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Where has all the bad storage gone?

It's all too darn good these days

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Comment Spare a thought for the humble storage columnist looking for targets to skewer. It's a tricky job if you want to sound off - everything is just so basically good these days, and with no stand-out dismal products, what is there to knock?

It was different a few years ago. Ever tried backing up your PC to Travan tape? I made that mistake and it was a great introduction to the concept of geological time; the bloody thing stopped and started like a kangaroo tied to the spot with a bungee cord. It took so long to back up files that I went bald waiting.

The backup software was a dog and perfectly matched the awful Travan hardware. I tried restoring a file because I thought it a good idea to practise, but it would have been less painful burning my ear with a blowtorch. Finding the file in the backup software's catalogue, mounting the tape and then paring down my nails, my fingers, my thumbs, my hands and most of my arms while the backup software found the file on the tape and then restored it was an exercise in self-inflicted torture.

Just when you thought the glacial backup flow had completed, the software would proudly announce a verification run to make sure that the data really was backed up, and the Friday evening dinner date had better be put back another two hours while it laboriously and tediously examined every dratted bit of data on the tape that went through the drive as fast as a nervous nanny driving a Nissan Micra with newborn puppies on the front seat.

But the alternatives were no better. There was some crappy software that backed up files onto little 3-inch floppy disks in plastic cases and I had one of those plastic containers with dividers that stored 30 floppies, plus labels that I laboriously dated and marked '15 of 30'. You can imagine what happened - floppies got put back in the wrong place. I was sticking floppies in and out of the drive like a slot machine junky and spending so much time doing this that it was farcical. Then, of course, I dropped the container and 30 floppies with peeling, semi-legible labels went all over the floor and behind the PC into cable clutter land.

Burning files to CD was my next attempt at personal data protection. The burning SW was sort of OK at first, once you realised Windows could only burn a CD and not do anything else at all because the CD burning session would fail. But it soon became temperamental saying there was no CD in the drive when there was, and then saying it wasn't the right sort of CD. I never found simple-to-use backup software that could burn files to a CD.

Then fairly near-heaven arrived - the external drive. Oh joy, no need for backup software, that invention of the devil, as you just dragged and dropped files. The backup software producers persisted for what seemed like ages writing quasi tape files to the external disk. A failure of imagination doesn't seem the right term to use to describe such a complete lack of vision. I didn't want tape files on disk; I wanted disk files on disk. What's hard about that?

So, of course I just dragged and dropped files, as you do, and forgot that certain files had been changed or were new and didn't back them up - and then the system hard drive, that offspring of a motherless dog, crashed and the files were gone.

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