As kind-of an adjunct to the last post, which was on data storage and management, I just wanted to point you (dearest readers) towards a genuinely fascinating article on data storage technology (past, present and future) on Engadget here. This is really worth a read, and by the end of it you’ll know probably more than you ever wanted to about how hard drives and solid-state memory work. It does contain serious levels of geekiness, but then if you’re reading this blog, you probably already guessed that, huh?
It occurred to me recently that I had never addressed one of the most important and fundamental issues involved in computer use – the implementation of a sensible and secure backup policy.
Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking – “yawn“. However, when (thats when not if) your laptop hard-drive fries itself and you lose your 10,000 word thesis because you haven’t backed it up, don’t come whingeing and crying to me. A quick google search for “I lost my essay” turns up 1.4 million results, and most of them are tales of abject woe and desperation. Any form of data-recording media is vulnerable to catastrophic failure, and the chances of getting your data back once that happens are slim-to-nothing.* In this world of laptops and portable storage it’s not just mechanical failure that’s the problem either – laptops/hard-drives/USB keys can very easily get lost, dropped, or stolen.
Nowadays data storage densities are so ridiculously cheap that you really have no excuse for not making adequate backups. Plus, the availability of Cloud-based storage services like Dropbox and Google Docs can also make life easier. A truly ultra-secure backup system usually involves three copies of all your important data – one ‘working’ copy (say, on your laptop hard drive), a primary backup (say, an external USB hard drive) and a secondary backup in a separate location (another external hard drive which you keep at your friend’s house). This way, if one drive fails you always have two backups, and even in the worst possible scenario of your house burning down (destroying your laptop and primary backup) you still have your secondary backup.
This might be over-kill for the purposes of most students though. If I were still an impecunious student, living in shared accomodation, the system I would implement would be this: Read the rest of this entry