It’s happened to me, it will happen to you

It begins with a little bit of odd behavior.

Something doesn’t quite work right. Strange little sounds might be heard.

Hard drive failure. Like death and taxes, you can’t avoid it. 

My external backup drive began acting funny yesterday, all of a sudden disconnecting on its own. Then my Time Machine backup began failing. A quick run of a couple disk utilities revealed the volume couldn’t even be mounted or repaired. An odd little beeping from inside the case was next, which I think was actually the motor doing something that just happened to sound like a beep.

Yeah, this hard drive is going to fail. If it was just something I used to store miscellaneous stuff, I wouldn’t worry about it immediately. But this is my backup drive, partitioned into two volumes (one for Time Machine, one for an overnight mirrored backup). I do not want to let my MacBook Pro go without these backups for too long. So, a quick visit to Amazon gets me ready to put a new drive into service on Monday.

Take advantage of this experience to make sure your backups are working properly. If you’re not backing up your hard drives, you’re asking for trouble. Because your hard drives will fail. Even your backup drives will fail (which is why I also use an online backup service, Crash Plan). You’ll lose your tax documents for the past year. The photos of your kids or grandkids. The photos of that last vacation with your parents before they passed away.

That piece of evidence that is the smoking gun in your client’s case.

They’ll be gone. Unless you have a backup. A redundant backup.

Hard drives and online backup services are cheap. Losing your precious photos or client’s evidence is painful.

There’s no excuse.

Backup your data, and back it up today. Back it up on site and off site so you’re protected against fire, tornado, or a busted pipe.

Do it.

When’s the last time you checked your spare tire?

For some reason, a thought occurred to me out of nowhere today: a spare tire that has gone flat in the trunk is useless when you need it.

What does this thought have to do with tech and law practice? How about we change a few words:

A backup system that isn’t working properly is useless when you need it. 

By now, most businesses (and lawyers) know that you absolutely, positively need a backup system for your computer data. A hard drive failure can be devastating, no matter what field you are in. (I recall as an undergrad working for Notre Dame’s IT department seeing frantic grad students bringing their disks to us, worried that they’d lost their dissertation or thesis. Too often, our inquiry about  backups led to blank stares. More than once I worried that some grad student was going to do something rash after we couldn’t recover his or her data.)

Unfortunately, too many are over confident: they think they have backup software running, so they don’t need to worry about data loss. But how can they be so sure? Backup media, to give but one example, can fail—and no one will know until someone tries to restore data from that media. It’s possible that the backup software is malfunctioning and not copying things correctly.

When it comes to computer backups, you have to remember Murphy’s Law: if anything can go wrong, it will. (Arguably, Murphy was an optimist, considering that things often seem to go wrong at the worst possible time.)

You should make it a point to regularly verify that your backup systems are working correctly. How? The easiest way is to use your backup software to restore your data to an extra hard drive, and then spot check the files that you’ve recovered. If files are missing or corrupt, you have a problem. It may be a pain to fix it, but better now than when you’re facing a filing deadline.

And while you’re at it, take a quick poke at your spare tire just to make sure it hasn’t gone flat. 🙂