I can’t seem to get away from this subject. And it’s so darn important, I’m not sure I want to.
My earlier column, Back Up Blues, triggered some interesting responses. One reader inquired as to whether I had considered or tried another drive imaging product, PowerQuest’s Drive Image. The answer is, “Yes”, I did consider it, and “No” I didn’t try it. PowerQuest’s product was not compatible with as many makes and models as CD RW’s as Norton Ghost, and more to the point, it was not compatible with my CD RW. So while it may be a good product, I have no way of testing it.
Another comment I received was directed at whether or not it is important to keep your hard disk back up off site. The writer reasoned that if somebody steals your computer, your hard disk back up isn’t going to do you much good anyway because the drivers on the back up will probably not be compatible with your new computer. Its kind of like buying a spare remote control for your television, only to have your television crap out. Your spare remote is perfectly good, but it won’t work with your new television.
(By the way, this is another good reason to take separate data back ups — you can easily restore your data to any computer.)
Well, I accept the validity of that statement, up to a point. But what happens if somebody steals your back up, not your computer? Or what happens if your back up accidentally gets lost or damaged? I know it won’t get lost in my safe deposit box. It just makes sense to keep it there.
The other day, I was chatting with my neighbor about the importance of taking back ups. Now you have to understand that my neighbor is basically a computer genius. He proudly told me that he didn’t have to worry about backing up his data because he had a RAID configuration. For those of you who are not familiar with RAID. the acronym stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. RAID configurations build in redundancy to a network to prevent loss of data in the event of a disc failure.
I allowed my neighbor to regale me with the details of his home network configuration, and then smiled and said, “You don’t have a back up.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“You don’t have a back up unless you store it offsite.” I said. “No RAID configuration will protect your data against fire or theft.”
He immediately agreed with my observation. See? I told you he was brilliant.
It occurred to me recently that with each passing day, we become more dependent on the data stored on our computers.
Think about it. Only a few years ago, our computers were mainly repositories for MS Word documents and e-mail. Today, with the advent of broadband connections, we use our computers to download and store MP3’s and Videos. We also store everything from digital photographs to tax returns and other financial data on our computers. Some people even scan their important paper documents and throw the paper away.
It is not much of an exaggeration to state that with each passing day, more of our lives are encoded in a bunch of zeroes and ones on a hard drive.
And it freaks me out that most people don’t back up their data, let alone their entire hard disc. Let’s think about it. A hard drive spins at anywhere from 5400 to 7200 rpm, and an electromagnetic head sits millionths of an inch above this spinning platter, writing a bunch of zeroes and ones to it. We leave our computers on for 10, 12, hours a day. Some of us leave them on 7 by 24.
How can one possibly expect that this electromechanical device, spinning at 7200 rpm for 12 hours a day, is never going to fail?
It is going to fail. I absolutely guarantee it. In fact, your hard disc is the single most likely component of your computer to fail. And when it does fail, you will lose years worth of data if you haven’t been taking back ups.
And getting back to the original theme of this series, a hard disc failure is not the only way you can lose your data. A terrorist attack on your computer, the theft of your computer, or some ill behaved application can result in the loss of data, not to mention the possibility that you might accidentally delete some valuable data. (Heck, I admit that I did this myself the other day. Fortunately, in addition to backing up my data on CD RW’s, I copy my data over my home network to another computer. So I was easily and instantly able to retrieve the file I had accidentally deleted.)
Recently, a well known writer for Fortune magazine wrote a column blaming the world for his troubles. His personal computer had caught a virus, and it had destroyed all of the data on his hard disc. All of his precious MP3’s were gone. He was irate as hell that somebody would do this to him. The nerve of somebody writing a virus and infecting his computer.
I wrote him a letter, imploring him gently to grow up and live in the real world. I suggested that he might be the type of person who leaves the doors and windows to his house unlocked when he goes to work, and then blames the world when his house gets robbed. I also suggested that he read my series for some useful advice on how to avoid this problem in the future. Instead of taking my advice, I received a reply from him calling me unsympathetic and basically telling me that I will never make if as a writer because I don’t have empathy.
Well, he’s correct about one thing. I have no tolerance for idiots who don’t back up their data and then blame somebody else for the inevitable disaster.
So back it up. Back it up now, and back it up often. I promise there will come a day you will say, “I’m sure glad I followed Alan’s advice.”
Well, gotta go. Gotta back up my web site to my local drive. That’s right — I don’t assume that my web hosting service is backing up my web site. I back it up to my hard disc, and from there, to a CD RW.
Copyright 2002 e-Broadband News. All rights reserved. E-Broadband News provides readers with news, commentary, and analysis pertaining to companies whose products and services increase bandwidth and storewidth for faster internet access.