Be safe, or be sorry!

This is what is called an NWR (Non Wine Related) post – don’t expect too many of them!

It’s been a tough few weeks for me recently since my computer hard drive suffered a catastrophic failure causing the eventual loss of all data on it.Without going into too much detail lets just say that the drive was not recognised by the system BIOS and, after I’d spent hours trying to get it working again, eventually it was no longer recognisable to anything or anybody!

Getting the computer up and working again was not a problem, within the day I had a shiny new Windows 7 installation with all my key software re-installed and configured (the benefits of working with computers every day), but sadly no data to work with. After much scrambling around checking old computer drives I managed to find a full set of data from late 2009. Digging deeper on memory sticks etc. I could add on some files from 2010 and a few photo albums over the last couple of years so that, in the end, the actual loss was less painful than first expected. Unfortunately my wine data was hit the hardest, including a virtual encyclopaedia of wine information gleaned from the internet and nearly all tasting notes during my life as the North East Wino (true, I’ve got the hand-written notes, but will I go back through all of them?).

Worse still my “Wine List” – the Excel spreadsheet I track all of my wine purchases on – was stuck in October 2010, barely recognisable to what I know I have scattered around the house in coolers and cupboards. I’ve managed to download data from CellarTracker to January 2012, which was when, for one reason or another, I stopped updating my on-line cellar (which I am now regretting) which means that I am having to very slowly piece together information on what I’ve bought & drunk over the last 10 months, plus where most of it is! I expect this to take several more weeks.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, except in my case I know all about the benefits of regular backups and data redundancy – part of my job is training system engineers where I hammer this point home, so this was a clear case of “Do what I say, not what I do”!

I have come to terms with all of this and have vowed to rebuild the data and expand my knowledge further in the process, just like going back to school again. It will take time of course, and I may never get round to re-starting the pieces I’d worked on about Tokaji, the Geology of Terroir, the real costs of making a bottle of wine and several other “unfinished works”.

This weekend sees the start of a round of local wine events which should give me enough new material to start with: Carruther’s & Kent’s 3rd Wine Fair at As You Like it in Jesmond; Bin 21’s Wine Fair at the Beaumont Hotel in Hexham; The Sage Gateshead’s Wine and Food Fair; and this year’s remaining NEWTS meetings and Christmas meal. Remember to check out the NEWTS “Local Events” page to keep updated on what’s on where in the region.

Meanwhile I am not going to make the same mistake again and now have a backup hard drive installed in my PC which I will use to store a drive image and regular data dumps. I have also taken advantage of Amazon’s free 5GB of Cloud Storage for key files and I have a separate data cartridge system to store Acronis True Image backups of my system partition & other files and folders. I may even start using Cellar Tracker again – once I have my wine list back in some usable state!

If, like me, you have a detailed digital life, then make sure you take precautions against the trials and tribulations of modern technology. I was prepared for an O/S corruption or more typical disk errors, but not the complete failure I encountered. In the same way virus and malware terrorists are getting more devious in effects (only a few months ago I spent a couple of hours cleaning off one of those fake “Police lock” hijack scams). So;

  • Do regular data backups to external media, USB HDDs, memory sticks, SD Cards or Cloud Storage.
  • Make a Windows bootable system repair CD for emergencies
  • Look at making Disk Images. Windows 7 in-built is slow and space consuming, but it works. Acronis True Image is a damn sight better.
  • Do regular Windows Restore points – for Windows 7 they work really well for minor problems with the O/S or registry.
  • Check your Firewall, Malware & Anti-virus options – even if it’s just the free Microsoft Security Essentials.

Be safe, or be sorry…like I was!


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