Monday, December 6

Hard drives end up crashing, but you can avoid disaster with a 3-2-1 backup strategy

Has your hard drive ever failed you? Until it touches you (and it may end up touching you) you don’t know the nightmare you face. Goodbye to private documents and especially to those photos and videos of family and friends with moments that will now be forgotten.

The reality, dear readers, is that hard drives end up failing. Not all, of course, but a surprisingly high number. The latest Backblaze study confirms this, but that doesn’t mean we can’t protect ourselves from that threat: there is a backup strategy called 3-2-1 which is precisely designed so that your data is always safe from these and other disasters (including ransomware, of course).

How much (and how often) do hard drives fail?

The cloud storage company Backblaze has been publishing its conclusions on the segment of traditional hard drives for years: their massive use of drives of this type has allowed them to compile a large amount of data that allows them to analyze the performance of these drives and , above all, the reliability they offer. Its latest edition confirms once again that hard drives are not foolproof.

The failure rate when the hard drive reaches four years of life is worrisome, but beware of that somewhat misleading graph: not starting from zero on a graph is evil, but doing it in one with percentages is even worse.

In this graph, for example, the problem to which these units are subject is evident. It is rare for them to fail after the first year or two, but When you’ve been with the same unit for four years, you’re exposed for those drives to give you the odd scare that could end up with your inaccessible data.

The solution? Obviously have backups. The Backblaze studios are a suggestive reminder of this, but they are obviously interested party: they offer a cloud storage service for you to save your data on it.


Be that as it may, their data is objective, based on their own experience – they use thousands of storage units of different brands and capacities – and they serve to demonstrate that indeed your data is in danger if you don’t have any backup strategy. Which is precisely what we are going to propose to you right now.

The 3-2-1 backup strategy

The Backblaze managers themselves spoke of this strategy – also recommended by the US-CERT– when it comes to having your data protected with several backup copies, and the principle on which this strategy is based is very simple: diversify those backups or backups.

Disco External

There are other options when it comes to securing data, and it is certainly not a bad idea to combine this strategy with equally valid systems such as RAID configurations or different storage media (we’ll talk about that later). If we focus on this strategy, the keys are the following:

  • 3: Manage 3 copies of any important file: 1 main and 2 backups.
  • 2: Keep files in 2 different types of storage to protect them against different risks.
  • 1: Store 1 backup copy outside our home or office.

If we translate those rules to a practical example, the idea would be simple. Imagine that we have a file called foto.jpg with a familiar image that we want to keep safe.

For this we will have to have 3 copies of that file, and to meet those requirements we would have to have the image in our team for example, on an external hard drive and also in a cloud storage service. As the last point of this strategy indicates, the external hard drive must also be in another place (for example, our parents’ house).

What is the safest option for long-term backups?

The Backblaze data shows that traditional hard drives can end up failing sooner or later, so is there a storage medium that ensures that our data is protected longer without problems? That kind of long-term storage, which is also known as cold storage, is another of the areas in which there are doubts without a clear answer.


The question is a delicate one and there are no long-term studies in this area. Manufacturers of different types of storage promise a series of features that are usually limited to a relatively short period of time (a few years), but what happens if you think about showing those photos or videos to your children in 20 years, when they are adults? What is the best way to protect that data?

There is no clear consensus on this, especially since although such hard drive failure rates are present in many drives, there are many cases where those hard drives end up conserving data well after many years. Surely among our readers there are those who continue to use that PC or laptop with a hard drive from 10 years ago (or more) and everything continues to work the same, and the same goes for those CDs and DVDs that we also recorded a decade or more ago and that continue to behave perfectly when we insert them in a CD or DVD player.


The same could be said of the discos Blu-ray, which are very attractive for their storage capacity but are affected by the same problems as CDs and DVDs. However, the technological improvements in this format seem to have converted in an interesting candidate for some companies. Facebook, in fact, uses specialized units of Panasonic What part of your system long-term storage.

These optical media may not have been intended for long-term storage, but a company called Millenniata presented in 2009 their M-DISC, a disc that could be both a DVD and a Blu-ray Disc and that was characterized by the longevity of the stored data, which the manufacturer estimated at no less than 1,000 years thanks to a special carbon layer that protects the recorded data. The discs can be read in conventional units, although to record them we will need a special unit such as those manufactured by LG, ASUS or Lite-On.

The SSD drives that are eating the storage market they are not without risk either. Although their transfer speeds are spectacular, they can end up crashing too. That is precisely what defines the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures), which each manufacturer estimates in millions of hours.

In the Samsung EVO 960, for example, 1.5 million hours are estimated, and other units are also around that figure. It’s many hours, sure, but remember: that, for better or for worse, is an average estimate. A study conducted by Google in 2016 determined that the failure rate is lower than that of hard drives, but the rate of non-recoverable bit errors was higher. Something even more important: It is the age of the SSD and not how much we use it that ends up affecting its reliability.

There are other alternatives such as the “old” magnetic tapes – the quotation marks in the old they are purposely put– that are still used in business environments but that they have hardly any presence in the end user segment. Perhaps the best thing is to combine all of them … and cross your fingers.

Image | Unsplash
In Engadget | If you are going to buy a hard drive, pay attention to these models: they are the ones that seem to fail the most

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *