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Portable data backup reliability

Posted on 2010-08-25
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Last Modified: 2013-11-14
Hi.

I have a 16gb USB Flash drive that I use constantly. It holds about 9.5gb of eBooks and video tutorials. I read recently that external drives can be unreliable. Given that my 9.5gb of data is obviously too big to shoe horn onto a writeable DVD, can someone make a suggestion, is there a better way to store my portable stuff?

Thanks.
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Question by:jonatec
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by:Dave_LaSalle
ID: 33521207
Just run chkdsk on that drive at some regular interval then the chances of being surprised when your original data is lost in very small.
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Expert Comment

by:100243196
ID: 33521212
Throw a seperate physical disk in your machine and use it as your primary backup. You could always schedule a seperate task to copy the contents to your flash drive as a contingency backup. You could also look into online storage such as http://www.idrive.com/ 

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Author Comment

by:jonatec
ID: 33521273
Dave_LaSalle:

What is chkdsk ?
100243196:

Would you say then the criticisms concerning the unreliability of external USB drives is unfounded? Does is depend on the make, if so know of any reviews worth looking at?

Are some USB Flash drives prone to overheat, particularly those of a large capacity ?
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by:Dave_LaSalle
ID: 33521349
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CHKDSK
or
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fsck
depending on your OS

Make your you properly dismount / eject your drive when removing it.  This is where damage may occur.
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Author Comment

by:jonatec
ID: 33521499
Dave_LaSalle:

chkdsk ok thanks for that. Looks like a good way to regularly check on data integrity. What about hardware reliability? For example I understand that solid-state USB Flash drives eventually "wear out" and repeatative erase/write actions the cells deteriorate and become unusable.

With external drives, there's the risk of platter damage, shock and vibration damage. What say ye?

[ Although I do use an on-line storage company, it's no good for either large PDF eBooks or .MOV movies files which can be large and I want immediate access ]
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by:100243196
ID: 33521549
USB keys / external drives are good if the data being backed up isn't of the highest importance. I don't like using external media as a primary backup because every time the drive is detached without being properly ejected, there is the possibility for data corruption. The problem with that is you generally won't know that there is corruption until you need to salvage data from the backup.

We've all been there where we are waiting and waiting for the usb key to eject properly and finally become impatient and just pull the device out. 99% of the time this won't impact the data but Murphy's law states that the worst thing will happen at the worst possible time ie. corrupt data on the usb media when you are relying on it for current backup.

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Author Comment

by:jonatec
ID: 33521601
100243196:

Then what in your opinion is the most reliable form of primary backup ?

Aren't USBs basically for temporary storage ?

Also, isn't an external hard drive more reliable given your comment re device dismounting, which presumably applies to any USB coupled device.
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100243196 earned 250 total points
ID: 33521802
If the data you were backing up was of extreme importance then I would recommend a seperate server with some type of raid configuration (Raid 1 = mirrored hard drives). This way even if one of the backup drives were to fail you would be able to salvage data from the operational drive. You could then replace the defective drive and the server would rebuild it from the working drive so you would have redundancy. This would be a more reliable solution however it may be a little overkill for what you are trying to back up.

In your case I would throw a second physical hard drive into your machine with scheduled chkdsk's and defrags. You could  couple this with an additional back up to the USB media to gain redundancy. This way you can take the usb media with you with peace of mind that an additional copy of the backup is stored on a seperate disk that wouldn't be affected by a corrupt OS etc.

I think the most important aspect for a reliable backup is redundancy. Alot of external USB hard drive manufacturers boast about backups and software but if the drive itself fails then you're in trouble. The possibility of having multiple redundant backups fail at the same time is far less likely therefor the backups itself is more reliable.
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Author Closing Comment

by:jonatec
ID: 33522033
Thanks, informative, useful.
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