What’s the best way to preserve your important files for years to come? Questions like this are being asked more frequently in our data-driven society. Here are some best practices when it comes to long-term data storage.
Let’s say that you’ve got a hard drive full of pictures that are valuable enough to hold on to, but not worth storing on your primary computer. One common solution is to transfer the files to an external hard drive, or leave them on the hard drive of the old computer when it comes time to upgrade to a new one. These drives can then be stored away in a climate-controlled environment so that it’s available for future use.
For the average consumer, a data storage system like this creates a closet full of beige computers. Perhaps this describes your current data storage system, with each computer being referred to by the corresponding period of your life, like “my wedding computer,” “my college computer,” “my Disney vacation computer,” etc. To be sure, this is a highly inconvenient and cluttered way to store data for the long term, but is it bad for the data?
The issue in question is known as data degradation. When it comes to storing hard disc drives, research has shown that data degradation isn’t an issue, so long as the drive is stored in a climate-controlled environment. In the IT world, storing powered-down hard drives in a climate-controlled environment is called “cold storage.” Even though it seems like a boxed-up hard drive would be perfectly fine, there are a few things to consider in order to ensure that your data will be available for when you need it.
- Power on your hard drive every few years. While your drive’s data is unlikely to “leak away,” a hard disc drive that’s stored for several years runs the risk of having the oil around its ball bearings drying out. An HDD without oil will produce a nice crunching sound when turned on, aka, a hard drive crash. By taking time to power on a hard drive every few years or so, the ball bearings will remain lubed up enough to prevent this problem.
- Make sure that the place you’re storing the drive is truly climate controlled. While data degradation isn’t a problem in a climate-controlled environment, it is known to happen in environments that are subject to the elements, like extreme temperatures and high levels of humidity. Therefore, when boxing up a drive, think about the environment of your storage situation for the next five-to-ten years, or more. For example, if a location has its AC or heat turned off during certain portions of the year, then you should scout out a more consistent location.
- Make additional copies of the data to be stored in a second location. One disadvantage of keeping a hard drive stored away in one location is that you’re at risk of losing the data if a disaster like a fire or flood were to happen. Or, what about an overzealous spring cleaning mishap where someone disposes of your old, crusty-looking equipment without your permission? This is why it’s a good idea to have your data backed up on a second drive at a second location, or better yet, the cloud.
These are best practices to consider when going with the “cold storage” method. However, the best practice of all is to forget about keeping track of a closet full of old hard drives. Instead, transfer your old and important files to an active hard drive, like your current computer or even the cloud. Ultimately, cloud storage is the best data backup solution for a variety of reasons:
- It makes the files easily accessible.
- It’s secure.
- It’s affordable.
- It frees up clutter caused by old equipment.
- It’s an adaptable technology that changes with the times. For example, how many hoops would you have to jump through in order to access your old ZIP drive files?
To learn more about how the cloud can revolutionize the way you manage your data, give PACE Technical Services a call at 905.763.7896.