by Eldred Bird
It started like any other writing session. Drink in hand, I made my way to my office and plopped down in front of the computer. The welcome glow of the monitor lit my face as I settled in for what I felt would finally be a productive writing session—my first in quite some time.
Fresh ideas swirled as I opened the data directory and positioned the mouse pointer over my current work in progress. I clicked the button and waited. Nothing. I clicked again. Still nothing. I double-clicked and triple-clicked.
Panic began to set in as I attempted to open folder after folder. Still nothing! I listened for the familiar whir of the Network Attached Storage (NAS) on my desk next to the router but was met with silence.
I rebooted the drive, hoping beyond hope it would reconnect. I could hear the drive spin up, the heads jumping back and forth across the surface of the disc, searching for the missing ones and zeros that made up my life’s work.
The drive slowed, and then it stopped. I tried again, then again, with no success. Death hung heavy in the silence.
My data was gone.
A real modern horror story, right? The scariest part is this actually happened. To me. This month. The NAS running the private cloud in my home failed one week before I was going to replace it with a newer model. All my writing, as well photos and household data, were inaccessible.
Adding to the stress was the fact that I hadn’t run a full back-up in years. How embarrassing is that? I was an IT guy in my pre-writing life. I know better than to get into this predicament. But, between crazy life and parental strife, that vital habit had fallen by the wayside.
It felt like my entire life had been wiped out.
The first step in recovering from this kind of failure is don’t panic. (I know, I know. Easier said than done).
Remaining calm is key to not causing more damage.
Here are the steps, in order, to increase your chances of recovering from this kind of crisis:
Unplugging the power and network connections are the first steps in preventing further data loss. If you’re dealing with an internal drive, shut the computer down. Shutting things down will prevent further physical damage to the surface of the disc, increasing your chances of recovery.
Unless you do data recovery for a living, don’t mess with it yourself. Odds are you will only make it worse. As I mentioned, I’m a retired network engineer and IT professional, but I recognized very quickly that this was beyond my skillset.
Not all data recovery firms are created equal. Price is a consideration, but reviews are more important. You may only get one chance at this, so be picky and ask a lot of questions.
If you’re in the Phoenix area, I highly recommend Desert Data Recovery. They work miracles and do it at a reasonable price. Nicky also has a lovely British accent that’s very calming, a more important quality than you might think in the middle of a crisis.
While your drive is with your chosen recovery service, search for older versions of files in case your data can’t be retrieved.
Places to look might be old external drives and memory sticks floating around the house or office. Also, check out the Recycle Bin on your computer’s desktop. If you haven’t emptied it, there may be previous versions of your work you can use to rebuild. If you have an online cloud account, check to see if any of your data is backed there.
Even empty drives and memory sticks may yield some data when you run an Undelete utility on them. There are a lot of choices out there, but my personal favorite is Glarysoft File Recovery. They have a free version that works well, but for big jobs I would recommend the pro version.
The good news is that my story has a happier ending than most. The data recovery service was able to fully recover 100% of my files from the malfunctioning drive.
I immediately made a full copy of the recovered files and put it in my safe in case there were any other problems during the restoration process. Crisis averted…for now.
As you can probably guess, things are going to be much different in the Bird house going forward. Backing up data will be taking a much higher priority.
To make the process easier, here are the steps I’m taking:
As I am restoring my data to the new NAS, I’m taking the opportunity to reorganize the files and folders into a more logical order. This will help speed the backup process, as some files are updated more often than others and require more frequent maintenance.
One thing I’ve found a lot of while going through the recovered data are multiple copies of files, especially images, strewn around the drive inside various folders. I’m terrible about remembering where I’ve saved things and then end up resaving them somewhere else.
Eliminating the duplicates not only saves drive space, it also speeds up the backup process because there’s less to backup.
The most important change being made is the regular scheduling of backups. I can assure you that these will be performed religiously in the future!
In addition to the new network drive, I now have two additional large-capacity external drives that will be put into rotation. The latest backup will be stored in our fire-safe and the older one will be plugged into my desktop computer.
Backups will run automatically from the desktop computer, as it’s the one machine in the house that is always up. After each backup runs, the external drives will be swapped with the latest going back into the safe.
After going through this experience, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of regular backups. There are so many options that there’s no excuse anymore. Cloud services like OneDrive, Apple’s iDrive, and a multitude of other online services make it easy to keep your important data safe. Removable drives, USB drives, and network attached storages are also options.
Bottom line—find something that works for you and then use it!
Do you have a backup strategy? How consistent are you at backing up your files? Share what works (or doesn’t) for you in the comments below.
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Eldred Bird writes contemporary fiction, short stories, and personal essays. He has spent a great deal of time exploring the deserts, forests, and deep canyons inside his home state of Arizona. His James McCarthy adventures, Killing Karma, Catching Karma, and Cold Karma, reflect this love of the Grand Canyon State even as his character solves mysteries amidst danger. Eldred explores the boundaries of short fiction in his stories, The Waking Room, Treble in Paradise: A Tale of Sax and Violins, and The Smell of Fear.
When he’s not writing, Eldred spends time cycling, hiking, and juggling (yes, juggling…bowling balls and 21-inch knives). His passion for photography allows him to record his travels. He can be found on Twitter or Facebook, or at his website.
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