Have you planned for when your computer fails?

Yes, you read the title of that article right…have you planned for WHEN your computer fails?  It’s not a matter of keeping your computer dust-free and up to date – hardware failure or software corruption is an inevitability.  It WILL happen – it’s happened to me – it’ll happen to you.

  • Viruses
  • Spyware
  • Hardware Failure
  • Unscheduled / Unknown software updates (Windows Update or sneaky driver updates)
  • Operating System (Windows, Linux, or Apple) corruption
  • “Oops” moments  – like “oops I deleted that on accident!!”

It recently even happened to me.  My home computing environment consisted of multiple computers and laptops, cell phones, an XBOX360, Wii, printers, and a bunch of other stuff running off of a Dell PowerEdge server in the basement.  The server had four 120GB SATA hard drives configured in a hardware RAID5 array.  Pretty simple (relatively) – built-in redundancy in the event that one hard drive fails in the server, I won’t lose any data.

Housed on this server of course is everything that I “electronically hold dear” – family photos dating back to 1998, all of my business documentation, client information, documents, music – everything.  Losing this data would be devastating!

Natively at home, in concert with the RAID5 I had in-place, I also had an external hard drive attached to my main computer that I did periodic manual copies of data to, and I would burn pictures and whatnot to DVDs from time to time and put those in my fireproof safe.

So, with all of that – life had overrun me for a period of time (new baby, new job, etc) and I didn’t notice the little yellow light flashing on the front of my server – a hard drive had failed.  That’s OK in a RAID5 setup like I had – my protections had done exactly what they were designed to do in the event of a hardware failure – keep things going until I could replace the failed drive.

That was until another drive failed.  Crap.

That was all she wrote – losing one more drive than your redundancy level allows for is “game over”.  All of my data was gone.  There was no way to retrieve it.  With a failure of a single hard drive, all of the data is located on that one device – so you have the option of bringing it to Ontrack or something and pay out the nose to retrieve your data.  With a RAID5, your data is spread across each drive in the array – which is what gives you that ability to lose one drive and not lose your core data.

So me – being the person that continually HARPS on everyone – personal and business alike – to make sure that not only your backups are in place and running, but to TEST your restore capability often to ensure that when you need it – I was sitting there looking at a total loss of everything.

Then I remembered that I subscribed to Carbonite.  Carbonite is an online (you could call it cloud-based) unlimited capacity backup solution – $54.95/year.  Carbonite sits on your computer and monitors all directories for changed files (in real-time) and immediately backs them up to their servers.  My data was safe.  Eight hours of downloading later, all of my data was intact and sitting on my main computer.  Beautiful.

There are so many devices, services, and ways to back up your data – you need to be doing something.  Look at me – I had (at my peak) 4 points of redundancy…but they were all manual or not self-sufficient (except for Carbonite) and they all failed.

So…now look around your desk.

Think of the data you have sitting on your computer.  What if your computer just stopped working as you were reading this post?  What if your ceiling leaked from the ice dam on your roof right into your ventilation slots?  What if your house caught on fire and destroyed your computer?  What if someone stole your laptop?

What would you lose?  Yeah…kinda scary isn’t it?  Like the title of this post – it is a matter of WHEN your computer fails.  It WILL happen to you – if you don’t think I’m right, just wait….

Look back at me – my environment had multiple levels of redundancy running.  The overwhelming majority of personal computers (and businesses too!) may have some basic level of backup (external hard drive) but odds are there is nothing at all.  Most people just don’t think it’ll happen to them, or they don’t know how to even get started.  I had the luxury of having a hardware setup that allowed one drive to fail without loss of data…I would venture to assume that everyone reading this probably just has one C:\ drive in your computer (or just a “Computer” for Apple).  Your precious pictures, documents, email, files, everything – is probably in your “My Documents” folder.  If your hard drive fails, game over.

Cloud backup providers (Carbonite, Mozy, etc) are excellent options…they are hands-off, automatic, and accessible from anywhere (securely mind you…) – and it’s just a small piece of software that you install.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Get Carbonite…$54.95/year is a mere pittance to pay to protect your data.  That is all.  =)