transmission interruption: hard drives fail

Hard drives fail.
They do.
This of course has nothing to do with practice-as-research but I’ve heard so many cases recently of people working in the academy who have lost hours, days, even weeks of work simply because they have the (very mistaken) belief that hard drives are infallible.
The worst thing about hard drive failure is that often you get no indication that it’s happening. One moment all is good, the next all is not good.
There is nothing you can really do to stop hard drives failing.
But, you can have a simple backup system that builds in redundancy in case of theft, fire, digital fuck-ups, document corruption[1] or of course hard drive failure.
Here are some backup basics courtesy of the NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/technology/personaltech/data-backup-guide.html

Other thoughts/ideas:
– make a copy of the main document (or documents) you are working on (e.g. PhD thesis) every day and then archive the old version (which will get backed up using your awesome automated backup system), give the new version today’s date and get started
– use automated backup (e.g. Time Machine on Mac OS)
– use cloud based syncing software (e.g. Dropbox) as a fall-back backup system. Services like Dropbox are really for syncing, not backup
– use at least two external hard drives for different backups (i.e. external hard drives fail as well!)
– it will happen to you (some day)

Normal practice-as-research service will resume next week.


  1. Documents get corrupted all the time, but my experience is that it is more likely the more complex (and more precious) the document is (e.g. PhD thesis)!  ↩
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