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A series of data disasters

Posted at 10:06 on 15 Jul 2020 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: learning curves, personal, technology

Meme image: The Count from Sesame Street saying One disk failed! Two disk failed!Shooting porn generates a lot of data.

For years I bought another cheap external USB hard drive every time my storage filled up. I meant to sort out proper backups, but I never got round to it. I had loads of duplicate data on different drives, I couldn't afford the storage to back it all up without de-duping, and I didn't have time to de-dupe.

You can see where this is going.

Last year all four of my external drives died one after the other.

The first one had various 'backups' (ad hoc copies of important data) on. It started throwing errors in March. Felix offered to help me restore the data. They're pretty busy running their business though, so the data restore process took a while to complete around other stuff.

In June last year, in a state of acute pregnancy fatigue, I accidentally deleted the entire Dreams of Spanking website with a single cPanel click. It really shouldn't have been that easy. I didn't have a faithful copy of the site on my computer. I had all the files somewhere, but I had to rebuild the directory structure from scratch. It took freaking ages.

Along the way I realised I couldn't find my recent backup of the site templates. So I redid all the front end changes I'd made in the last year or so - at least all the ones I could remember - which also took ages. Only after I'd redone most of the work did we finish the data restoration process on my busted hard drive and realise that was where my backup was. If I'd figured that out earlier it would have saved me redoing all the work. *facepalm*

Around this time, for obvious reasons, I started sorting out my fucking backups. Felix kind of insisted, in an "I'm happy helping you but not if you're going to be a blatant idiot" kind of a way. We bought more storage for our NAS and F helped me set up some automated backup software. So now my computer is backed up every night, yay. They also recommended I ditch the external hard drives and invest in an internal SDD big enough for all my data. So I did. I also spent the time de-duping my data, and got everything nicely organised.

While we were partway through this process, Felix noticed that one of my other external drives was throwing errors. They took it away and backed up the copy on it, ran chkdsk, and put the data from it on the NAS. I was like, really, that one too? I was starting to feel seriously guilty about how much of F's time this was taking, but very grateful not to have actually lost much data with all these disk failures.

Then the third external drive threw errors. Felix at this point was looking a little grey around the gills. I wanted to send several hundred quid back in time to myself with stern instructions to spend it on better hard drives. Felix whisked Drive #3 away and backed up a copy of the disk image. The data was very corrupted. And it wasn't backed up. Annoyingly, I'd had a copy of it on the NAS quite recently, but I'd deleted it the previous week to free up space while I moved other stuff around and got everything organized. Yeah. I know. Not the smartest thing I've ever done.

Finally, everything else was backed up without mishap. Once I had double copies of everything on my new SSD and the NAS, I stopped using the other external drives. Yeah, I'm not relying on those again.

We (well, Felix) got the data back from the first two busted drives. So I was optimistic about the data from this third one. Then we had a baby and... *handwave* a year passed.

The upshot is, my new SDD and backup system is working beautifully. My remaining data feels safe. I like it. That third drive though... F has made multiple attempts to restore it, but the data is hella corrupted, and they can't get the cleaned up disk image to run on any of their other disks because of weirdnesses to do with the hardware it came off of. Or something. I honestly don't understand, but it sounds complicated and frustrating as hell.

On the one hand, I've been managing fine without the contents of that drive for a year. On the other hand, there was quite a lot of neat stuff on it. Including, off the top of my head:

  • all my bookkeeping and tax return files like, ever, and the financial year has ended now so I'm gonna need to do some end of year bookkeeping at some point soon
  • all my personal photos ever
  • all my music
  • video footage for various non-Dreams of Spanking porn projects, including ten scenes and a feature film for a new unpublished hardcore kinky sex project, and a couple of feature length custom spanking films, at least one of which I have permission to distribute and would really like the source files for
  • all my Patreon files, including half-finished articles and YouTube videos
  • all the stuff from the age verification campaign
  • all my teaching resources, including notes and Powerpoint presentations for various lectures - again, this is stuff I'd like to publish or reuse at some point
  • all my non-Dreams of Spanking modeling images, including ten years of glamour/fetish photography and downloads of spanking scenes I've been in from various sites

Sigh.

It's not necessarily lost forever. Felix has some ideas for things they want to try. But they may not be successful, and at this point it's out of my hands.

This whole fiasco has definitely been a learning opportunity. I feel like my digital infrastructure is a hell of a lot more robust now. But damn, I wish I hadn't been so quick to delete that backup on the NAS.

It seemed weird, the disk drives all dying at once - and often becoming totally unusable just after Felix started trying to rescue them. It made sense when I learned about that all disks have a write endurance. For a cheap 4TB drive, the write endurance might only be 6TB. That means once you've filled it, you can only write another 2TB of data onto it before it wears out. This happens slowly in the normal course of things, but when you're reorganizing your data storage and moving large quantities of files around, it can happen super quickly. Looks like the process of sorting out my backups burned through a lot of disks that were on their last legs without me realising.

So what have I learned? That backups are essential, that my partner is a gem, and that when it comes to cheap external storage, you get what you pay for.

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