Only You Can Prevent Data Fires

Submitted by Josh on
One of the first things I blogged about was my new-at-the-time Carbonite account, though I didn't actually write the post about the service per se, more about how their speeds were shockingly slow for my initial backup. I write about them again today because as of now, I've just finished a two-week-long process of encountering a data disaster and the slow road to recovery, and Carbonite will again be a factor (but again not the main thrust of the idea).
A backstory: long before NASes became a thing, I had a desire for a lower-power, always-on PC so that my rigs that I used for gaming, photo production, video production, podcasts, et. al. could take a break from time to time. In every generation, those kinds of machines suck more power, make more noise, and so on - an alternative to keep around for simpler tasks was a no-brainer a decade ago. Since, I've just gotten used to having one around to do various things like store my email and media, run a game server from time to time, serve as a repository for webserver backups, and do other little random, hands-off things via remote desktop. It just sits in the corner and quietly does its job.
A couple weeks back, I on a whim did a manual run of a backup process from that machine that typically backed up off-hours and automatically, and the manual run threw a ton of errors at me. My local external backup was full and I hadn't set up a proper notification system for that eventuality. So, I aimed to make that problem go away in the most convoluted way possible - I'd buy a new 3TB drive to stick in the case, pull its existing 2TB drive out, and then put that drive into my external enclosure to replace the paltry 500GB that had just maxed out. It didn't go well. I'd tell you exactly how in an effort to educate by blogging, but I still don't quite know what went wrong, other than the fact that roughly half the sectors in the 2TB drive went bad, minutes before I planned to start the clone to the new drive.
Thus began a mad scramble: rescue as much from the dying drive as possible, tracking down the locations of any other files that have already died off, and sourcing more disks to fill back up. And here's the moral of the story: I am a very responsible person when it comes to storing of important data, learned via prior calamity and working adjacent to tech-ops for many years. My most important files, personally, are backed up both locally (though, I must admit, not in RAID) and in the cloud, while virtually everything else that is less important but still very difficult to replace lives in that cloud backup or in other similar backups on other services. I had to leverage all of these to get my files back, and I still only got to about 95% of a full restoration of every last thing. Even when you're responsible, you might not be responsible enough.
And then you circle back to my Carbonite point. If I thought it was slow backing up, it was brutal to watch it come back down. The speeds were just as slow as on the way up, but they were compounded by the fact that I really wanted those files back before some other, irrationally-feared calamity might strike. So, do yourself a favor. Get a cloud backup - even if slow, the reassurances mine provided were worth every penny I've paid. Keep your local backups humming, because disk is cheap. And keep an eye on them, so when something bad happens you're not stuck on the slow carousel I was, in which I had to start and stop the cloud restore several times as I managed my restoration methodologies from multiple places, when discovering that I'd neglected to add a folder to Carbonite that wasn't selected by default, or that I'd inadvertently uploaded a 120-megabyte TIFF to the cloud that had no business being there and was now creeping back down the pipe to my machine.
For the tl;dr crowd, just do this. Keep that cloud backup in case of true disaster, but also keep as much around locally as possible. The most likely issue you face as a computer user or your family's IT tech is a busted or corrupted hard drive, and the more you have locally the faster you can recover and not feel the data-loss-nausea that I had for most of the last fortnight. In my case, that includes bumping my internal storage on the afflicted machine to 3TB from 2, and upping my external backup drive from 500GB to 1.5TB. In the end, I ended up with a stack of six 3.5" retired hard drives laying on my desk, some too old to ever use again and some likely too small, and the one busted one that threw me into a tailspin in the first place.
And I threw a SSD in there while i was at it, just to pep things up a bit more. I could write another blog about how miserable it was to try to clone my boot drive from a 10 year old EIDE clanker to a SATA SSD on Windows 10, but man. If you thought this post was boring, that one would just make you gouge out your eyes.