#182 Catastrophic Failure, or, Have Some Coffee


(Note: I've received a weird and bewildering amount of criticism for this post regarding the mention of  "Apple" and other corporate logos. If you've ever read a tech blog then you know you have to mention the hardware and software used or it's meaningless. This post was simply intended to mention that backups and cloud servers can save your ass in the short term. I'm not endorsing any particular system or method. Do what works for you. On to the post.) 

Thursday morning I opened up my computer, like I do most days, and sat down to see who the NSA was listening too, what craziness the Texas School Board was trying to promote, and how many faith-based laws conservatives were trying to force on everyone. So, pretty much a normal day in America.

I’d stepped away from my computer to get some coffee and when I came back it was on the login screen. Must have restarted. So, I logged in and the desktop came back normally. I decided to run Disk Utility and “repair permissions” just to make sure everything was still running smoothly. The program said it couldn’t complete the task because there was an error and that I’d have to reboot into a special disk utility program to continue.

Before I go on, I have a 2011 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.2 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 750GB hard drive, and 16GB of 1333 MHz DDR3 memory.

So, I used the boot screen disk utility and it gave me the same error. Said there was a problem and that I’d have to boot from a backup or a disk. Shit. I tried to just restart the computer so I could do some online research. Wouldn’t get past the spinning wheel of death prior to the login screen without shutting itself down. Damn.

I took the computer to the Apple store since they will usually help you with your Apple products even if you didn’t buy them there or if they are out of the warranty period. They ran a diagnostic on it and the hard drive failed it. That was pretty much it. Hard drive failure. It cost me $200 to have it replaced.

Overall, it was a pleasant experience. Why am I not more pissed?

First, hard drives, or anything, really, don’t usually fail on Apple computers. I have a 2007 13 inch MacBook that runs 24 hours a day in my library. It is there solely to wirelessly connect to our 2TB external hard drive and give us access to the movies, TV shows, and other media we have stored on there. It allows those things to be displayed on our Apple TV. So, I’m not mad at Apple. Things fail.

Second, I had everything backed up and/or stored in the cloud.

Time Machine Backup

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My primary line of defense goes back to that 2TB external hard drive. I use an Apple App called Time Machine (comes with every computer) to wirelessly back up my data every hour or so. It doesn’t do a full backup every hour, just the changes from the last one. That allows me to go back in time on a single folder and restore files I deleted months ago. I have just under 500GB of data on my Mac and the backup takes up about 350 GB thanks to compression.

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The Cloud and All It’s Silver Linings

Also, ALL of my business data, templates, reports, references, accounting, logos, whatever, is stored on an upgraded, 100GB, DropBox account. When I get a little more money I’ll probably switch to Carbonite. Haven’t done that yet, though.

I also have a massive amount of data and notes stored in Evernote. I use Evrnote for keeping track of business contacts, business development, and a variety of other things. I also have a few things stored in Google Drive but I don’t use it much since it’s only 5GB.

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Well, I picked up the laptop yesterday morning at 10am when the store opened. I was home by 1015 and I started the restore process. Since I restored it from the time machine backup over my wifi network it took about nine hours. If I’d done it while plugged in to the drive it would have taken half that time. However, I needed the day to catch up on blog reading and to do a little research so I let it run.

When the restore finished I looked through my computer. Everything was exactly how I’d left it. Even the desktop wallpaper was restored. I had almost 7,000 songs in my iTunes App and they all came back too. Although, the songs came back because I subscribe to iTunes Match from Apple. All of my songs, including ones they don’t sell, are stored on Apple servers for me to access from any device anywhere in the world.

I also had over 12,000 pictures from the past 10+ years in my Aperture App. They all came back too.

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For years I’ve been telling people to back up their stuff because you never know. Well, since I use Apple products this is the first time I’ve ever had to use a backup. I’ll admit that I was somewhat skeptical and didn’t really know how much was going to come back. I thought that maybe just the user data and some app data would come back but that I’d have to do all the software upgrades from the past two years again or that I’d have to re-download software that I’ve installed. Nope. It’s all just there.

So, store as much as you can in the cloud and have a backup. The only thing I’d change about my set up is that my primary backup is in my house. Ideally it should be somewhere else just in case the house burns down. Of course I’d still have my cloud data so I’d be fine, but, it would be nice to have the backup. That’s what Carbonite does for you. It’s an online service that you backup  your computer to. It’s not cheap, but, it’s better than losing everything.

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OK. Time to prepare for the CRM Archaeology Podcast Episode 10 recording and get some more coffee with Bailey’s! I can do that because my computer is just fine…

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!