The Importance of Backing Your Shit Up

This is what I always tell to my users, but they never listen. Have you ever really looked at what is a hard drive? That one piece of hardware where we store all our precious work, data, pictures and etc. Let’s just briefly go over the major components of the hard drive, hall we?

First you have bunch of spinning metallic platters. You can check your specs for exactly how many revolutions per minute your HD gets, but I can tell you it’s damn fast spinning right there. And the faster it spins the better data access times you get. How do they spin? We don’t care. What we care about is that they keep spinning – because once they stop, there will be no way to get your data of these shiny platters.

Both advanced physics, and low level common sense will probably tell you that nothing that spins at a really high velocity day in, day out is not going to last forever. When you spin something really fast, you get friction, heat, tension stress and all that good stuff – so the mechanical parts that make your platters go, will die eventually.

Hard Drive

Then you have the heads, mounted on a moving arm, that must be capable of making really fast and accurate jumps over the surface of the platter. The whole trick of reading data from the HD is positioning the magnetic head over a nanometer wide magnetic track on the platter within a split second. If that head is a micrometer off the target, you are in trouble. In best case, you’ll get read and write errors. In worst case you get lovely data corruption.

And once again, that arm makes thousands if not millions of little jerky movements over the platter every day. It’s just a matter of time before it goes out of sync, breaks or crashes the head into the surface of the platter creating awesome data destroying scratches.

Then there is bunch of magnets, electronics, and hermetically sealed case. If that seal goes, and dust gets to the platters, you are guaranteed a hard head crash and severe loss of data.

Compare a HD to some other hardware components, and you will see that it has more potential points of failure than any of them. And yet this is where we store all our important data. Crazy? You betcha we are!

This is why I always urge people to back their shit up. And by shit, I mean whatever you are working on right now. That thing that has a deadline, and you will get your ass kicked if you don’t hand it in on time. That thing needs to be backed up, right now.

Everyone, (and I mean everyone) should make it a habit to back-up or sync their work folder to some external storage at the end of the day. Personally, for most of my big projects I use a subversion repository, but that’s probably an overkill for most users. Here are the things I generally recommend to users:

  1. Get a Memory Stick – these things are cheep as dirt now. Get one, wear it around your neck, put it in your pocket/purse, or just leave it connected to your desktop. Then at the end of the day, copy all the files you worked on to it.
  2. Get an External Hard Drive – slightly more expensive option, but it also lets you back up more. If you have one, I would highly recommend setting up a nightly backup of your dive. This way you don’t even have to worry about this stuff – it all gets taken care off when you sleep.
  3. Email to the Geeemail – Gmail is pretty good for archiving your work. It also makes your files accessible from anywhere in the world. So if you have no other means of backup, just email your stuff to yourself every day. Of course if you are working on confidential data this might not be the best idea (sending data over network, storing it on a 3rd party server, etc). But it’s better than nothing.
  4. Store it On the Company Server – most offices have some sort of file-sharing scheme set up. At my work, most users have a “private” folder on the server where they can store their important work. The servers get backed up to tape nightly so it’s not easy to loose stuff here.
  5. Sync it With Your Other Machine – if you own more than one computer, it is always a good idea to sync up your work folders between the two. It’s both practical (ie. you can pick up the work on any of the machines) and it adds redundancy. You can do it manually, or use one of the gazillion software solutions designed for specifically that purpose.

These are just very simple tips anyone can follow. All you need to do is to pick one, or two of them and make them a habit. You don’t need to be competent with technology to do this. A retarded monkey with ADD could be trained to do his.

If you back up religiously, I can promise you that you will never again loose more than one day of work. This is especially important when you work on long, drawn out projects that take months to complete. For example, if you writing a novel, keeping only a single copy of it on a single machine would be insane.

But my users don’t listen. They don’t listen to me, they don’t listen to my boss, they don’t listen to their boss, and they don’t even listen to these dudes who have 3 letter titles that all start with C. They’d rather take their chances than to spend 3 minutes every day moving few files around. And then when their hard drive fails this office becomes a national disaster area.

[tags]hard drive, backup, backups, sync, backing up, data loss[/tags]

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6 Responses to The Importance of Backing Your Shit Up

  1. You should build me a SYNCH WITH FTP program for windows.. thats what I would love to do :D

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  2. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    There is abut a gazillion of free programs like that available out there. I looked at this the other day:

    http://swik.net/sync+Windows

    You should be able to find something useful in there. Most of the apss listed there have some sort of sync-with-FTP feature. Some others only make sense on LAN. I couldn’t really find anything relevant to my company because I don’t want to use and unencrypted FTP server here.

    Btw, you could always write a batch file that would just FTP the whole folder to your server, no?

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  3. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Reminds me of something I saw about they guy who made a really convincing (hoax) video about the “Nintendo On” – some kind of mind-controlled/VR headset for the Wii

    Apparently he lost a month or three’s worth of work and had to cobble together a few minutes of video out of the bits he had left from what was planned to be a half hour long video

    When I read that my first thought was “WTF, no backup?”

    hehe.. that’s a sign of the time right there :wink:

    Myself, I have multiple backups of all the stuff I wouldn’t want to lose (laptop hard drive, desktop hard drive, external hard drive, USB stick, school severs, they all feature in the grand plan of preventing data loss)

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  4. I will admit, in an old pair of shoes i have, I keep a monthly backup of my website.

    (i have a thumbdrive carved into the souls) its not as much because i want someone breaking into my house and stealing it.. its… if someone breaks into my house… and steals everything i got.. they will leave alone my website :)

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  5. Starhawk UNITED STATES Mozilla Ubuntu Linux says:

    Maybe there needs to be a national backup day. lol

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  6. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Oh crap! This is an excellent idea! National Backup Day FTW!

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