Are You Backing Up Your Important Data? Part 1
One of the side-effects of working with computers is data loss. We’ve probably all lost something important; photos, tax info, a recipe, etc. Some data is reproducible; most isn’t, and it is never cost effective. There are data recovery centers that specialize in retrieving data from a bad hard drive, but they are very expensive, usually $1000-$2500. The shame is, most data loss is preventable.
There are two ways to lose data. The first is a physical drive failure. Which can be caused by mishandling the drive, or if the drive dies prematurely. Solid State hard drives are not as susceptible to physical damage as are the mechanical drives. Mechanical hard drives can be damaged by being dropped or knocked. They are far more easily damaged when they are running. Keep this in mind when you are handling external hard drives. One thing you need to understand is, all hard drives die; both mechanical and solid state. It’s not a question of if, rather it is a question of when. All drives have a MTBF (mean time between failure) that is a calculated guess on how long a drive will last, but these are averages.
We’ve seen a 20-year-old hard drive still running, but that is by far not the norm. Mechanical hard drives fail the most in infancy’ (brand new) and then beginning at the 3-year mark the failure rate begins to increase steadily. Particularly with drives with regular use, like in an office environment. If you turn your computer on once a week, your drive will probably last a long time. The important fact is as a hard drive gets older, the odds of it failing keeps increasing. Over time, mechanical hard drives can develop many types of errors; cabling, ECC and seek, to name a few.
Unless you are using a utility that monitors a hard drive’s S.M.A.R.T. data, you won’t know the drive is having problems. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology. Even if you have a utility that measures this data, it is often hard to decipher. If you think a solid state hard drive is the way to go, their failure rates are very close to the mechanical drives. Please keep in mind that either mechanical or SSD drives can and do fail without any warning.
The second way to lose data is logical (software). There is a variety of ways this can happen, including accidental deletion, viruses and corruption. Most of these are easily understood but ‘data corruption’ needs some explaining. Data corruption is when an error occurs to the data during reading, writing, storing or transferring. In the early days of Windows, you could lose data simply by turning the computer off either during the boot-up or shut-down process.
We mentioned viruses as one form of data loss. While many viruses do not delete data, there is one very nasty virus, Crypto Locker, which encrypts your data and charges you to get your data back. While the virus is easy to remove, the encryption isn’t. Currently, the only fix for this is to pay the ransom fee. What complicates matters is if you overwrite your good data with the encrypted files.