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Disaster Recovered


By Michael Evans

ON THIS BLOG I have had a lot to say about data security, backup and the need for belts and braces. This week disaster struck and it was all of my own making. Late one evening a few days ago, I was intending to delete a backup volume on an external hard drive. I'd set everything up in the Path Finder window and was about to press the red button when the phone rang and I was distracted for four or five minutes. When I returned to the computer I confidently pressed the delete key and a millisecond later noticed the highlight was not on the backup volume but on the main drive of my MacBook Pro. Disaster! The whole system went down the pan, along with any chance of "restoring" lost data. Dead computer, much wailing and gnashing of teeth. So much for all my advice. 

Then ensued an interesting (in the Confucian sense) and productive day. Fortunately, I did have backups for all my data and my OS X disks were to hand (I now know why I've been carrying them around for years). I took the opportunity to go for a clean installation and added only those applications I use regularly, ditching several that had not been touched for years. I had quite a bit of fiddling to do, including re-entering registration codes. Fortnately I run the excellent LicenseKeeper software so I had everything in one place (see main screen below).LicenseKeeper-MainWindow-Medium

Carbonite, my absolute last-ditch off-site repository of data, had to be downloaded and reinstalled. I got a helpful email from Carbonite to advise of this action, just in case someone else was attempting to download my data. The application started in Recovery Mode but I had no need to recover files, so enabled backup immediately. The system then scanned my newly installed disk and determined which files needed to be amended. Since I'd done a new install, there was nearly 6GB of stuff to upload. For the time being, since I'm abroad and enjoying poor upload bandwidth, I've suspended operations until I return to London. However, I now have renewed confidence in Carbonite which is really there only in case of total disaster–such as fire or theft of all backups, Drobo and all.

The one application I did not reinstall is PGP Whole Disk Encryption. This system had been working faultlessly for eight months and I have nothing but praise for the way in which it offers total security. However, I am leaving the disk unencrypted for the time being until I can install Snow Leopard. I know from the PGP forum that it is necessary to unencrypt the disk before a major operating system update, so I will wait until I have Snow Leopard up and running next month. Without a doubt, though, I will return to PGP since it is such a seamless and safe option.


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