Wednesday 14 February 2007

If you do nothing else - make sure you have a backup!

Psst...wanna buy a hard-disk?

I'm coming to the conclusion that it should be illegal to sell computers and hard disks without also supplying some sort of backup device. We don't allow cars without seat-belts, yet we are happy to send people cruising down the information superhighway without even a virtual air-bag for protection.

If you can see this, you've lost your data!

If you are reading this then you almost certainly have something that needs backing up: Photos,documents,address lists,email.

Even if you only use email and the web,you still need a back up. Imagine yourselves in the shoes of some friends of mine, two days before their holiday their PC crashed, taking with it all the Ryan Air booking information that was in their email folder. Luckily we recovered it in time for the holiday, but it was a lot of stress they could have done without.

If something is of any importance to you, than you MUST have a backup. You can be lucky for a while, but one day your luck will run out and then you will really wish you had a backup.

There are so many ways to lose your data, and they fall into three groups: hardware failure, software failure and user error.

Hardware failure

A hard disk drive is a series of platters spinning at 100s of miles an hour with heads that "fly" just above the disk Which makes them really rather fragile indeed.

All drives have a MBF rating, which stands for "meantime between failure" (100000 hours would be a reasonable MBF). Did you get that? Meantime between Failure - so they are expecting the drives to fail, they just don't know exactly when! Also it's an average, it could fail tomorrow or never ever fail in its working life time.

It is actually guaranteed to fail just before you were about to do a backup.

Hard disk heads

Software failure

All computer programs have bugs (mine have more than most) and it could just be one of those bugs that destroys your valuable data. On top of this the interweb has far far too many spotty teenage boys who can't get themselves a girlfriend writing viruses and spyware targeted at your machine and precious documents.

Don't let these low-life's have the satisfaction of destroying your data, make sure your machine is secure and backed up.

User error

How many times have you accidentally deleted something? It's oh so easy enough to make a cock-up and delete stuff. Maybe you could undo your mistakes, but what if you didn't notice for a few weeks? Then it's bye bye precious data.

Alternatively, you could knock the drive of your desk, spill water on it or even some thieving swine will break in and steal your PC. Failing that there is always fire, flood, storm,earthquake,Yeti attack, etc, etc.

The Bottom Line

Bottom line is that I have had to explain to people too many times that all their data is gone - trust me its not a nice thing to tell someone.

If it is important to you then BACK IT UP

Photos illustrating this article are of the important bits of one of the five crashed hard disks I helped people with last year.

Now you know the "why" visit this posting for a the "How".


David Toyne said...

Nice article Chris. I'll make one 'correction' if I may be so bold. It's a mistake to assume that today's hacker is a spotty teenager alone in a room with only his lack of social skills. Nowadays they are networks of highly organised and well funded people. Sometimes backed by very dubious sources. To dismiss them as the sad loner greatly underestimates the threat and misunderstands their motives. People do so at their peril. Great reading for insight is 'Know Your Enemy' by Lance Spitzner or 'The Art of Deception' by Mitnick.

Chris Shepherd said...

Thanks for that David you are, of course, right- looks like I lapsed into a stereotype there.

I still recon most of them don't have girlfriends though ;)