I haven’t been posting anything because I’ve been having a rough week. My car’s oil light lit up on Saturday just as I pulled up at a friend’s house. There was plenty of oil according to the dipstick, so I decided to leave the car there until Monday then have it towed to the shop. The tow charge plus the repairs plus a new set of tires before winter added up to $800 that I hadn’t been planning to spend.
Next, I’ve been upgrading my computer. I made a change which I thought would be simple, but between an IDE disk controller that was too old for my new disk drive and some bad RAM from Crucial, I spent most of the last two days untangling computer problems.
Then on Monday night my wife’s computer developed a problem of its own. After a little time running, the computer would crash and not reboot, saying it couldn’t access the disk drive. If I let it “rest” a while, it would all come back and run for maybe an hour before crashing again. I suspect the disk controller is flaky and acting up when it gets hot.
My wife’s computer is a laptop, so I can’t do much to fix it myself. We had to spend several hours power cycling her computer and copying off the important stuff to a portable USB hard drive. Then I packed it up and shipped it off to a computer repair place that supposedly fixes Toshiba laptops with a quick turnaround. It got there this morning, so we’ll see. That’s $140 just for shipping and diagnosis. Fixing it will cost more.
All this made me realize that a lot more of our lives are on the computers than ever before and (as usual) our backup strategy hasn’t kept up. For several years, we’ve been using Iron Mountain’s Connected Data Protector on-line service for backups. Every night, our most important 10 Gigabytes of data—personal and corporate financial data, email, various projects—are backed up to some remote site. The Connected Data Protector service is less expensive than its competition, but it’s not cheap. Nevertheless, it’s an excellent service that I highly recommend if you can afford it.
The plan was that if we ever lost a disk drive we could just re-install Windows and all the important software from scratch. It would only take a day or so. Then we download the critical data from Connected and we’re back in business.
I realized now, however, that our computer usage has grown and changed a lot in the past year. My new digital photography hobby is chewing up a lot of disk space, and I don’t want to lose those pictures. I have a lot more downloaded software than ever before. I could burn some of this stuff to optical media, but doing that on a regular basis would be tedious. We had to change our backup and disaster recovery strategy.
So I went out and bought a terabyte of disk storage.
One thousand gigabytes. One million megabytes.
Half of it was a pair of SATA drives which I set up as a 250GB RAID 1 (mirror) pair in my desktop computer to replace the 80GB IDE drive I had been using as a software/media library for stuff like downloaded programs, CD disk images, and all our pictures and music. Both drives have identical copies of the data. If either drive breaks, the other one still runs. If no problems develop with the RAID drives, I’ll probably RAID the system disk as well. That should cover me for hardware failures.
The other half terabyte was a pair of push-button backup drives that connect to the USB ports and are sized to backup everything on both of our computers. I think pushing the button will be a lot less tedious than burning DVDs.
That covers us for hardware, software, and user error problems. In case of disaster—hurricanes seem to be in vogue these days—we’ll still have all our most critical data stored off site, courtesy of Iron Mountain corporation.
Including disks, tools, and software, that’s about $1200 I wasn’t planning to spend.
Meanwhile, last night my wife’s brand-new Casio Exilim digital camera broke in a non-warranty kind of way. We’ll probably have to replace it. Crap.
Just in case some random multimillionaire is reading this and is moved by my heart-rending story—and is tired of donating to whining hurricane victims—the PayPal button is on the right.