Happy New Year! It’s that time of year when people make their resolutions of how they can improve themselves or lives. My resolution is to continue to obsessively backup my data. There’s one certain rule in hardware: One day, it WILL fail. The only question is when. Hard drives are an excellent example. They will fail at some point, so the only question is, will you be backed up?
The Good Backup
For those folks who have done their backup, this is how the story goes. One day you go to turn on your computer and instead there’s an error symbol. Your computer won’t boot up. You hear a clicking sound. So you power the computer down, unplug your backup drive that is always attached to the computer and go to the store and get a new drive. Come home, install the drive, use your operating system install CD and restore software and load in your backup. You lost a few hours of your day, but everything is back the way it’s supposed to be.
The Lack of Backup
This is NOT how the story goes for a lot of people. I can’t even count how many stories I’ve heard of people losing all of their data. One of the interesting ones was a friend who had a lot of music stored on her older iPod. She didn’t have this music anywhere else. Well one day instead of booting up, the iPod just started making a soft clicking sound.
I told her about the easy ways to recycle the iPod so that it didn’t end up in a landfill. The program is great, they recycle all sorts of stuff for you, and they have links to a number of other recycling programs. And if you have an old cell phone that still works, you can donate it to cell phones for soliders.
That wasn’t what she was looking for, she wanted her music back. Well, a hard drive is a mechanical device, and that clicking sound is it failing. Your data is still there, you just can’t access it. Sometimes it can be coaxed into working a little longer to get some of the data off, other times not. Basically her only really reliable option was a data recovery company which would open the drive in a clean room and directly read the data. Other approaches are hit or miss, this has the highest reliability rate. But trained technicians in a high quality clean room are not cheap. An extra hard drive, that would have been a lot of cheaper.
In the end she didn’t have the money for the expensive approach and tried some other people who couldn’t get her data off cheaply and lost everything.
Why You Backup
Moral of the story: backup the data if you might want it ever again. Then a hard drive failure is a mild inconvenience of getting a new drive and changing your settings. The alternative is a lot more painful and costly. Because $50 on a backup drive is a lot less than a few thousand for data recovery services.
Hard drives will fail, the only question is when. If your lucky, the hard drive will outlast the useful life of the computer. As far as warranties go: if the drive has a 5 year warranty that means it has a really low failure rate in the first 5 years (they will replace it if it fails–the data if it fails is up to you). Personally I buy drives with 5+ year warranties (I’ve had the hard drive the computer came with fail 1 MONTH after I got the computer).
Even Better Backup
Want an even more secure backup for your computer? There are now fire proof safes (well, fire proof for about a half hour or so — by which point the fire trucks can have arrived and put out the fire) which are pretty compact and allow you to put a hard drive on the inside of the safe connected to a cable which goes to your computer outside the safe. One of the advantages is if something very unfortunately happens, your data still has a pretty good chance of survival.