Murphy's Law

(Update Sept. 17 see below)

Sunday night after I arrived back in China I decided to make a to do list for this week. But I first decided to upgrade the software on my Apple to the latest version. That was not so smart, because while installing the updates the computer suddenly became unstable and I had to turn it off. While restarting it I got a grey screen with the so-called kernel panic warning. Not good… I tried to restart the computer, but it was impossible: each time I got the same error message. Normally I would probably be very angry at my laptop (or actually at Apple) but because I just came back from vacation I was pretty relaxed. I decided to forget about work and send my computer to the Apple service center first thing in the morning.

I realized that my last back-up was almost 30 days old because for some reason my computer could not recognize my external HDD anymore during the past weeks. I had been too busy with work before my holiday, and had decided to wait until after the vacation to take care of the problem. I regretted that now, but most of the files that I had not backed up I could probably retrieve from my mails. So I sent the external HDD to the Apple service center as well on Monday morning, in case there would be a HDD problem with my laptop.

A few hours later the Apple guys called me, and guess what they told me? Both my normal HDD and my back up HDD had failed at the same time! Unbelievable. That a HDD breaks down every once in a while is normal, to me it happens once a year on average (I use my computer almost 24/7). So that’s why I make constant back-ups with time machine. The fact that the hard disk breaks down right at the end of a vacation when I am fully motivated to start working again is a bad timing already. But that at the same time also my back-up drive fails is something I could not make up. Murphy’s Law at work once again…

Today I sent both my laptop and my external drive to a data recovery company, hopefully they will be able to at least retrieve the data from one hard disk. If not, then… I don’t know yet. I could say that I would switch from Apple to Windows, but that’s so radical that it won’t happen soon. Next to the fact that hardware for Windows is not any better than Apple’s hardware (and often a lot worse, but that may have changed since I left the Windows OS about 5 years ago). Let’s hope for the best, I am still quite optimistic because I have 2 chances for data recovery. One thing is for sure, from now on I am going to make weekly back-ups at home and in the office. And I am also going to look at storing important data in the cloud, so this cannot happen again. Any recommendations for good services for this in China?

Update Sept. 17: The Apple service center sent the 2 HDD’s to the data recovery company but came back a day later saying that for both of them no data could be recovered… I still had to pay them of course, but it was not too expensive. Then one of the guys at Spil Games (he does not want to be named) played some magic and managed to bring the external HDD back to life! So now I have a back-up again and a working external hard disk. I wonder if I should sue the data recovery company, I feel they did not even look at the disks and just charged me some money. I told the Apple guy but he just said that I was lucky. Was I really lucky or did they just try to rip me off?

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  1. The same thing happened to me recently. My Vaio had a problem and I had to give it to the Sony Center to change a piece and reformat. I transferred all my data to an external HD and 3 days later, when I got the Vaio back and plugged my HD into it, my external HD had failed. Couldn't believe either. Luckily I had saved the most critical stuff on a USB key.

    Afterwards I searched for a better option. I recommend Encrypts and stores data in the cloud. Small footprint. 2 GB free, pro version is about 60 bucks a year. It's a good fire-and-forget solution.

  2. Even though I tend to be "All in the cloud" guy, I never thought about a cloud back up…that's a good idea that I'll digg deeper in the next few days.

    For my office I bought an Apple's TimeCapsule which back up all our Mac literally in real time (with Time Machine).

  3. Hmm I recognize some of the things here 🙂

    For my mac I use an external drive with a little programm called superduper.

    It allows you to create an exact copy of your drive to an external disc.. AND makes it bootable. So in this case, you just pick up the disc..plug it in any other mac laptop and you are back in business.

    Another advantage is that you can read the disc normally, and copy files from it. I believe this is something you can't do with timemachine.

    Restoring would be easy as well… plug a new harddisc in…let superduper copy all the stuff…and off you go!

  4. There are many advantages of saving the data in the cloud, I think. First, it's more of a fire and forget solution. The software does it in the background for you.

    Second and more importantly, it's saved in a different location. So if someone steals your laptop and drives, or you lose your suitcase, or they get destroyed in a car crash or fire, your data is still there in the cloud.

    Re: Dropbox, I use it and I love it, to share documents with my team. However it's not designed for back ups. It's also less convenient because it only synchs the files inside ONE folder (the dropbox folder). There is a hack around it but it's a hassle. With mozy (or solutions similar to it) you select entire folders anywhere you want and you are done.

    Right now I'm using the free mozy version (it's free up to 2 GB), which is actually enough to save most critical word and excel files, the ones that would really kill your business if you were to lose them. But I'm planning to upgrade to the paid version soon to just save it all (photos etc). Peace of mind is worth it.

  5. Making backups in the Cloudy that's all nice and fun, but how much space do you get there? We're talking "digital lives" here, I'm carrying files that are up to 10 years old in some cases: music, pictures, videos, etc… I do my external backup on a 1TB drive. Does any cloud service provide that? I doubt it highly.

    Marc: 1 HD failure a year seems like an awfully high rate, even if you're running your PC close to 24/7…

  6. I know that Dominik, the founder of Wuala, has a similar setup like yours. Maybe you could therefore have a look at their cloud backup software (now owned by LaCie):


    Disclaimer: I used to work for Wuala.

  7. Mozy has unlimited space – at this point. You are right that it might change in the future when the general population has 1 TB to store, but I think that's still a few years away. My guess is most people use less than 50 GB, which is why they can get away with the "unlimited" proposal.

    I use less than 100 GB myself. I don't bother to save music etc – it's all a couple of clicks away if you need to re-download it.

  8. I'm still reluctant to use 'in the cloud' solutions especially here in China. My internet speed in Xiamen is too unreliable to use outside China 'cloud'solutions. (Inside China I donot know if such a service exsist) Also what happens if they block such a website. Via VPN ? too slow, more unreliable. I bought a good NAS in Hongkong, and use that as my backup hooked on to my router.