Wednesday, May 06, 2009

who's got your back?

The most terrifying thing in my computer life is having worked so hard on one or more projects and then the operating system crashes/gets corrupted or the hard drive fails. Chances are the operating system is on the same hard drive as the data. Either way I am in trouble. What could I have done to save my self the aggravation.

1. Put the operating system and software programs on one drive and my data files on another.
a) two internal hard drives or one internal and one USB external drive.

2. Use two internal drives in a Raid 1 setup. This means what ever is put on one drive is automatically mirrored (copied) to the other. Still with this Raid 1 I would separate my data to an USB external drive (because it's portable).

3. I've seen in a catalog a backup disk drive that will completely copy your drive contents at various times creating a hassle free near transparent backup. The best is to copy the system while it is working great. Some operating systems will allow you to keep a known to work copy. This is very handy if you add and remove drivers or adjust settings all the time.

4. NAS or network attached storage is also very nice. It is a self contained unit with multiple drives you can set up as a raid system or a regular storage server.

5. Jump drives are pretty cheap and large, under $20 for 8 gig jump drive. This is small size, big storage to back up important docs, data and put out of sight, off-site, in your safety deposit box, wherever.

6. You could also burn archival CD's or DVD's.

If you are doing huge graphics files, you especially don't want to loose any work so backing up files is a necessity.

The other part of a backup plan is moving backup files off-site in case of theft or disaster or for securing data. We like to think nothing will go haywire, but don't bet on it! A safety deposit box is a comfort to many. Remember the cheapo copyright, take your docs, copy them, put them in an envelope, mail them to yourself, when you get them back don't open them, the post date and sealed package is your cheapo copyright (store them off-site). Now that would be quite a service if your local PC shop had secured file storage/backup.

I've been watching all the anguished faces in California because the fires have devastated so many homes and possessions. Seeing people rake through ashes for a picture of family, if they had a computer backup plan, at least part of their anxiety could be eased. We are in a habit of not taking precautions. We bet against the odds, nothing is going to happen and eventually we will get around to it. Think of a backup plan as your flight recorder. Man, that would be a great product! A self contained battery powered, fire, flood and thief proof backup computer. You could bury it in the yard or some out building, the basement. It could be cabled or secure wireless and encrypted.

I was working with a client who had a Raid 1 and external USB drive setup. One of the Raid 1 drives went bad. I was sent to replace the Raid drives. Instead of replacing both drives at the same time and having to re-install all software, (data files were backed up on the USB drive) I replaced the bad drive, had the system rebuild it into the Raid array, then replaced the other drive and had the system rebuild that one. The client didn't lose or have to re-install anything. He was very happy just to able to get back to work in a short time, as if nothing had happened.
This guy was ready, a warranty to cover the parts and backup to recover his data.

Now, what about you? Who's got your back?

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