Friday, January 17, 2003

George Mindling Column 1-17-2003 - Back It Up

Remember, It's Important to Back It Up

Nothing is more devastating at tax time than to lose your records. Losing all of your business or personal data is one the worst things that can happen when you need the information for tax reporting.  It happens daily and not just to the other guy. Personal computer hard drives fail. It is not a matter of "if," it is a matter of "when." Component manufacturers use a term called "MTBF," Mean Time Between Failures, as a yardstick of reliability, usually measured in hours of usage. Those numbers have climbed in recent years to the multi-thousands as the overall maturity of products has led to higher reliability. Just don't tell that to two recent victims of hard drive failure in my neighborhood.

Hardest hit was a laptop user who works from home. The data lost was not replaceable; it had to be recovered. The hard drive suffered a catastrophic failure and could no longer be found by the laptop PC. The only recourse was to send the hard drive out to an Orlando company that specializes in hard drive recovery. Depending on the damage to the drive, it may not be able to do the work there. The company's "clean room" laboratory in Nevada is used when the platter must be pulled from the unit.

It isn't a cheap service. The company charges $695 for the first gigabyte of data, and $145 a gigabyte thereafter, if it can be recovered at all. The company also charges a nonrefundable $150 assessment fee, even if the data can't be saved. These fees are on the low side, compared to some of the services available. The fees for recovery of a PC hard drive can go as high as many thousands of dollars.

The other drive failure, while just as complete, had been backed up on CDs using a software back-up program that allows using the CD-RW, or CD burner, instead of the slow, time consuming tapes. The restoration process is not as quick or painless as it should be, but the data has been restored and, with only a few glitches, is again in use.

Most operating systems have backup programs, but typically, they are slow and limited as to what you can use as a medium. There are many ways to back up your data and programs. One of the most popular is the Zip drive. and recently, the rewritable CD has gained a strong following. The old 3.5-inch floppy disks and tapes have all but fallen by the wayside as too small or too slow.

Future programs will allow use of DVD writers as a backup medium. There are several versions of the DVD format and they may not be compatible, so DVDs should only be used to back up the unit they were created on. The advantage is the huge amounts of data that can be stored on a DVD. There are optical drives that can also be used.

Having your data backed up is a smart move.

George Mindling © 2003

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