A Game of Chance With Your Data

I was talking to a business associate, Ian, who works for a software company in the UK. Ian tells me that many of his customers don't adequately backup their computer data on a regular basis. In many cases, they only think about backing up their data after they have lost their data. Ian might have thought this had something to do with British people or their culture, but I informed him that Americans do the same thing. I constantly remind my friends, family, and colleagues that they need to backup their computer files, photos, mp3's... They usually agree, and then proceed about their business with the intentions of backing up their computers when they get around to it. Most people procrastinate until they lose their data, then they scramble for help.

People who have worked with computers for as long as I have know that a hard disk drive is not permanent storage for your data. Every drive will eventually die and the data that it once contained will be gone, unless of course you have a backup copy. For those of you who don't fully understand this yet, consider the following. Google, owner of over 100,000 hard drives, posted results of a failure analysis of their drives in February 2007. They found that approximately 6% of new hard drives fail within 1 year and after 2 years the failure rates increase significantly. Knowing that your brand new computer might be one of the 6 out of 100 that will fail, wouldn't you think it would be a good idea to make backup copies of your data? If your computer is not brand new, and a couple of years old, then maybe 10 or 15 out of 100 are going to fail.

Google's drives were located in professionally managed data centers with environmental controls and conditioned power. Your home or office computer is vulnerable to more problems due to power fluctuations, accidents and environmental conditions. Your laptop computer is much more vulnerable due to it's mobility. Your computer's hard drive is much more likely to fail than you might think. For a 2-3 year old computer in a typical home office, with a few accidental power losses, an occasional bump from a vacuum cleaner, and some dust and carpet fibers clogging up the air flow, the chances of failure may be more like 40-50% in a given year.

Hard drive failures aren't the only cause of lost data. You have plenty of other opportunities to lose data, including human error, and malicious software. If you somehow avoid being on the wrong end of the hard drive failure statistics, then you can consider yourself lucky. If you don't make mistakes, and you are extremely diligent about your virus and spyware protection, then you can also avoid the losses that are not related to hard drive failures. If you are actually so smart that you can steer clear of all of the causes of data loss, then you are smart enough to consistently and frequently backup your data, and you are not taking any big chances with your data.

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