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This is Leo Notenboom for askleo.info.
Several weeks ago Google released a paper detailing an analysis of the consumer-grade hard drives they use in their data centers. As you can imagine, Google has a lot of hard drives.
They were looking at what could be learned from hard disk failure rates.
One surprising result was that they determined that hard disks Self Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology, or "SMART" as it's known, could not be used to accurately predict when or if a drive was about to fail. Drives reporting SMART errors often lasted for years, while other drives were just as likely to fail without any SMART diagnostic information prior to the failure.
Much more importantly, though, are what I think are some very scary numbers about hard drive failure rates. For example, for drives older than 2 years, Google reports seeing about a 7% failure rate per year. Put another way, one out of every 14 drives will fail within a year.
That's way higher than I would have predicted.
It also makes me very nervous.
Disk drives are cheap, but the cost of replacing one can be enormous. For example, unless you're doing true full backups a sudden failure means you're going to have to reinstall and reconfigure your operating system and all the applications you had on a failed drive. If you've been backing up your data you may not experience data loss but you'll definitely lose a chunk of time for the rebuild.
And if you haven't even been backing up your data - well, you've got a serious problem.
There are several possible approaches to minimizing the risk of a hard drive failure, but for the average consumer nothing, and I mean nothing can replace a good full backup strategy.
In fact, after hearing these new statistics, it's a change I made myself. In the past I'd been backing up my important data, of course, but not my operating system and applications. As of earlier this week I now do a nightly backup of the entire hard disk on my primary computer using Acronis Trueimage Home.
Regular listeners and readers of Ask Leo! will know that I've always stressed the importance of backing up. Google's latest report only makes me even more convinced that disaster prevention isn't just a good thing, it's a requirement.
Check out the show notes for links to Google's whitepaper and to a similar study performed at Carnegie Mellon University with similar results. I've also linked to an episode of the highly recommended Security Now podcast with Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte which covers this issue as well.
I'd love to hear what you think. Visit askleo.info and enter 11293 in the go to article number box to access the show notes and to leave me a comment. While you're there, browse over 1,000 technical questions and answers on the site.
Till next time, I'm Leo Notenboom, for askleo.info.
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