Backup Your Data

Backup Your Data

It’s not a matter of IF, but a matter of WHEN.

Computer hard drives do fail, and when the fail, the data goes with it. The hard drive is a mechanical device that has a magnetic head flying just above the surface of the platter that stores the data. The heads fly much less than a hair’s thickness above the platter. In fact, a human hair is about 2000 micro inches thick, and the hard drive head flys at 0.5 micro inches above the platter. You can see why it is possible for the head to hit the platter which can result in data loss. This is just one of the possible failures in a hard drive.

Another possible failure is when the spindle bearings wear out, or more precisely, dry out. The drive may start to sound louder, or have a “harmonic balancing” sound. This is a good indication of the spindle bearing not working correctly. Often times, this problem will end up in the spindle motor not being able to “spin up” the drive.

With all that being said, what are the chances of my hard drive failing? Over time, I think the chances of data loss increase to a point that I would just replace the drive before it fails. How long before that happens? There are too many factors to determine when a drive is going to fail. I’ve had drives run for 9 years without any problems, other than being slower than modern drives, and obviously less capacity. I’ve also had a drive last only 2 months before failure. But most drives I’ve seen fail are at about 3-4 years of age.

How many drives fail? I don’t have an accurate number, but in the recent past, I’ve seen about 10 drives fail. One person brought me a computer that was running slowly and giving errors. He had never backed up his hard drive. I pulled the drive out of the computer and ran a backup on it. 10 minutes after I finished, the drive was no longer accessible. He was lucky.

How do i backup? What’s the best method to do a backup?

1. Buy an external hard drive. External hard drives are so inexpensive nowadays, with 1TB drives under $100. It’s a no-brainer.

2. Run backup software. If you are on a Macintosh, use Time Machine. If you are on a PC, download Microsoft Synctoy or my favorite, SyncBack , both of which are free.

3. Schedule for automatic backups at least weekly.

Other points to consider

Don’t backup to cd’s or dvd’s, or USB thumb drives. CD’s and DVD’s don’t have enough capacity and therefore you’ll be using multiple cd’s or dvd’s. This makes it difficult to backup, which makes it less likely that you’ll run it at least weekly.

Don’t backup to thumbdrives. With 16GB costing $15 or so, it’s cost effective enough and easy enough, but you’ll run out of space. Also sometimes these types of drives fail.

Do backup to 2 locations. I backup to an external USB hard drive at the office and another USB hard drive at home. That way, if one location has a fire, I still have another backup in the other location.

Online backups can work, but most of the time you’ll end up with a monthly fee depending on how much data you have. This can add up. Mozy is $5.99 per month for 50GB of storage space.

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