Laughing your way through data disasters

Storage is a serious business, but when things screw up in a chronic manner, sometimes all you can do is cackle louder than Jeanne Little and then get on with cleaning up the mess.

Storage is a serious business, but when things screw up in a chronic manner, sometimes all you can do is cackle louder than Jeanne Little and then get on with cleaning up the mess.

I was reminded of this during the week when Ontrack Data Recovery released its annual list of major disasters that have befallen its customers in the preceding year.

My own personal best-ever data disaster involved more or less pouring an alcoholic drink into the keyboard of my notebook, a monumentally clottish move but one which I don't feel so bad about now that I've seen what else people do to their unsuspecting systems.

One scientist apparently spilt acid on an external hard drive, but was still able to use it after expert intervention. My port-soaked laptop also remained functional after my decidedly non-expert intervention, though the letter J was never quite the same.

Some situations are more dramatic. After one company's office burnt down, one of the few objects to survive were CDs containing crucial data. Unfortunately, the discs had melted to the insides of their cases. This could be viewed as an argument for using steel spindles instead -- though really it's just another reminder that when it comes to backup, offsite is best.

Ontrack's tap-ranked disaster was the photographer in Thailand who found ants in his hard drive and proceeded to spray the internals with insect repellent. Rather than making the obvious bug gag here, I'm going to reflect on what possible activity might make somebody visiting Thailand think attacking their drive with a corrosive chemical was a good idea.

Presumably the rest of the trip featured a different kind of high drama.

I was a tad disturbed to learn, however, that if you put a USB stick through a washing cycle, there's pretty much nothing you can do. That's where being slimline has its advantages: it's hard to cram a CD into your trouser pockets, although admittedly it gets easier if you're wearing trackpants.