I would like to address a couple of comments I received regarding my failed hard drive.
First, Jeff suggested using an online backup service
This is a great option as long as you have the bandwidth available to make uploads happen in a reasonable amount of time. You are of course trusting that the online storage service provider will both remain in business for the duration of your backup needs (I've seen them fold) and that they will properly secure your files so they are really there when you need them (I've seen entire accounts disappear).
The costs for online backup services vary and should be examined. In some cases, you can buy a new external drive each month and ship it to a friend for the monthly cost of storing your files. Online backup has an availability advantage over a distant friend or family member's house, but downloading 1TB of image files is going to take a while over all but the biggest pipes.
I use Amazon's S3 service for website image serving and for non-image file backups.
The "Get a DROBO
" suggestion from Christopher is another good one.
DROBO makes external RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disk) enclosures. Configured as a RAID-5 array, the DROBO utilizes the equivalent of one drive to store parity bits from the other drives (you lose this storage space). Because of this, the DROBO (and other RAID 5 arrays) can withstand one drive failure without any data loss.
I have not used a DROBO, but these drive arrays typically can keep working with a single failed drive. Install a replacement drive and the array rebuilds itself. Performance may suffer until the failed drive is replaced and the array is rebuilt, but no data is lost and immediate access to files remains.
RAID 1 (mirrored) drives take data protection one step farther, giving you complete drive redundancy. RAID 1 configurations can withstand failure of up to 1/2 of the drives - as long as they are all on one side of the mirror (unfortunately, Murphy's Law always kicks in here).
Performance is typically a big benefit these drives offer as the data is striped over all the drives, multiplying the disk arms available for reading and writing data. You will see this difference when using a fast attachment method such as USB 3.0, eSATA and FireWire 800.
While I think RAID 1 and RAID 5 are great options, I KNOW that they (and any other storage method) are alone, not enough. I have worked heavily in enterprise-level IT and have seen enough RAID arrays get corrupted to scare me. I have also seen multiple drives in an array fail at the same time. RAID arrays do not protect from fire or theft - or viruses. You NEED an off-site backup.
As I said before, I have not used a DROBO, but they are generally well regarded. You buy an empty enclosure and add compatible drives or buy them together in a kit. There are $100 mail in rebates available on some of the DROBO configurations right now.
Here are the DROBO enclosures
Thanks for the comments! Update:
I incorrectly referred to mirroring as RAID 0 instead of RAID 1. RAID 0 is striping only and offers no protection (only performance improvements). Protective RAID options are 1, 3, 5 and 10.
When shipping a drive, be sure to pack it well to insure no damage in transit. Hand delivery may be a better option. Testing the drive at the recipient location will insure data integrity.
I'm hearing of some trouble stories with DROBO drives. You might want to research this option more thoroughly before making a decision.
Thanks again for the comments (sent via email and Facebook).