now I just use the "free" Google cloud. That works for me. I cannot find any real advantage that the paid services give me that is not achievable on Google (or Microsoft) free services. No, I do not put drive images (of the OS) on those services, but I do keep images on external disc drives that are stored in multiple locations, so I can restore my drives.

I use virtually nothing locally now. Just a few things like video editing. It would be possible for me to go totally cloud I think since none of my data files (other than just-shot video) are local....they are all cloud-based.

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fpmtngal,

I agree with Mark and Jack that backing up some data to a remote server (cloud storage) decreases the risk of loss, is convenient, and can be a wise tool to include in your backup approach. And I agree with you, that for mobile photographers, syncing terabytes of raw images to cloud storage is not an effective solution for most.  I did try CrashPlan for a few months, but decided it wasn't worth the hassle for me.  At the time (on a 1 Mbs DSL Link) it would have taken me weeks to complete the sync. I'm an Adobe beta tester, but stopped actively participating in discussions on their forum about two years ago, when it became obvious, that their intent was to move to a cloud-only model for Lightroom.  IMO, mobile DSLR RAW shooters and cloud storage are not a good marriage.

Lou's suggestion is a good one.  I'd like to add that the desicants need to be periodically dried out or they will become ineffective.  How will you know when they need drying out?  The most common approach is to buy beads infused with a dye.  The most common dyes indicate that they are still working by their color.  There are two dominant types: Blue and Orange.  Both turn clear when they are saturated with moisture.  My understanding is that the blue dye is poisenous, but it also appears to be the most popular indicator.  I don't lick my disk drives, or lenses, so that wasn't something I was concerned about 🙂

My primary motivation wasn't disk storage.  Mine was that I noticed fungus growing on an interior element of a very old Canon 300mm F4 L lens I own. I ended up buying something that is more durable and convenient.  Yes, it costs more, and the additional up-front cost won't be worth it for many.  That said, I bought 3 Ruggard  PDC24-BB boxes and am very satisfied with them.

I have no connection with B&H (except as a customer) or Ruggard.  I'm just providing an opinion about a product I'm very pleased with.  Well-sealed, strong, and with a very convenient gel bead recycler.

Here is the review I posted October of last year:

"Best Dry Box without the need for continuous power

I've used two of these for a couple months and have ordered a 3rd. I first experimented with an air-tight tub for half the price of this one and bulk desiccant placed in an old vitamin bottle with holes drilled in it. The inexpensive tub hinges were a molded part of the base tub. Inferior design for long-life because after many open-closes, the hinge part fails. And having to refresh the desiccant by pouring it out into a baking sheet for the oven, baking it, and returning it to the bottle is cumbersome. The cartridge with an integrated heater, that just needs to be plugged into a wall socket for 3 hours is much more convenient. Also, as you may know, the desiccant doesn't wear out. There isn't a number of recycles limitation. Yeah, the heating coil or it's connections may eventually fail, but that's a low probability potential failure for 1000 recycles. And it's much more convenient to just plug the cartridge into a wall socket than deal with a home brew solution using an oven. But these are for storage, not shipping containers."

Here's the link to reviews on the box/gel-cartridge (including mine):

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1377861-REG/ruggard_pdc24_bbs_portable_dry_case_24.html/reviews

Dan

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I'm not sure cat litter is much of a desiccant.  The only time it absorbs moisture is when she pees in it. Silica gel packs at Walmart are very cheap.

Edited by hemsteadc

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Online storage stays dry automatically.  I've never seen kitty litter in a datacenter...

 

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38 minutes ago, Carlos said:

Online storage stays dry automatically.  I've never seen kitty litter in a datacenter...

lol

Edited by hemsteadc

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Good point! 

I think I have my data issues solved in the short-term, my sister has offered me a couple of drawers. I’m thinking that long term I’ll get larger hard drives and transition the info I have on my current drives to them, so they will take up less space.

My files are mostly photos, and I like looking at them. Every so often I’ve used them for something useful (several were used in a book an organization did, but mostly as examples and explanations for others). They aren’t priceless and no one will want to look at them once I’m gone.

But they make a great screen saver, a good conversation piece, and most importantly, they make me smile. 

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