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What is a data backup?
Why must you backup your data?

Protecting Important Data

A data backup is essentially nothing more, or nothing less than a duplicate copy of any information (data) which you have stored on a another computer data storage device, such as a floppy diskette, a flash drive, a DVD, a hard disk drive, or more and more commonly, by means of a business continuity (BC) strategy or personal data protection plan implemented in the cloud.

The purpose for having a duplicate copy is to prevent loss should some event take place which prevents you from getting to your data.  There are several different methods as well as types of devices one can use to implement data backups, describing those means is not our topic here, but the bottom line is that the availability of your data can only be protected by having at least one, completely up-to-date copy of every important file.

If your data is valuable to you, there is a point of utmost importance you must consider: you are always at risk of losing your information should the device you have it recorded on comes to meet its demise. By far the most common means for storing data which must be readily and immediately accessible for computer use is the hard disk drive.

The end of life for a hard drive is typically sudden, precipitous, and (pardon me while I repeat myself) occurs without warning. If you have no duplicate copy of your information, and the device you've stored it on fails, most people must rely on the services of an experienced data recovery firm specializing in retrieving the "lost" data from the failed device. At this juncture you will need to evaluate the worth of your data because data recovery services tend to be rather expensive.

As disk drives are generally considered to be the most important and active component involved with data storage, the question often arises as to why they seem so prone to failure. Statistically the hard drive is indeed the most unreliable component of your computer system, but bear in mind also that it is also arguably the most technically complex. The workings of a 30 year old hard drive would simply astound the average person. Today's hard drives are immensely more complex than their ancestors. They are nothing short of marvels, both electronic and mechanical marvels, of the highest of high technology.

To design some means of predicting impending hard disk drive failure, a substantial amount of electronic and mechanical engineering resources have been applied over many years, spanning the history of the device itself. None of these efforts have been significantly successful. At base, the inability of science to find success in this endeavor stems from the tenuous understanding it has about a fundamental feature of rigid disk drive operation: the flying head.

For over forty years an air-bearing technology, enabling its heads to fly, has been implemented to suspend the read/write head over the magnetic surface of the disk platter (called "media"). "Heads" are the elements responsible for both creating magnetic impressions (consisting of flux reversals) on the disk surface (called "writing") and sensing the presence of preexisting impressions (called "reading"). Disk drive heads literally fly over the surface of the platters at an extremely low altitude. The flight is possible because of air molecules adhering to the media surface, getting pulled under the head and causing it to lift off.

When all is functioning properly the flying head technology permits theoretically indefinite use because the air-bearing permits no friction and hence no wear between the media surface and the head elements. For reasons not entirely understood by science, heads crash. We have been able to identify several common causes that would nearly always cause head crash relating to physical abuse of the device, but most users are sensible enough to prevent this. The point here is that heads crash even when there is no identifiable reason for it to do so. Sooner or later (usually later) they stop flying. Data loss is the immediate and irreversible result. With head crashes, it's not a matter of IF…  it's only a matter of WHEN.

This is why, in order the provide yourself with insurance against this unpredictable yet inevitable occurrence you MUST have current data back up copies readily available. Once you become sufficiently motivated you'll then have decisions to make regarding how to implement a backup plan. When all else fails, for whatever reason, when for whatever combination of unfortunate circumstances you can no longer access your important data, you must make use of data recovery service.

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