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Bit Buckets

Category: Andy Marken's blog Published on Friday, 31 July 2009

There’s No Good Time for Data to Disappear on You

     “Somewhere, some lucky guy's having a heart attack.” – Edward Cole, The Bucket List (2007)  

Say storage and people immediately think of a hard or flash drive…tape…optical media. 


In other words, bit buckets to hold your digital stuff.


Until that inevitable fateful day.


Like ours…


First, the 2TB drive on your office server won’t boot up.  It’s dead.  Ten skilled people sit on their hands, wondering how they’re going to meet their deadlines.


Then your daughter’s notebook hard drive dies with all of her music, photos, videos, school work and whatever.   This IS a real crisis!


Suddenly, you’re really glad:

-        storage products are downright cheap today

-        you have backup and extra backup for the backup and a backup…

-        you have a friend who knows systems inside and out who is willing to come to the office on a moment’s notice

-        you have a son who loves to open every system in the house to constantly “improve their performance”


Even with a big box store only three blocks away, it took two hours (and a $200 drive) to get the server unit spinning again.  Reloading the OS, apps, settings and work files from the primary backup took another couple of hours.


You look at the drive and mumble after Carter Chambers…“I hate your guts!”


The time wasn’t totally wasted.  While we put off upgrading most of the office systems and notebooks (sorry Intel), we had storage coming out of our ears”

-        HD in each computer

-        At least one encrypted portable HD

-        A load of USB drives (encrypted)

-        CD/DVD copies of static, archived material


Figure 2 - Bragging Rights – Notebooks (and yes, netbooks) have a reasonable amount of on-system storage.  But that doesn’t satisfy the “normal” user.  Most people also want a good-sized, compact portable hard drive and then a big buffer drive for home, the office and sometimes, even on the road. Rapid Growth

IDC analysts aren’t kidding when they say the digital universe doubles every 18 months. 


They also estimate that 85 percent of all data resides in the business domain.


At home, the computer storage picture is similar. 


Of course, the kids also have storage on all of their other devices too … you know, iPhone, iPod, camera, game system.


IDC notes that over the next four years, information storage requirements will grow 6-fold. 

Most of that volume will be captured, copied, mashed up, replicated and duplicated.


Original content is probably even less than one-sixth of what is stored.  The rest is like an iceberg.  


   Figure 3 - Deep, Wide – Stored data often resembles an iceberg.  You can see the original stuff on the surface, but there are copies of copies, mash-ups and derivations saved – somewhere.  If backup and archiving were bulletproof, you wouldn’t save copies of copies of copies.  But since it isn’t … file away. 

To reduce storing copies you can link to a document, research, video, photos but why do it?  It’s like Edward Cole said, “I want my own room.”


Cripes, grabbing a copy and putting it on your own system, on your USB drive, on your other media and maybe even throwing it up into cloud storage – somewhere – is so much easier!  


And if you forget where you stored it … grab another copy!


At home, the server is just as useful as it is in the office.  


Everyone has his/her storage plus the central 2TB unit (did we say drives are cheap today?).

 Be a Hero

But when your daughter comes into your home office with her lower lip quivering and tears welling up in her eyes, you know multiple storage devices are worth the expense.


Every dad wants to look like a hero to his little girl! 


Family storage requirements grow in leaps and bounds because of the volume of professional and amateur content that everyone is creating, producing and making available. 


Figure 4 - Unending Supply – Live, online content from a myriad of sources is constantly made available and streamed to us.  Music, videos, shows, research, presentations, games and more bombard us with content.  The supply and thought of relaxing and enjoying it seems without end.  As a result, people constantly grab and store the data.  Source -- IDC


According to Parks Associates, just the family’s storage requirements alone for music, video, photos is going to double over the next two years … believe it!!!!


Figure 5 - Growing Song ‘n Dance – Every member of the household has his/her own unique types of music, photos and videos they want to capture, save, enjoy.  As a result, silos of entertainment continue to grow in the household storage systems.  Source – Parks Associates 


The problem is, most people don’t have a safety net for their content storage device. 

-        Will the storage be reliable and constantly available?    You’re entitled to that, right? 

-        Folks absolutely need the most compact storage size, highest capacity, best performance and the lowest price period for their computer storage.

-        Then, of course, they also want their storage to be feather-light, whisper-quiet, robust enough for “normal’ handling, very power conservative (green).


The challenge, according to TDG research, is that:

-        16.4% of home system users never backup

-        37.8% backup a couple of times a year

-        20.6% backup once a month

-        11.3% backup once a week

-        7.3% back up several times a week or once a day

-        6.6% didn’t have a clue


WXPNews studied back up and found that:

-        33.5% backup everything including system files

-        28.6% selected important files

-        37.9% all user data


How and where do they save the data?

-        48.4% use 3rd-party programs

-        26.5% backup manually

-        68.1% backup to CD, DVD or external HD

-        3.5% to somewhere in the cloud

    Solution(s), Not Solution

There’s no single or right storage solution.  In fact, the more options you use, the more certain you are that your content will survive to be shared with others--even after you’ve completed your bucket list.


If you project your family’s content storage requirements over the next couple of years, you can easily see you’re going to be adding devices on a pretty regular basis.


Figure 6 - Insatiable Demand – The economic downturn forced many families to cut back on their outside entertainment.  This has caused a steady upswing in storage demand, and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.  Source – Coughlin Assoc. 

Since most of the stuff you store is really inactive data (you know the content you access once every three – six months. 

Figure 7 - Archiving Potential – Most analysts agree that less than 20% of the data and information stored on a device is what is termed active, meaning it is accessed and used frequently.  The other 80% is used infrequently - especially as time passes. This inactive data can be moved to secondary and/or archival storage which uses less and less power providing more green savings.  While the active content increases only slightly, inactive data grows rapidly.  Source -- Panasonic 

In fact, after 90 days, you probably won’t look at the content more than once a year -- or so – no matter if it’s business data or personal files.


Some people say that because of this, the best place to expand your storage is in the cloud. 


Cloud storage has its pros and cons.


While we use a cloud for temporary storage, shared content and backup to our backup; we don’t view it as something we can rely on 100% of the time … yet.

 Cloud Questions

Why not?


1.     There are size limitations and sometimes (often) penalties for higher-capacity storage requirements.

2.     The fine print usually says they are not responsible for lost content.

3.     Timely availability – the Internet and sites do go down and usually at exactly the wrong time for you.

4.     Is there a service-level agreement (SLA), one that guarantees backups have been completed and content is available.

5.     There may be a difficult and sometimes expensive “exit strategy” if you want to change providers or bring your content home.

6.     Discontinuance of business – certainly there are well-financed storage providers like IBM, Amazon, EMC, Symantec, HP, Dell, Sun and others; but what if one is purchased and will no longer support your level of storage requirements or your provider goes out of business?


So we prefer:

-        primary (minimum 120 – 250GB) system storage

-        network (1-2TB) storage

-        a combination of full (monthly) and incremental (daily) backup locally and offsite

-        archive content to DVD and increasingly to BD media over 180 days old – two copies (one in fireproof office safe, one remotely)

-        temporary cloud storage


This approach keeps the data readily available, protects irreplaceable personal and business content and is more environmentally kind than throwing more hard disks – theirs or ours – at the issue.


Yes, at some point we’ll have to migrate away from DVD and BD to some other archival media; but that is probably 10+ years away.  By then, will you want the old stuff? … Really?


In the meantime, you’re assured that your business and personal/family data will survive a disaster.




 Figure 8 - Survival Gear – To truly protect personal and family moments as well as vital company business records, individuals and businesses need a multi-tiered storage program that also includes worst-case scenario content and information protection.   After everything hits the fan, the family and/or company still has access to important data to go on with their lives and keep the business open.  Of course, you already have your music, photo, video, document, data, information survival kit…right?   Right!!!  Source -- NYTimes 

There’s no good time to lose your data. 



Just keep in mind what Edward Cole said, “We live, we die, and the wheels on the bus go round and round.”

  Hits: 1971

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