The Digi-Cult

A New Religion for a Digital Age

Complete Data Redundancy for 10 Bucks.

Posted by Rod Leland on October 23, 2008

I get the exact same phone call about every 2 months from a frantic friend or acquaintance.  Someone has lost his or her data and important documents to a hard drive failure.  I tell every one of my friends, and anyone that will listen actually, the same thing: A hard drive failure is not a matter of IF, but WHEN.

I’ll opt not to bore you with the metrics behind drive failure.  In super simple terms, given no extenuating circumstances (dropped HD, physical shock, electrical shock, extramagnetic field damage etc) and under normal circumstances it’s reasonable to expect between .5 and 1 out of every 100 HD’s to fail in a year.  Remember, that’s not counting everyone who drops a hard drive, runs over a computer etc.

It’s simple to think that all you need is multiple copies of your data to remain redundant.  But having a copy of every file can be expensive.  I try to ask people to imagine the most, and least likely unfortunate event, and backup according to that.

Firstly, what is most important to ensure you don’t lose? Your resume? Music? A book you’re writing? Bookmarks? All your documents? Family photos? I have different levels of redundancy I assign to my files. Some of my movies aren’t redundant at all. My music is backed up twice but my favorite stuff is thrice redundant.  My super important files get backed up many times over, and in many different places.

My 4 drive Array and 2 Externals.

My 4 drive Array and 2 Externals.

Every photo I have, and all of my other cant-lose data is backed up twice or more redundantly across a 4-drive RAID array that automatically protects against drive failure by rebuilding itself if it happens. My applications, along with all documents and OS is backed up on my time machine drive that’s updated every two minutes.  The super important stuff (portfolio, resume, bookmarks, etc.) is carried on me at all times on a flash drive, burnt to a CD stored 250 KM away from my house, and then again online on independent servers on the east and west coast of the US, and again in Europe.  This may seem over the top but I am just being realistic. My most important files are backed up to resist the least likely situation.  If a drive fails (which is quite realistic) I’ll never lose anything.  If my house burns down (very unlikely) I’ll lose a lot of stuff, but I’m still able to recover. If North America blows up, I’ve likely got bigger problems then my data remaining intact, but it’s nice to know my photos are safe.

You don’t have to pay for online, continental, geographic redundancy.  Nor do you have to go out and buy a RAID array for your files, just be prepared.  Basic redundancy (both drive and geographic) is damn near free if you think a bit about it.

Here’s the plan.

First, If you can afford it, buy an external hard drive that’s as big or bigger than your computer HD and put EVERYTHING on it, including a copy of your OS and applications. Now if either drive fails in-home, no harm, no foul, and you still have everything.
The count: Basic Files: 2 Semi-Important: 2, Super-Important: 2

Keep your iPod updated with as much as it will hold. It’s a great music backup. If you can, enable disc use and dump your super-most important stuff on there as well.
The count: Basic Files: 2 Semi-Important: 2, Super-Important: 3 + Music X 3

Pick out the files that would really suck to lose, but aren’t essential to carrying on. (old documents, photos from the bar, etc.)  Burn those to a DVD or two, and stash it at your parents house next time you’re there. With two DVD’s you can get around 15GB of storage which should be enough. Better yet, burn two copies of the same disc. Repeat a couple times a year with new data.
The count: Basic Files: 2 Semi-Important: 3, Super-Important: 4 + Geographic Redundancy

Now take the MOST important files (resume, contacts, family photos, grad photos etc, and throw them on a flash drive that you always carry with you.  1 and 2 GB drives can be found for a few dollars nowadays. Keep it updated.

This is regualr price.  On sale, these are usually found for 2 or 3 dollars.

This is regular price. On sale, these are usually found for 2 or 3 dollars.

The count: Basic Files: 2 Semi-Important: 3, Super-Important: 5

Next, email yourself the same files (obviously, size dependent) and leave them in your inbox.
The count: Basic Files: 2 Semi-Important: 3, Super-Important: 6 + Super Geographic Redundancy

There you have it. You’re protected. For 10 bucks you have peace of mind that to a reasonable level, everything is protected and in case of something REALLY crazy happening, and for 10 bucks plus a bit of effort, there are five copies of your data in different places, across unique media, so you will NEVER lose your most important data.

-Rod

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