Planning for Disk Drive Disasters

By Phillips, John T., Jr. | Records Management Quarterly, July 1996 | Go to article overview

Planning for Disk Drive Disasters


Phillips, John T., Jr., Records Management Quarterly


Gone are the days when a conscientious office worker could simply type some correspondence onto a piece of paper, make another paper copy to be filed, and mail the original paper memo to a recipient. These seemingly mundane office activities, once performed at leisure with creative diligence and care, are becoming just memories, as they must now be performed (as fast as humanly possible) with the magic of electronic computers. Although office tools such as electronic mail can make one more productive, their use requires new responsibilities and procedures, without which natural (office) disasters will eventually occur. To prevent floods of information from inundating our virtual desktops, the flaming of tempers as mission critical disk drives fail, and the consequent lightning strikes that will emanate from management, back up those disk drives now!

A computer's disk drives are just virtual electronic filing cabinets and obediently do the bidding of their owner. They stash away, upon request, everything from volumes of relevant business software to flashy "demonstration" software or mindless computers games, as well as their owner's vital business data. In fact, many disk drives on personal computers these days are filled to capacity or overflowing with as much software and data as can be crammed into the disk directories (just as though they were bulging file folders). As multitudes of files are first given life and then snuffed out of existence with the "delete" key, increasingly fragmented areas of poorly organized empty disk space may occur. The poor innocent disk drive's read/write heads then spend an ever-increasing amount of time thrashing around while they look for a few bits of space here and there to store the newest file creations of their master. As these disk drives begin to choke and gag on their gigabytes, they eventually die a natural death and wreak havoc with the ideas of their owner, who assumed that their thoughts and creations had been magically preserved for posterity to enjoy.

The sudden death of a personal disk drive could rival the demise of a close family pet for emotional impact. The abrupt disappearance of these old friends leaves one with a sense that a lot of friendly support will be missing as one moves forward again, without the benefit of their companionship. Only preventive medicine can cure the ails that are natural to any given species of disk drive. By planning ahead with an adequate data and disk protection program, one can assure that computer records will be properly ensured against the natural demise of any given disk drive, and that the computer system user can avoid some very upsetting times. Having recently experienced this personal tragedy (again) myself, I will attempt to share a few insights that may make the funeral of a disk drive less wrenching. In fact, with proper preparation, the death of a disk drive can result in a rejuvenating experience with some positive benefits.

GET PERSONAL WITH YOUR PC

Having an intimate knowledge of the contents of one's disk drives and adhering to a commitment to back up computer data are the only sure methods of adequately planning for the eventual untimely demise of an electronic filing cabinet. One must understand the contents of the disk's directories and the general use of various files, just as one must be able to read the labels on file folders and view the file's contents when using a paper-based filing cabinet. These directories will include both software and data created by the computer system user(s). Typical names for important directories may be C:\DOS (DOS operating system application files), C:\WINDOWS (Microsoft Windows interface application files), C:\TEMP (where Windows stores temporary files), and C:\MSOFFICE (Microsoft Office computer applications such as Word or Excel). Directories that hold user-created data files can exist under the just mentioned directories or under directories or sub-directories such as C:\DATA or C:\PROJECTS\REPORTS. …

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