Wednesday, February 3, 2016

When Hard Drives Crash: My Story


Hard drives fail. It's a fact of life.

Everyone has either had (or will have) a horror story about losing valuable data. In this digital age, tangible media is going out the window and is being replaced by invisible bits of data that make up our hard work. These bits are fragile and can easily be lost. It is up to us to foresee this loss and to prepare for its inevitability.

I felt I had come to a pretty good place (after an initial quest) where my data could be safe. Using a "split" archive, I have two large 5TB drives will all my known video work, separated across my home network. Projects on my laptop were being archived to one external drive, which would then archive itself during the night (using Bvckup2) to a network-connected drive at the other end of my apartment. I felt pretty safe.

Then, the second drive (the backup of the backup) wigged out and was empty. Attempting to re-copy the first drive proved futile. Something was amiss and I couldn't even low-level format (writing a zero to every single byte) to try to start over. Fortunately, it was still under warranty.

Then the panic set in. I only had one drive that contained all my stuff. Sure, there was some on my laptop, but those were only current projects. All the archived stuff was now only in one place. My "redundant" system had failed me. If this second drive (the same model) failed, I was screwed.

I immediately purchased another (different brand) drive, but I'm in a remote place and had to have it shipped. It would take at least two weeks to get here. Would that first drive hold up?

The good news is, it did hold up. My new drive came in the mail and I immediately copied everything from the first drive to it. I then made the new drive my primary backup and the older one the new secondary backup.

The failed drive was sent back to the manufacturer for a replacement, and is on its way back to me as we speak. When it returns, it will be my third backup, which will travel off-site (my work cubicle) and come back to be refreshed monthly.

I guess the moral of this story is that two backups aren't enough, you need three. If one fails, you'll still have the peace of mind of two in reserve. The odds of those two failing before the other comes back are pretty slim, though you may want to take one off-site until the third returns.

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