Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mobile broadband for a small team

Suppose you have 2 (or 3 or 4) people who want to travel together, working on a fairly large project (sufficiently large that you want local data and computing power, not just "the cloud"), and you want that team to be able to quickly and reliably set up and operate an small local area network for team computing, anywhere in the U.S. or Canada. You'll often be in suburbs or rural locations rather than right downtown at the fanciest modern hotels, so counting on hotel broadband seems rather iffy. And it may be weeks between stops at the mothership, so you need a reliable cloud-based backup provider that can handle data volumes in the tens of gigabytes (maybe even up to 250Gb). You'll be setting up and tearing this lab routinely, perhaps 10 times a week, so you want it to be as simple and reliable as possible.

What setup would you advise?

Here's what I've been exploring; I haven't constructed such a system, but am wondering where the holes would be. Can you poke some holes in this proposal and let me know?

  1. Two laptops, each running Windows 7, each with 500GB hard disks. Perhaps
    something in this range.

  2. Something along the lines of the Verizon MiFi for reliable broadband connectivity (at least throughout North America)

  3. Something along the lines of the Cisco Valet or the Airport Express for setting up a small internal network for file-sharing purposes.

  4. Something like Mozy for reliable cloud-based backup, though I'm a little worried that the cloud-based backup schemes can't scale to dozens or hundreds of gigabytes.

  5. To augment the cloud-based backup strategy, a couple of these stocking stuffers can be used for local standby backup purposes.

With this gear, I think you can quickly set up a small internal LAN for file-sharing support between the two laptops, and each laptop can get online at will via the MiFi.

The primary laptop, which holds the master copy of all the files, can share that folder with the secondary laptop, and I think Windows 7 file sharing is robust and reliable enough that the other secondary can continue accessing those files even while the "primary" laptop is busy running large computations (or playing the occasional game of Dark Lords of Elven Magic V).

The secondary laptop is over-provisioned, but this is intentional, so that if the primary laptop fails, the secondary can take over the primary's duties (after restoring the data from a combination of the local spare backup and the Mozy data from the cloud).

Am I crazy?

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