Wednesday, 31 March 2010

A Backup Triplet

Three Notes in Quick Succession

Did you ever read Warren Ellis's big data loss story?

My backups all got corrupted, and my backup device died. I'll fix that on Sunday, I thought, as I was under deadline pressure. Saturday evening, my main machine died in flames. Sent it off for data recovery. The guy running the data recovery shop took it in and then went off to Europe for an operation. And died on the operating table. Came back to the shop to get my machine, because no-one was answering the phone, to find it boarded up, the (mostly off-the-books, apparently) employees scattered to the four winds, and the shop stripped down to the plaster. Not a computer left in there -- not even mine.

Among other things, Ellis lost about 30,000 words of "Listener", as his new novel is provisionally titled. That's going to sting.

Delegate IT...

Ellis is a self confessed non-nerd:

No Macs, no Linux: I have a lot of Windows-specific software and function that I need to maintain. Don’t even talk to me about partitions and Windows emulators and whatever, I’m a working writer who can’t programme a VCR and I Do Not Have The Time.

So, he's probably a good candidate for cloud based backup. The target for Google Chrome OS (to choose an arbitrary example at random!) is to make Google's system files the only thing you need to have locally. Other providers are available...

On the face of it, the issue is a lot more specific, limited and circumscribed than the "Internet Operating System" that Tim O'Reilly has been describing for some time, and recently pinned down in an extended article. I think the separation is soft; companies with the size, resources and ambition of a Google or a Microsoft are constantly seeking diversification, finding success in new, unexpected areas. And almost any provider of cloud backup is well placed to supply auxiliary services by the plethora.

... or DIY

Cloud storage is normally, although not always, extremely secure and reliable. But for a variety of reasons, mostly security or privacy based - government snooping? no thanks! - many people are reluctant to see their data leave home, whatever level of RAID or secure encryption you try to flog them.

Apple pundit John Gruber, of Daring Fireball fame, recently wrote in praise of backup / recovery tools DiskWarrior, SuperDuper, and Dropbox, after a hardware meltdown left him in the enviable position of losing not one single byte of his data. It's a great article for users on other platforms to read too, given the calibre of advice like this:

Hard drives are fragile. Read as much as you can bear to about how they work, how incredibly precisely they must operate in order to cram so many bits onto such small disks. It’s a miracle to me that they work at all. Every hard drive in the world will eventually fail. Assume that yours are all on the cusp of failure at all times. It’s good to be spooked about how long your hard drives will last.

Backup. It never gets old.
HDD photo:

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