By the end of the weekend, I’d copied enough of my CD’s that my laptop’s hard drive was beginning to fill up, so I thought it was about time to start backing them up. So I grabbed one of the USB drives that I bought for the purpose. (Half a year ago, when I bought the computer – this was before I got Just in Time religion.)

The computer didn’t recognize the drive. Oops.

I brought it upstairs to the Linux machine; it didn’t like the drive either. After playing around with it for half an hour, the Linux machine seemed happy with it, but the Mac didn’t like it. The other drive I bought at the time still worked, so I didn’t think it was a usage problem: the drive was bad.

So the drive went into the trash. But, actually, this is a blessing in disguise, because it pointed out a whopping big hole in my backup strategy. One that I was vaguely aware of, but had previously been able to ignore by sticking my fingers in my ears and saying “la la la I can’t hear me”. Namely that a single backup isn’t any good: you want lots of the suckers. Or at least two.

I’d originally chosen USB hard drives over optical media because I was doing this for the purpose of backing up degrading optical media, and I didn’t have any confidence that the backup optical media would last any better than the original. But obviously the hard drives had problems; and if one of them were to really fail, it could wipe out a big chunk of my collection. (Hmm: buy a bunch of USB drives, RAID em, and stick them in the safety deposit box? Nah.)

So I think what I’ll do now is back them up to both DVD-Rs and hard drives. Hopefully they won’t both fail simultaneously, and the worst thing that can realistically happen is that my house burns down, the hard drives fail completely and a handful of DVDs fail. If that happens, I’ll still have 95% of my CD collection to comfort me while sitting in the ashes of my house, and the missing 5% will be the least of my worries. Hopefully this won’t be too labor intensive; presumably the Mac comes with some sort of dead-easy DVD burning software. And I’ll keep MD5s of everything around, so I can tell which backup is correct if I get bit rot on one of them.

And I’ll revisit the issue in another decade or so, at which point it will cost next to nothing to back up everything on, say, flash USB storage and a couple of remote hosts providing reliable backup service. We’re only talking 300GB or so, after all. (At which point I’ll be worrying about backing up my DVD collection, I suppose.)

Silly me, though: I really should know better than to make a mistake like that.

Post Revisions:

There are no revisions for this post.