Where to start?
Ah, I know. Imagine that you've had your computer
for a few years, read and kept email, wrote some witty and wonderful
things that you saved in Word,
downloaded and purchased applications, or maybe did some dandy
graphics things. And of course you've got your photos
"saved" to disk, along with that MP3 collection that
you love to listen to. Oh, and the 2001 TurboTax return that the
IRS is calling you up to talk about...
Then, one day, you hear a funny kinda clicking sound from your
system. You keep working, and everything seems fine, except for
an occasional crash or hang. But this is Windows (or, name your
OS of choice),
so that's not too unusual. A few days later you wake up,
make some coffee, start to get the kids to school, and wander
by your computer to see it's ... gone. It won't boot, gives some
odd messages about "In_Page Failure" or some-such, and no matter
what you do, it's dead. You think back to those little clicks and
noises you heard earlier, and it comes to light: your disk, with
everything you've done for the past few years, is a paperweight.
Yeah, you can buy a new disk, dig around and find your OS install
disk, install your applications (aside from the ones you downloaded
to disk), and get a login screen. But it's all gone, if you haven't
I went through this with my work
laptop a while back. Found a blue-screen (Windows XP), rebooted
and all seemed "ok." Later, a day or so, another blue-screen,
and I noticed those little clicks coming from where the disk drive
was. Panic. I had NEVER backed this system up, and it held more than
five years of work, email, and documents. I managed to slip the hardive
out, install it onto my home system and
after a struggle, was able to copy my most important data to DVD,
run chkdsk (no problems found), and defrag
the drive. I reinstalled it into the laptop and everything seemed
fine now. Except for those pesky little noises...
A week later, it was over. More blue-screens, hangs, and finally,
numerous error messages that in total simply meant the disk was
dead. I tried the "slip the drive into my home system to recover"
thingy, but it was no-go.
Fortunately, I HAD done that backup earlier, "just-in-case," and
when the new disk arrived and I installed it I was able to copy
those five+ years of data to the new disk.
Whew! Saved. But just under the wire.
Several years ago my home system started doing that same thing,
little clicking noises, hangs, crashes, etc. I ignored it.
Two weeks later, after an overnight delivery of a new hard drive,
clean install, and digging through random CD copies (this was prior
to my owning a DVD writer) I got back "much" of my data. Now, as
it so happens, I work for a group in my company that provides storage
products (JBOD, RAID arrays, NAS, etc.) and I should know
better than to trust a single disk to eternally retain my data.
But apparently not. So, after restoring what data I could on the
new disk, I bought a RAID card, bought another disk, hooked it
all up, set up a RAID
1 configuration (mirroring), and settled back with a sigh...
Now, my system has "evolved" in that
the motherboard provides RAID via SATA drives.
I upgraded the disks over time to a couple 200GB drives, and feel relatively comfortable
about my data. But not comfortable enough (I leave my PCs on all
the time, something that eats away on consumer-level ATA drives
as opposed to enterprise SCSI). I decided to make backups via my
home network to
little-budda on a regular
basis. Backing up to DVD is something I occasionally do, but 4.7GB
of storage just doesn't hack it: I have over 130GB of data on my
system now (do the math, that's almost 30 DVDs of data. "Gimme-a-break."
DVD, where ARE you??).
not applications or OS. So now at least once a week I run Karen's
Replicator (freeware) to copy my files to sitting-budda. And,
I bought another 160GB removable disk for sitting-budda that I
make monthly copies to, just in case the main disk dies (which
Pretty safe, hey? I have a RAID config to duplicate my data and
should one disk fail the other takes over. I have backups to a
separate system, and in that system I have
a backup disk as well. And I do make those occasional DVD backups.
However, despite all this, see the still-existing
problem? It's this: All of those backups are largely sitting
in my living room. One room, one "space." Enterprise
computing systems take into account a "Disaster
Recovery" mechanism. That is, they use Really
Expensive RAID storage, daily
backups, Remote Replication (copy the data from Houston to California),
and have off-site storage for those tape backups (they use tape,
the capacity is large, especially with tape libraries). They keep
backups of those tape backups "offsite" in a fire-proof
So, should a bomb hit in their data center, they
have those tapes stored in a vault somewhere else, and have the
data stored in another state in case someone drops a nuke and wipes
out the entire county of the primary data
Now, my "stuff" is hardly "enterprise-worthy," but it's nonetheless
important to me. And the problem I still have is two-fold: 1) The
RAID system I have (SiL)
is cheap and hardly trustworthy, although it's better than nothing;
2) Since my data and backups are in that one room, should, oh,
say a FIRE take place in that one room ... all gone.
What to do ? I have a fire safe in my garage.
I bought a USB 2.0 shell for a 3.5" disk (120GB) that I back the
data I need to. Then, I slip the USB drive into the safe, and viola!
I might lose the house, but my data's going to
be intact. Am I paranoid? You bet, but that's based on 20+
years of seeing what happens when storage fails. And it will
fail at some
Not to mention recently seeing what happens when my little
laptop drive fails. "Just because you're paranoid doesn't
mean they aren't out to get you." That sorta thing.
So, after you get done shaking your head over this
craziness I'm confessing to, think about what you'd do if your
drive crashed, and uncaringly throws all your bits on the floor.
You have only a few options then: 1) Recover the data using some
service (usually not totally successful, and always frighteningly
expensive); 2) Start from scratch, reinstalling what you can and
wiping the tears from your eyes thinking of all that lost data;
or 3) Recover all your data from your judicious backups.
You do backup, don't you?...
(One more point: Use "Control-S" (the
standard "save" command
for Windows apps) early and often when creating documents (e.g.,
"Word" or "Excel"). I had a co-worker/friend spend six hours working
on a Power Point slide, and never once
His system hung, and it was all gone. He left the office that night
around midnight, after redoing all of his work)