Hardware problems

Well, I had three hard drives die on me over the weekend. My personal laptop hard drive gave out. My Inspiron hung exactly when I inserted a CD to burn a backup of my files. Still, I managed to get my important files off of it by using it in a USB enclosure, with the last file I wanted getting copied exactly as the drive died. It was a total loss. I could not format or fdisk it. Sigh.


Then a backup drive in the house went out taking all of its data with it. And a desktop hard drive decided to start "clicking," and with the backup hard drive dead, there was no place to back up the data.


Double sigh.


A fun part of testing is playing "what if." What if the user clicks this button? What if power goes out while OneNote is trying to save? What if all three hard drives go out at once? As I was shopping for replacement drives this weekend, the salesman mentioned I might want to get a NAS (network additional storage) server with two drives for mirroring purposes. The cynical testing in me considered that three hard drive failures was the reason I was there, so the sales pitch to use two drives really didn't carry much weight with me.


That's a tendency of testers anyway. It's our job to be critical, but to be overly critical (really, what are the odds of both drives failing simultaneously) can interfere with otherwise solid backup plans. I did not get the NAS server for home use. I spent my money on a replacement drive for my laptop instead, and am looking around for other backup options. In the meantime, I will remember this experience when I develop test plans for dealing with hardware failures.


The other cost I had to pay was losing time I had planned to devote to working on more powertoys for OneNote. Daniel Escapa gave me a code base which I'm tweaking for release soon. I can't say what it is right now, but I will give you a hint: I got a T-Mobile Wing last week...

Comments (3)

  1. Bill says:

    Ouch! I keep all my files on my SBS server in a RAID5 configuration that I backup to tape every night.  When I’m out and about, my Tablet uses a mix of Offline Folders for my "regular" data and OneNote’s excellent cacheing.  When I get back in range of my home office WiFi, my Tablet syncs and I have a backup of my data.  Even so, I’ve become a little paranoid lately about the possibility of something catastrophic happening to my Tablet during the day, so I’m now learning/experimenting with SharePoint Workspaces so I can push my OneNote files up to it throughout the day.  This should avoid the scenario where I could potentially lose an entire days worth of notes if something happened before I got back home.

  2. John says:

    Yep, I understand your situation.  Coincidentally, there is an article on ZDNN today about the limitations of backups:  http://blogs.zdnet.com/storage/?p=141

  3. Bill says:

    Thanks for the link John.  Interesting article.  It’s also one of the reasons I still use tape for backup purposes.  I know it’s still not the be-all to end all, but situations like the lightning strike mentioned in the article and corrupted data on a mirror both make me still use tape.  It’s one of the reasons I’m disappointed that the SBS team has decided to remove the option to backup to tape in the next release.  I know a lot of my peers prefer backups to USB drives and I use them at a few client sites, but I also find the clients then have a tendency to leave them onsite longer as, "They still have space on them for another backup, why should we take them home today", and no matter how much I try to convince them they don’t want all the eggs in one basket it doesn’t always get through to them.

    After my daily backup, the tape goes into a media-rated fireproof safe and then I take my weekly tapes to my safe deposit box at the bank that’s about 5 miles away.  Still not perfect but better than nothing.

    I think regardless of the media, if you don’t regularly test the restore operation and keep a set offsite you might as well not bother backing up at all.

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