Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Data Disaster

Several years ago, I was issued a white Macbook for work which I typically use for everything. I have my work files there, I have my personal files there and it has been part of my life. A colleague who was issued the same Macbook model woke up with an error with his Mac hard drive. 
Photo credit from here
As part of my work, I tried to recover whatever is recoverable in his drive. We had a Network Access Storage (NAS) which is seldom used but most of his files are in his Mac hard drive. Tough luck, after doing whatever I can to recover, I declared it dead. It was lucky that it was still under warranty but the files lost, or the time devoted to writing those files or creating those files will never be replaced. 

Soon enough, despite that warning, mine gave out. Died. Same error. Despite that earlier warning, I didnt back up either to the NAS or to any other storage. If felt like my life has been wiped clean. Source codes, documents, pictures, my life. Its hard to accept losing something that you've taken time to collect. Those pictures, that vacation, that exact moment, those kilo lines of code you wrote. Gone. 

I picked up whats left from fragments of my life scattered around. Some work files are in the NAS, some were in Google Docs, some in my old desktop PC, some in my laptop which was with my sister in Canada. As for the pictures, I had to pay Multiply to bulk download all my pictures in high res. I had to pay for my pictures. I kinda felt raped. Multiply was never fair to those people taking away data (see this post)

I bounced back after some time, I just thought to myself, any file that I wouldnt be looking for isnt probably needed anymore. After several years and several iterations of hardware, I found myself having too much spare hard drives either being given to me by my uncle as spare parts or part of my old PC. Old stuff, 40GB, 80GB, 120GB, 250GB IDE drives. Not much use slapped inside a PC. 

Lining them up to be loaded and labelled
It took some time for me to sort out everything in my digital life. In general, I have sorted into folders like: Pictures, Downloads, Documents, Music, Pogz Files (source codes and anything that doesnt fit anywhere else) and figured out that most of the folders, when organized properly are relatively small. Chunks of 10GB, 27GB and the largest are like 78GB, 40GB. Then I realized that maybe I could do a quarterly backup using my old drives. Its like a puzzle making combinations of folders fit in drives which had limited capacity. I end up with several drives and most of my folders backed up in 2 drives. I cant gamble the reliability of those old drives so having a secondary or tertiary backup would be great (since I have a lot of drives anyway). 

Yesterday, my netbook just gave up on me. Again, most of my files are there but thankfully, a part of the partition is still intact. I've been backing up since last night to my drives and would send the laptop to HP to claim its rightful warranty. 

My IDE poormans drive backup didnt save me this time, but it felt assuring that I do have some backups (even if its months back) rather than starting my life from scratch. 

To those who might ask: Why not buy dedicated cloud storage for backup? Dropbox? Google Drive? Amazon S3 + ZManda? 

To tell you the truth, I have considered that option. It would be a whole lot cheaper and more reliable than what I do, or compared to buying NAS drives or portable hard drives. But the problem is, despite my downstream hitting around 2Mbps, my upstream is a measly 512Kbps. The total filesize of all my folders is around 170gb. I have files which also exceeds upload limits. 

Then again, being partially safe, is better than not being safe.