Save Your Virtual Shoebox!

By Loyd Case  |  Posted 2005-05-02 Print this article Print

Users who have single drives or using RAID 0 are just asking for trouble. Every day, we record more of our lives in digital format. But the loss of a hard drive can mean the loss of precious memories forever.

Not About Backup. Really.
I promise, this column is not about backing up your hard drive. Like me, I assume youve been lectured constantly about backup. Most of us dont do it on a regular basis. Even automated backup devices like Mirra dont get much traction among most users, because of the extra cost. If you are a PC user who faithfully backs up your system on an ongoing basis, then youre truly rare—and protected. But you may want to consider reading this, because even if you back up faithfully, a hard drive disaster is still a major nuisance. Hard drives are probably more reliable than ever before. Theyre also bigger than ever, as we noted in our recent roundup of high-capacity hard drives. So you can just buy a 250GB or larger drive, load it up and never buy another drive ... until the day it crashes. But youve probably also discovered digital photography or video. Or youve ripped your entire CD collection onto your hard drive. Or youre keeping your checkbook on the system using Quicken, Money or a similar program. One hard drive crash, and its all gone. Sure, there are recovery services that can recover most of your data (the operative word being "most"), but theyre pricey, and there are no guarantees.
The good news is that the motherboard and chipset makers have stepped up to the plate to make our digital lives more secure. Thats right, not the hard drive companies, not the CPU companies, not Microsoft or Apple or any of the numerous Linux distros. The key to the security of your digital life is your motherboard. Of course, I dont mean just any motherboard. Im talking about motherboards that have RAID (redundant array of inexpensive disks) support.
In the old days (five years ago), if you wanted RAID, youd need an expansion card installed in a free PCI slot. Relatively inexpensive IDE RAID cards became available a few years ago, but setup and installation was still non-trivial. Now, most motherboards have some form of RAID support, either through IDE, Serial ATA, or both. However, forget about RAID 0. Sure, its marginally faster, but its a disaster waiting to happen. If were worried about one drive crashing, lets quadruple the odds of failure by using two drives to hold all our information in a non-redundant manner. RAID 0, as some people have noted, isnt really RAID at all, since its not redundant. RAID 0 is really only useful in certain applications that require high throughput, such as uncompressed video capture or multitrack digital audio recording. Read the full story on ExtremeTech: Save Your Virtual Shoebox!
Loyd Case came to computing by way of physical chemistry. He began modestly on a DEC PDP-11 by learning the intricacies of the TROFF text formatter while working on his master's thesis. After a brief, painful stint as an analytical chemist, he took over a laboratory network at Lockheed in the early 80's and never looked back. His first 'real' computer was an HP 1000 RTE-6/VM system.

In 1988, he figured out that building his own PC was vastly more interesting than buying off-the-shelf systems ad he ditched his aging Compaq portable. The Sony 3.5-inch floppy drive from his first homebrew rig is still running today. Since then, he's done some programming, been a systems engineer for Hewlett-Packard, worked in technical marketing in the workstation biz, and even dabbled in 3-D modeling and Web design during the Web's early years.

Loyd was also bitten by the writing bug at a very early age, and even has dim memories of reading his creative efforts to his third grade class. Later, he wrote for various user group magazines, culminating in a near-career ending incident at his employer when a humor-impaired senior manager took exception at one of his more flippant efforts. In 1994, Loyd took on the task of writing the first roundup of PC graphics cards for Computer Gaming World -- the first ever written specifically for computer gamers. A year later, Mike Weksler, then tech editor at Computer Gaming World, twisted his arm and forced him to start writing CGW's tech column. The gaming world -- and Loyd -- has never quite recovered despite repeated efforts to find a normal job. Now he's busy with the whole fatherhood thing, working hard to turn his two daughters into avid gamers. When he doesn't have his head buried inside a PC, he dabbles in downhill skiing, military history and home theater.

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