The Inevitability of Hardware Failure

I haven’t written a great deal about hardware because mostly it doesn’t matter.  The beauty of most software these days is it will run on just about anything.  This is obviously an advantage but a qualified one.

Your software may run on your hardware but that doesn’t mean it runs well.  I sometimes find when working with clients, they are struggling with ancient systems and have no concept of how much easier life would be if they invested in  up-to-date hardware.  You would not believe how many steam-powered computers there are out there!

Yes it is expensive but essential if you are planning some significant online activity.

There is one thing everyone needs to know about hardware: sooner or later it will fail.  (Software can also fail cataclysmically and so what I say here applies equally to hardware and software failure.)

This has just happened to me.  There was no warning.  Everything was running as normal and then in an instant, it wasn’t.  My lap-top was between 3 and 4 years old and so was due for renewal.  It went to the doctors and returned yesterday with all my files wiped against my explicit instructions to contact me if they needed to wipe the hardware.  It is back with the doctors for data recovery.  They claimed they phoned me twice.  They had the correct number and I have an answer machine.  And why did they think, after finding me unavailable twice, I wanted to lose all my files?  This is not hardware failure, is it?

The most important safeguard against such cataclysms is you must back things up.  I’m more or less confident I will recover everything I need in the fullness  of time but at the moment I can’t access my work between 10 and 26 June.  (This will have a few consequences for the blog but I’ll resume normal services in time.)

So, how should we guard against inevitable hardware failure?

Things are easier than they were.  Ideally, these days you can set up new hardware and instantly access your files and continue as normal.  Inevitably, things are never that easy but it is certainly easier than it used to be.

Essentially there are two approaches to backing up your system.  The belt and braces approach is to use both and I would recommend you do that.

First, you can back up in the cloud.  I have used Norton to do that and I’ve found three problems with it:

  1. For some reason it hadn’t backed up my files for 15 – 16 days.  It’s meant to back-up periodically but I hadn’t kept an eye on it.
  2. It takes forever to download from back-up to my new lap top.  I used their support services and 4 or 5 different people helped me over three days.  They contradicted one another and didn’t fully understand their system.  This is why it took so long.  Eventually I found someone who knew my files were too big to download in one sitting.  I had to download them in sections.  Of course, keeping track of what you have downloaded is difficult but I got there in the end.
  3. It was not backing up everything in my folders.  As far as I can see it backed up from every folder I asked it to but it did not copy all the files in the folders.  I use an application called xmind that creates it own file type.  Norton decided they didn’t count.

It is generally true that you only learn the true nature of something when you use it!  I shall not be using Norton for back-up again.  It’s anti-virus and identity functions are brilliant, so I’m not saying you shouldn’t use them for those purposes but I would use a different back-up system.

There are alternatives.  My new lap-top uses Windows 8 and this includes OneDrive.  I’ve used it for only a few days, so this is by no means a recommendation but it does seem to have advantages over Norton’s back-up.

  • It backs up files as you create them.  So, you are never in danger of losing more than the document you are working on.
  • They are accessible as you need them
  • You can choose to  leave a copy on your hard drive.  If you have the space for them, this is an advantage.
  • As far as I know they’ll back-up anything.  I’ve yet to test it with xmind.
  • You can access your files from any device.

However, it is a good idea to back-up onto an external hard drive as well.  This is the second approach.  I recommend you do this as well as the cloud so that you know you have both.

Usually, it is possible to recover files lost if your equipment fails.  You can’t be certain of this and even if it is possible it is likely to take several days or even weeks.  And you have to factor in the vagaries of techies who know how machines work but can’t communicate with human beings.

Finally, if you have a website you will need to back it up too.  That’s a topic for another time.

Click to share this post!

About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

Leave a Reply 2 comments

Five Elements for Your Marketing Campaign: Your Market - Community Web Consultancy - July 24, 2015 Reply

[…] in the Open Source Marketing Circuit Questionnaire. Apologies for the delay, owing to my recent hardware meltdown. I have since made a start on a more detailed exploration of you and your […]

Why You Do What You Do - Community Web Consultancy - September 4, 2016 Reply

[…] Friday I told the story of my recent hardware meltdown.  For this reason I’ve delayed the fifth element of the circuit questionnaire, in the hope I […]

Leave a Reply: