Thursday, December 03, 2009

Disaster recovery plan

Just for a change, this has nothing to do with the issues surrounding Bigastro! This is about protecting your data on your computer.

Last week, my good friend Pete reported that the hard drive on the server which distributes Internet and emails to his house was showing faults. Pete was taking the server to his brother Dave’s house to see what could be done. Although I haven’t heard yet, it is likely that he will have to replace the drive and rebuild the system. It will be a pain in the butt to do but at least he won’t have lost any data; that is stored on a separate server which has mirrored drives (two or more drives which replicate each other).

Yesterday our Spanish teacher told us that the hard drive on her husbands computer had similarly died. Ángel normally backs up the data from his hard drive but since they have moved to live with his parents, he hasn’t had the opportunity to do this. There is a possibility that the data can be recovered but the drive will have to be sent to Madrid first to check it out. All the photos of their eight month old baby were on that hard drive including many taken since Ángel last backed the data up. It is possible that some, if not all of those photos will now be lost.

There is a lesson there for us all in this. If you are going to store precious information, especially photos and video, on your computer make regular backups. As I explained to one of our classmates yesterday, modern hard drives spin at speeds up to 7,000 revs per minute. The heads that read the data float microns away from the platters that store the information. It is a blessed miracle that these things work at all. Like any mechanical device, hard drives wear out in time and can crash without warning loosing valuable data in the process. If you are lucky the platters that make up the storage space are left intact so the data can be read off them. Even if it is possible, this is a skilful and therefore expensive job to undertake.

Making backups can be boring and time consuming, especially if you burn the data to CDs/DVDs but it is far better to undertake than loosing all your work. Just to remind you, I use Acronis Tue Image Home 2009 to backup my whole system to an external hard drive at least once a week. You can of course use the program to make a backup to the main C drive but then if the disc fails that would be pointless. In the event of a drive failure (I have two configured in a Raid 0 array so have twice the risk!), I would have to install a new drive(s) and then reload everything from the external drive. It would take some time but at least I could do it without loosing very much.

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