The 5 week old hard drive in my laptop gave up the ghost the other day. Since I’m working on about 4 projects concurrently, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Anyone that knows me, knows how paranoid I am about backup and archive. So of course I had a recent backup ready to go. But I still learned some valuable lessons in this latest hard drive crash.
While at TGR I learned the hard way how crippling a hard drive crash can be. We had a LaCie external drive go down on us in the middle of a high-profile, fast-turnaround project. It was a striped RAID-0 with 4 internal drives. If one drive in a RAID-0 goes down, you lose access to everything. Since RAID data is spread across all drives at once, it is very hard to recover. It cost around $4,000 to get the data retrieved. Half the time, retrieval isn’t even possible, so we were lucky. After that I stopped using LaCie external drives. They tended to overheat and all their cases and power supplies, no matter what voltage they used, all had the same connector. This drive went down because the wrong power supply was attached to it. LaCie may have improved their ways since then, but they’ve lost my business.
I’ve tried and implemented quite a few backup systems over the years. Both disc cloners like Carbon Copy Cloner, and incremental backups like Retrospect and Time Machine. For my laptop, I had a clone, but it was 2 weeks old. The last Time Machine backup was the previous night, so I was good to go. The achilles heel of Time Machine is that it takes FOREVER to restore a volume. It took overnight to restore 65GB from my Time Capsule to my new laptop hard drive. As far as I’m concerned, that is unacceptable. I have work that needs to be done NOW. Ideally, I should be able to take my 2 week old clone, have Time Machine update it with the new files, and put that into my laptop. That process, if it existed, should only take 30 minutes or so. To get around this, I tried awhile back to use Carbon Copy Cloner to make incremental backups. But I would forget to attach my backup drive. Before I knew it, it was 2 weeks since my last backup. Not a good idea. My Time Capsule runs in the background every hour, wirelessly. So I never have to remember to attach a drive. I have found Time Machine to be the best solution for an office or home full of laptops for this reason.
Time Machine isn’t perfect, but it saved my butt this time around. I think if Apple fixed this flaw, it would be pretty close to perfect. If Time Machine created bootable backups, then it would be perfect.
If you have any questions about how to create your own backup strategy, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.