2015-08-09

Vigilance in a Digital World

I want to start off by thanking everyone who replied to my request in my last blog. I will compile the answers and send them off to Mr.Capobianco this week. Also, if you're interested in seeing some pictures from the Schrodinger Sessions or some of the Launch Pads I've attended you can view them here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/64567572@N08/sets

I use a program called Crystal Disk to monitor the health of my hard drives (there are others as well). I have 3 external and 2 internal drives that are packed full of information. Pictures I've scanned in or that we've taken, videos that I've converted from VCR format (remember those?) as well as ones we've taken, my entire CD collection as well as most of the DVD's I own are all on those hard drives. Important electronic records are stored there as well; Tax returns; Quicken financial data; Scanned documents; And tons of other stuff. One of my internals is dedicated to being used by Windows Media Center as a DVR and it holds all sorts of shows we want to watch and keep.

Last year, my internal DVR drive began to fail. I purchased a new one, transferred the data, and replaced it prior to complete failure. This morning, Crystal Disk reported that one of my external drives was reporting an excessive number of sector reallocation errors - one of the first signs of a failing hard drive. I'm in the process of offloading all that data to one of my spare externals.

It pays to be vigilant when it comes to protecting your data. As a writer, I can't afford to loose a day's work. I back up my writing using Dropbox. It runs on all my devices and just works. I use CrashPlan to back up almost 2 terrabytes of data from multiple computers to the cloud. And, I monitor the health of my hard drives so I can be proactive and replace one that's failing before it completely dies. One of my wife's relatives had their laptop pulled off a table by a running dog. She lost 3 years worth of pictures because she did not have her computer backed up.

Hard drives fail - that's a fact of life. Think about it for a minute: If one of your hard drives were to crash this morning, what would you lose? Solid state drives (SSDs) are not immune to crashes either. Their electronics can fail and you can lose everything. Be vigilant! Check the health of your hard drives on a regular basis - that's why they have built-in internal monitoring programs. Replace them when they show signs of impending failure. Back up all your data in case the drive fails suddenly.

One of these days, I'm going to either build or buy a file server with a high-capacity RAID and hot-swappable disks. Even then, I'll be backing things up to the cloud. Because the entire RAID could be lost in a house fire or break in. We live in an increasingly digital world where we store our entire life in electronic bits. Your computer hard drives are not the only thing you should be worried about - what about your phone?

How many phone numbers can you recall from memory? How many phone numbers would you lose forever if your phone were to be lost? How many pictures and videos would you lose? What about financial apps such as PayPal? Are they protected? If a thief were to steal your phone can they drain your bank account? If you don't take measures to protect and back up your phone's data you could lose it all. If you don't password protect your phone, then anyone can access the information it contains.

Too many people these days take our electronic life too lightly. Your life can be ruined if that data falls into the wrong hands. Think about the consequences of losing a hard drive or having your phone stolen. Back up your data. Password protect your phone. Encrypt your sensitive data if at all possible.