Last Sunday morning, I was working on my book and my main hard drive sounded bad. Bad like screeching grinding metal on metal. Knowing that that wasn’t good, I quickly started copying the newest files from my book into another drive. The response time was getting slower and the sound was getting worse. You know the movie scene were the briefcase full of cash opens in the wind and the guy is grabbing desperately at random bills as they blow away forever into the night? That was me with my book files.
As it turned out, not only did my main drive crash but it took my backup drive down with it. The majority of my life’s musical work had just vanished into a digital sink hole.
After a few calls, I was referred to a drive recovery lab called File Savers. I brought my dead drives to their downtown Phoenix office and later that day they were sent off to the scientists in the clean room. After a nerve-racking few days, they reported back that 99.99% of the drives were recoverable and would be sending them back via a brand new drive. Great service, by the way. God forbid if you ever need that service, I recommend them highly.
I learned a few things that I guess I should have known a long time ago given how much of my life, income and creative work depends on digital storage.
- NEVER configure your drive array as RAID 0 without external backup. I configured my array a RAID 0 and used one drive for data writing and the other as my backup. In that configuration, when one goes, they all go.
- Have two sets of backup data, not just one. In my case, if I had a complete second backup drive, I could have thrown away the bad drives, bought new ones and called it a day. Instead, I’ve ended up spending mid four figures to salvage my precious data.
Cloud storage is not practical for the dozen terabytes of data on my system. Instead, I’ll put the newly arriving drive with my rescued 25 years of data in my safe, and use my brand new four drive RAID for my first backup. I’ll also manually backup the most critical files into a third backup drive.
I bought a Western Digital 16 terabyte drive array last night and formatted it for RAID 1 – NOT 0. This way everything I write is immediately mirrored to another drive. If one drive fails, the other drives still hold the data. Pull out the bad drive, insert the new one and the original data will automatically be written into that replaced drive.
The only wrinkle in this was that an hour after formatting the new drive array last night one of the drives crashed. Back I go this morning to the store for a replacement. I guess it was a good thing because it serves as an important reminder that at any time, my data is vulnerable to crashing, and I better be ready!