Hard Drive Life, Backup Solutions, and Onsite Computer New Orleans

June 2, 2008

Onsite computer has always taken special interest in hard drive life and protection of important data with backup since the beginning of PCs.  As hardware develops Onsite continually tries strategies to increase hard drive life, as well as strategies for efficient and cost-effective backup.  Hard drive design has evolved since the days of 10 MB MFM drives included in the first IBM 8086; however from our experience a hard disk can still fail at any time with little warning.  Hard drives are composed of several mechanical and electrical components, each a potential failure point and cause of drive failure and data loss. 

A Google of ‘hard drive life’ will yield a plethora of opinions from PC users, most ill-informed.  An excellent discussion of hard drive life can be found in a paper submitted at the 5th UsenixConference on File and Storage Technologies.  In this paper, hard drives were identified as the PC component with the highest probability of failure.  The problems attributed to hard drive failure lead to drive replacement which is the most expensive and time-consuming repair action. 

When studying the inherent nature of hard drive failure, data backup takes a new perspective.  The importance of a cost-effective, reliable method of backup is a top priority for anyone who stores important and irreplaceable data.  One might think that a good backup system is as crucial as any other PC component; however many users hardly consider the importance of backup until faced with the loss of irreplaceable information.

Three years ago Onsite started experimenting with inexpensive external USB IDE drives as backup devices.  One of our Microsoft SBS 2003 servers uses three external USB IDE drives, connected to digital timers, to backup test data.  Each day a timer energizes a different drive before the scheduled nightly backup in SBS.  The backup is run, the log records the success or failure of the procedure, and the timer deactivates the drive at a predetermined time after the backup.  Each external drive is used for ~ 2 hours per week. 

Thus far, the external USB IDE setup/operation has been flawless.  Three external drives and timers are more inexpensive than other media like tape drives and tapes.  The backup operation to the external drives is much faster than either online or tape backup.  After three years, the drives seem unaffected by their connection to timers. 

This is simply an experiment by Onsite to identify cost effective alternatives to backup.  The only required user interaction is to verify the success of the backup.  If the SBS log indicates a backup failed and the failure was due to a failed external drive, there are two other external drives with backups from prior nights.  To date, our experimental system has experienced no problems.  Onsite hasn’t attempted this method of backup in a production environment; however we think this idea has merit.

If you’re searching for New Orleans computer service or repair of your Microsoft based system or network, then call the Microsoft specialists at 504-469-6991. Onsite Computer Services, Inc. in New Orleans

You may also be interested in Onsite Computer’s Blog.

This New Orleans On-Site Computer Service post was provided by Eli Lucas. Eli can be reached at eli@onsitenola.com. Onsite Computer serves the Microsoft computing needs of small businesses throughout the Greater New Orleans area including Uptown, Lakeview, Broadmoor, Mid-City, Metairie, Jefferson, Kenner, Westbank, French Quarter, and the Warehouse District. Please visit our website for New Orleans Computer Service.

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