Secure data storage, online and off; was: Re:How Do I Recover my old stuff

Subject: Secure data storage, online and off; was: Re:How Do I Recover my old stuff
From: David Neeley <dbneeley -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Mon, 5 Apr 2010 12:22:22 +0300

I apologize in advance for the length of this post.

Most of the drive recovery firms are quite expensive, as it can be a
rather involved process...and even then, many of the files can be
quite jumbled. Unless the data is extremely valuable and worth a great
deal of your time, you may find it is simply not worth the effort.

If the computer is nine years old--how old is the hard disk? If it was
an original, it is already long since on borrowed time.


As for online backup firms, as it happens I signed up for one
yesterday that appears to be one of the better deals around. It's
called Adrive ( )

They have a very basic, free service that includes up to 50 GB of
drive space. The same 50 GB but with much more convenience costs
either $6.95 per month or $69.50 per year--with a two week trial of
the paid service for free that can be cancelled prior to its
expiration at no charge.

I am backing up my drive as we speak, in fact, using the free trial
period to transfer via FTP. They also have an Adobe Air application
for download and upload, webDAV access, and straight Web access as
well for the paid accounts. The methods and choices are much less
flexible for the free service--but for that you don't need any credit
card or other payment info.


For an individual or a small or home office, I think there are two
strategies that make sense.

First, you can get an external drive to back up your data. Today, most
of these connect with USB 2, although the new USB 3 standard is
obviously much faster. You might also find one that uses an external
SATA connection, or perhaps one that has both eSATA and one of the USB

This has the advantage of portability. Also, if you choose an external
drive that is compatible with your machine, if the primary hard drive
dies you can always replace it with the drive from the external
enclosure, just as I did a few weeks ago when my *THIRD* laptop drive
died on this machine. (Can you tell I won't be getting another HP?)

When I set up the external drive, I divided it into several
partitions--leaving one mostly empty to install an operating system
should that become necessary--which of course it did. For a Windows
box, I also like to have several data partitions on the backup, so I
can put successive backup copies on different partitions. Thus, if the
machine should become the victim of a virus or other malware, I would
be more likely to have non-corrupt data on at least one of the

If you set up your primary Windows machine with two partitions, too,
you can make the D: partition the home for your data files. This makes
backing up your data simple enough that you are likely to do it more
often, simply by making a copy of the files in that partition. It is
easy and fast enough that partial backups aren't generally worthwhile
on a work machine--although that's a different story if you tend to
also have many video files, for example.

Next, especially if you have a small or home office, you can get a
small NAS device for surprisingly little cash these days. These have
slots for one to four hard disks, generally. A small NAS that
accommodates two drives may be able to be set for a mirrored
arrangement, so no data is lost if a single drive should malfunction.
These should be hot-swappable, too, and rebuild a replacement drive
automatically. This can be useful, not only to recover from a drive
failure but also to use a third drive to remove from the system and
store elsewhere periodically, putting in the replacement and having
the NAS rebuild and synchronize it quickly. By storing this additonal
backup disk off premises, you gain a significant amount of peace of
mind because of a level of insulation from theft, fire, or other

I should point out, too, that having such a NAS set up is also very
good if you tend to inadvertantly reformat your working machine's
drive from time to time. In my experience folks who do that are also
folks who usually don't make regular backups of their critical data.
With a mirrored NAS, at least that is no longer such an issue.

Newegg is showing a Dlink NAS with two drive bays but without drives
(you use your own) for less than $100. Among other things, it allows
connection via FTP over the Internet, so you can access your files
from anywhere you have a connection.

Some of these units are available with DVD writers as well, so you can
do data backups onto DVD media for long-term retention. That, too,
might be worthwhile.


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