Have you filled the hard drive on your main computer?
Are you looking to purchase an external drive to move all your important files to make more room?
DON’T… At least not without knowing the risks.
Your data is critical. We all save it on our computers without a second thought on how it is saved or where it goes… It’s just there when we look for it…. Until it’s not!
Today’s hard drives (HDDs) are miracles of technology. They all use the same basic technology. There are 1 or more spinning platters inside made of aluminium, glass or ceramic that have a magnetic coating that allows the reading and writing of data to the surface. The read/write head is positioned to operate within nanometers of the platter (they do not actually touch unless stopped or spinning up/down). The platters spin at between 4,200 rpm for energy efficient drives to 15,000 rpm for high-performance server drives.
These are not to be confused with SSDs which use flash RAM chips to store the data. Although they are generally more rugged, they have their own problems. They generally hold less data (at the same price) as their magnetic based cousins.
Whether it’s an HDD or an SSD, storage is needed everywhere and is getting cheaper and larger. This makes them fantastic places to put your photos, documents, videos, accounting, and anything else that you generate in the digital domain.
When you drop a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) while it is operating, the read/write heads will often impact the magnetic surface while it is spinning. Depending how hard it was dropped, the heads can be damaged when they impact the recording surface (rendering the entire drive unreadable) or can damage a section of the magnetic surface (rendering that area unreadable). Depending how it was dropped, the heads may also go out of alignment which will also render the drive unreadable.
If your hard drive becomes unreadable and you want the data to be recovered, it can be VERY expensive. This type of recovery is done at a data recovery lab. The lab will have a clean-room that prevents dust from getting into the hard drive when it is taken apart (as this could further damage the drive). A basic recovery of the data on a drive at a lab starts around $500. This is for simple recoveries where the platters aren’t damaged and a component just needs to be replaced (failed circuit board, bad connector, blown chip). For more complex recoveries with multiple hard drives (RAID), misaligned heads, physical platter or head damage or bearing failure the price increases substantially. We had a quote done for a customer a few years ago that was for valuable family photos stored on a laptop that was in a fire. Although the laptop was spared from the fire, the water from the fire fighters caused the drive to rust during the subsequent 3 weeks sitting in the remains of the house before being retrieved. The quote for retrieval was $3500. The customer chose not to go ahead.
Any of these scenarios (or any you can dream up for yourself) can be prevented by developing a backup strategy and keeping multiple copies of your data in multiple places.
Ultimately your backup strategy is up to you. It should, however, be based on the industry best practice of having your data in THREE different places.
- 1 – Your active data (the local hard drive of your computer – or an external).
- 2 – A copy of this data stored at the same location (maybe a duplicate external drive, or another drive, NAS, CD, DVD etc).
- 3 – OFF SITE – This could be a cloud provider (Google Drive, AWS, Livedrive, Onedrive), or a third hard drive stored at a friend’s, relative’s or elsewhere.
Keep in mind that the copies need to be kept up-to-date. If the backup process is not automatic, the copies will need to be kept up-to-date manually. For many people, manually copying data is fully acceptable (and they do it religiously). For others, this is a task best left to automatic means.
We can assist with providing automatic backup methods to prevent manually needing to do this.