Growing Data Storage Requirements Create Backup Problems (Part I)

I once paid nearly a thousand dollars for a 520 Mb disk drive. That's right, megabytes not gigabytes. At the time, a half a gig of storage was a lot of space. Today, you can't even buy a computer will less than about 80 gigabytes of disk space. Last week, I bought a 750 GB server class drive for less than $300. Back when I spent a grand on half a gig, it was inconceivable that anyone could have or use over a few gigs of storage on a computer. Now you easily eat up a hundred gigs with a few software products, some digital photos, mp3's and a few movies.

We are storing more different kinds of stuff on our computers than ever before. It used to be documents, then pictures, then music, now movies. Notice how each of those new things takes up exponentially more disk space. A 20 gig hard drive of a few years back would store hundreds of thousands of spreadsheets and documents with room to spare. The same hard drive would store maybe 10,000 high resolution photos or about 3000 typical songs in mp3 format. You can probably get one or two full length movies on the same hard drive. Hence, the demand for more space.

Getting a bigger hard drive is the easy part of the solution, which leads to the bigger problem: How are you going to backup all of that stuff? Apparently a lot of people, maybe most people, don't think about that. I think about it because I know from past experience that anything stored on a hard drive can disappear in a split second due to any one of a number of causes. When I price out a hard disk drive for one of my computers, I factor in some additional cost. At a minimum, I double the cost because I need a second hard drive to backup the first hard drive. The cost is actually more than double because the second hard drive needs to be portable, which is a little more expensive than your typical internal hard disk drive. In my case, I usually add in cost for a mirrored or raid set and then include the cost of the backup disk or service on top of that.

And, let's not for get offsite backup. Copying those files out to a second disk is a huge step towards protecting your data from common causes of data loss. Face the fact; making a simple backup copy to a second hard disk drive only offers limited protection. First of all, most people slack up and let the time between backups grow longer and longer until they have a problem and they don't have a current backup. And the second hard drive offers almost no protection against a disaster such as a fire, flood, or even theft.

So when you are running out of disk storage space, don't just think about the cost of a new terabyte drive. You must also consider how you are going to protect the data. The level of protection depends on what you are going to store on the drive and how much pain will be caused if the data is lost. The absolute minimum protection is a second hard drive with frequent backups. The best protection is a current copy stored offsite, which can be a problem for huge amounts of data.

I don't know about you, but most of what I save on the computer is very valuable to me. That includes business data, family photographs and my mp3 collection. Losing any of that is completely unacceptable to me. I use online backup for my documents and photographs. The MP3's and a few movies get copied to an external hard drive stored at the office. I can get away with that because my Mp3 collection doesn't grow much and I really don't have any movies that I care that much about. But everyone's situation is different. Think about your data and how much protection you need. Implement the appropriate measures as if your data depends on it, because it does!

Happy Thanksgiving

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