It is a perfect quiet Sunday morning, hot coffee and a laptop checking email. You hear this clacking noise then an error on you screen. What is going on!
If it’s happened to you, then you know. If it hasn’t happened, it will at some point. What are we talking about? Hard drive failure and loss of all information. OMG! I’ve lost my pictures, documents, email contacts! It is a horrific event, but one which can be over come with proper setup and planning. We hear often to back up, but how should we go about it and what is this other word we hear called redundancy?
Let’s take a step backward and examine what a hard drive is and the basic methods of protecting yourself. In general terms a hard drive is a magnetic platter rotating on a spindle. Data is read and wrote to and from the surface. As with all mechanical devices, failure is imminent. Don’t believe it will run forever, because it just won’t.
So how do we protect ourselves from drive failure?
Redundancy versus backup
Redundancy is the capacity and capability of duplicate hardware to a fail safe condition. By adding multiple hard drives in a system which contains the exact same information, if there is a failure, the data is still safe. Multiple drives are not common in desktops; however, and by adding a second drive and mirroring the content through hardware or software will add redundancy.
In the above example this is known as RAID 1 mirroring (redundant array of independent disks). In more complex or critical systems other RAID configurations include:
* RAID 0 (striped disks) distributes data across several disks
* RAID 5 (striped disks with parity) combines three or more disks in a way that protects data against loss of any one disk.
* RAID 6 (striped disks with dual parity) can recover from the loss of two disks.
* RAID 10 (or 1+0) uses both striping and mirroring.
Backup is the copying or creation of a duplicate file to an additional or segregated storage media device. In the case of a home user, this would include documents, photos, email etc. Creating a copy of a file and saving it on the same hard drive does absolutely nothing. This is a copy of a file and not a backup. A file backup can be on an external USB or firewire drive, USB memory stick, a second internal drive, or even the cloud. To recover data from a defective device it must be also located on a secondary device for recovery.
The real disaster
In case of fire or theft, what do you do? How will you recover your precious files? Besides backing up your critical files to an external source, it’s also recommended you backup to the Internet for safe guarding. There are many tools and services available such as Amazon S3, Carbonite, Mozy and Backblaze for example. Many services are automated so if you forget to backup, it won’t. In the event of total loss, at least your information and files will continue to live in the “Cloud”.
Don’t learn by an experience with data loss. Begin a plan now and implement. What’s your data worth? For us, it means everything.