Backup Assurance

Holding a backup tape or other media in my hand when I really need to use it has become both a comforting, and a scary feeling for me. I've been rescued by backup media, and terrorized by it. Fortunately, I haven't needed to restore from a back up often and I hope to keep it that way.

We all know it's a pain to back up our computer data. Imagining a data disaster and planning the details of how you'll recover when that horrible thing happens is as fun as planning your own funeral.
After the tedious part of selecting which files to include, many backup programs can run unattended on a schedule, making the backup task less of a chore. But keeping up a backup plan still requires a healthy combo of pessimism and discipline.

I once had to recover from a hard disk crash. Thousands of my personal files that took years to create were inaccessible. Without a backup, I would have had to pay an expensive recovery service thousands of dollars to recover my data.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I pulled a recent backup tape out of a drawer and popped it into the drive. I think I may have even whistled a happy tune while it was rewinding. I thought of all the pitiful people who aren't prepared and I was glad I wasn't one of them. I had taken the time to prepare for disaster and now I was ready to receive payment for my diligence!

A "restore wizard" popped up on the screen and prompted me through the steps to data recovery and bliss. I checked boxes beside the names of my precious files and folders that I wanted to restore. Just seeing their names listed on the "restore" screen comforted me. I clicked, "yes" when asked if they should go to their original locations. Finally, I saw a big, victorious RESTORE NOW button and clicked it to begin my file salvation.

My tape drive began to hum away. I leaned back in my chair and kicked a leg up onto my desk to watched my backed up files flow back home. A couple of minutes later I was standing, biting a knuckle after I saw a dreaded message: Error reading media. The next few minutes are foggy to me because the emotional trauma must have repressed my memory. But I vaguely remember pulling my desk drawer all the way out and turning it upside down to dump out every backup tape I owned.

Fortunately, I was able to restore from an older backup and piece together most of the most recent files that were missing so I experienced virtually no loss. I was lucky.

The moral of the story is, if you really care about your backup, do a test restore every once in a while to verify that your backup media works. Yes, it's extra work, but you won't be sorry. Just be glad you don't have to practice your funeral.

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