This post is likely to be a bit of a rant. Hopefully, you will be able to learn something from my mistakes.

Several years ago, I was using a thumbdrive as my backup. It was plenty big enough and it was often more flexible to keep the originals on the thumbdrive, especially for the financials I was keeping for the local bee club. I might never know what computer would be handy but with that thumbdrive in my pocket, I always had access to the records.

As you might expect, the drive eventually went bad. All the data lost. (Root cause – pulling it out of the machine too many times without going through the correct shutdown procedure.) That was when I discovered that my manual backups weren’t as good as I’d thought. It’s way too easy to procrastinate. Before you know it, well, my last backup had been almost a year and a half earlier. I recreated some records but a lot of hard work was lost nonetheless.

I was angry and frustrated – mostly with myself. I resolved to never let this happen again. Spent over a grand on a dedicated backup drive that would back up not just my files (and the bee club’s) but also the rest of my family’s – other users on the same machine and other computers in the house as well. I had to set up my own mini-network, but if it prevented that heartache again it would be worth it.

Well, I never did get it completely set up right. The network was accessible but the automatic backup software never worked as advertised. Nevertheless, it was an easily accessible backup space and I was much more diligent about making manual backups. And the drive actually spreads the data over several disks so even if one disk goes bad, you pop in a replacement and the drive self-recovers, hopefully with no data lost. (Wikipedia has a good technical explanation of how it works.)

Over time, I began to rely on it as the primary storage for some kinds of files. (I’m seeing a pattern here.) And again, the backup drive failed. I’ve been working for several weeks now to get it restored. Naturally, the failure is not in one of the replacable drives but in the central chip that runs the whole box. The root cause again appears to be the cumulative effect of improper shutdowns, this time the result of power outages. (The service in our area is … not great.) This led to more than my share of frustrating, late-night calls to the drive maker’s Tech Support.

I wish I could say that it’s either my fault of the drive makers. But other than living in a better neighborhood with more stable power or spending way more than it’s worth on a power-cleaning box, I don’t know what I could have done differently. So I’d like to say it’s the drive maker’s fault. The brand, by the way, is TeraStation. I started this post ready to slam them for the failure. I remain more than a little frustrated with their technical support team, a few of whom tried to be helpful but several of whom came across as supercilious and condescending. In their defense, though, two of my colleages have had the same brand for years with no problems so far.

The story’s not over yet. I am still attempting to restore the backup drive. I can restore most, though not all of the data from other sources if necessary. The biggest lesson for me is that despite all the marketing hype, a RAID Array (that mechanism that distributes the data across several drives) is still one device and therefore a single point of failure. I still need a better backup routine…

Leave a Reply