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External Hard Drives with Trimmings Aplenty

Hard Disk Mania

In the business world, it's easy to recognize that the trend is to abandon classical backup systems based on removable media or tape drives. What's coming on strong instead is a massive migration to solutions based on hard disk storage. It's a completely comprehensible phenomenon, in that 300 GB drives have gotten so cheap that these other solutions quickly price themselves out of consideration. Then too, hard disks indisputably outperform other options when it comes to data transfer. Also, files need not be encoded and compressed into a proprietary vendor format, but can simply be copied as-is (or compressed using widely available and inexpensive tools).

Given that hard disks are insecure and do sometimes fail, simply copying files from one drive to another doesn't solve all backup issues - particularly in the absence of a general backup strategy. Hard disks have been and remain a kind of hybrid storage medium, part electronic and part mechanical, full of complex circuitry and lots of moving parts. They also partake of the perils and pitfalls of magnetic media, since magnetism enables reading and writing data. Should any of these subsystems fail or falter, data stored on a drive can be destroyed in the worst case, and remain out of reach to users for some time at best (this is where expensive data recovery services come into their own).

But this situation can be remedied with some extra expenditure: If drives are bound to fail, why not buy two or three extras to keep on hand as spares to stave off the inevitable? If a systems administrator plays it smart, he or she plans (and budgets) for drive defects and buys advance replacements. As part of a routine often practiced by system administrators, daily backups can target different hard disks, and drives for two days of the week can be rotated out of the backup pool every two weeks, to be replaced by additional drives. After a maximum of two accumulated years of use, all drives in the pool are replaced. And if the Friday backup goes home with the system administer, the security level of the backups remains acceptable and costs are kept under control. This kind of regime is easy to apply to any collection of external hard disks, not just those from Maxtor.