Extend The Life Of Your Hard Drive

Eventually, every single hard drive at your company will fail. No hard drive is meant to last forever. The longest likely lifespan for a hard drive is 5 years…and that’s a generous estimate. It’s more likely that your hard drive will fail much sooner. However, there are ways you can take care of your hard drive to extend its life.

Data Backup
But first, we must note the importance of backing up date. This is critical for businesses of any shape and size, especially those that store data that would take days or weeks to replicate if lost…or businesses that store data that can’t be replicated at all. For example, say you are graphic design firm and you ignore the importance of backing up data. Suddenly, your employee’s hard drive fails (because it will at some point). That data is no where else to be found and now your employee must spend weeks replicating the work he already did. The fallout from data loss can be massive: angry clients who need their work done, wasted time, wasted money, and loss of customer trust.

For backup, we recommend a tri-fold approach that stores data in three places: on the hard drive of the computer, on an external local backup, and on an offsite backup. The offsite backup is crucial because if your business location suffers from a flood, fire, or other natural disaster, all of your data is gone if it is only stored on site. For offsite backup, the only thing we recommend is Carbonite, a cloud backup solution that continually backs up data so you don’t even have to think about it.

Back to the main point of this blog, let’s talk about how you can increase the longevity of your hard drive and save some time and money in the process.

Handle with care
Hard drives consist of a glass plate, a spinning head, and a read & write head. When your device is turned on, the hard drive is always spinning and when you are writing to the hard drive, the read and write head is moving back and forth. Whether it’s a laptop, desktop computer, or external drive you can’t shake it around, drop it on the floor, and move it a lot. You could reduce its lifespan or break it all together. With desktops and external drives, never move them when the hard drive is spinning (when the computer is on). If you must move them, make sure the device is powered down completely. Laptops are made to be a little more rugged but you should still avoid moving them when the hard drive is reading and writing. Put the laptop to sleep when you move it to get the maximum lifespan out of your drive.

Control the temperature
One of the biggest causes of early hard drive failure is overheating. The heat that a computer puts off causes the header and plate to expand and possibly collide, rendering the hard drive useless. It was found that the best temperature for a hard drive is 30-40 degrees Celsius, according to How To Geek. If your hard drive is running hot, you can use special fans to cool it down..

Defragment your drive
Fragmentation happens when your hard drive starts to fill up and stick data anywhere that it can find space. It is a lot of work for the hard drive to then search for that data. This hard work reduces the overall lifespan of your drive. Defragmenting helps reduce the amount of time that your read and write head looks for data. Give your hard drive a break by defragmenting it.

Shut it down
Though it has never been proven that shutting down your device is good for your hard drive, it can’t hurt to shut it down at least at night. If you are running a business and you have many computers, this will save you a lot of money on energy bills. If you are not going to use a device for many hours, it is best to shut it down completely. If you use your device on and off throughout the day, it is best to leave the computer on. This is because hard drives use the most power when they are running and when they are powering up.

Use a solid state drive
If you can’t get past the hard drive limitations, you should consider using a solid state drive instead. Solid state drives don’t have moving parts and therefore are much more durable, shock resistant, and they run cool. What’s the catch? They are expensive and you get a lot less storage for your dollar. However, if your company can afford it, it is a wise investment to move data over to solid state drives.

TurboTax Resumes Filing After Fraudulent Returns

Late last week, TurboTax, the online tax return filing software, turned off its state filing feature for all states after the discovery that fraudulent returns had been filed, according to USA Today. Stolen personal data had been used to file fake state returns allowing criminals to claim tax refunds.

TurboTax’s state filing feature has resumed after an investigation found that the fake returns were not a result of TurboTax’s systems, but a result of data stolen elsewhere.

“We are taking this issue very seriously and from the moment it emerged it has been all-hands-on-deck,” says Brad Smith, CEO of TurboTax parent company Intuit. “I am more than pleased we were able to resume transmission for our customers within about 24 hours.”

According to USA Today, two customers from Minnesota logged onto TurboTax to find their state returns already filed, prompting the state of Minnesota to no longer accept electronically submitted filings using TurboTax. In addition, the state of Utah discovered 28 fraud attempts.

The fear of personal data breaches is heightened after last week’s Anthem Health Insurance hack, where the names, addresses, email addresses, social security numbers, and income levels of 80 million people were stolen. According to MarketWatch, this kind of data makes it easy for a criminal to file a fake tax return. Much of this data is sold on the black market in bulk. Criminals will set up in a hotel room and file return after return.

Fraudulent tax returns are all too common. In 2013, the IRS paid $5.2 billion in refunds to fraudulent identities.

Happy Data Privacy Day!

Today marks Data Privacy Day all across the globe. It is a day when people everywhere are reminded of the importance of keeping personal information safe online. After the attacks on Sony, JP Morgan, and Staples, and many other large corporations and with the rampant use of stolen payment credentials, data privacy is now more important than ever. And it can only get worse as more and more everyday items are being connected to the internet.

Individuals and businesses need every data protection reminder they can get. Thankfully, security is starting to keep up with the ever-changing technology. According to USA Today, Michael Kaiser, director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, said the future of cyber security is right around the corner.

“There’s a ton of stuff coming, it will address fundamental, ecosystem-wide flaws in the system,” said Kaiser.

The future protection tools may include software or gadgets that know if it’s really the right person logging in to a device.

While online tools and gadgets are important, they will never take the place of personal responsibility and staying smart online. There are countless ways an identity can be stolen. This can be a headache for consumers. However, a worse headache would be when all of your bank accounts are drained by hackers. Here are catmandu’s best tips for protecting your identity and your data:

  1. Don’t put anything you wouldn’t want seen online. This includes watching what you write in private emails and messages, in a Google Doc, anywhere. Think about the embarrassing Sony Executives’ emails.
  2. Don’t use the same email or pin number for every account. If one gets hacked, they all get hacked.
  3. Turn on two-step verification for any account that allows it.
  4. Be wary of ALL emails, especially those with attachments, and NEVER give out login credentials or credit card numbers via email no matter who is asking.
  5. Unfortunately, you have to think before clicking any link online. Install a free antivirus like Avast, which will place a handy green checkmark beside links that are okay to click.
  6. On your phone, always require a passcode. It takes no technical skill whatsoever for someone who finds your lost phone to steal valuable information. Also, install an app that allows you to access your phone remotely and erase its content if necessary.
  7. When connecting to Wi-Fi, be sure that your home connection requires a password. When using a public connection, don’t engage in transactions you want to keep private like online shopping or accessing your bank account.
  8. Protect yourself with a good firewall and security software. This is the cornerstone of stopping hackers from gaining access to your devices. The slogan of Data Privacy Day says it best: “Stop. Think. Connect.”

Healthcare.gov Shares Your Personal Information

An individual’s age, zip code, income level, whether or not they smoke or are pregnant, and more information is now the knowledge of third party websites that will use the information to serve consumers ads online. The Associated Press reports that the website can obtain a computer’s IP address, which, when mixed with other information can locate a person’s address or name. Researchers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation have confirmed that sites such as Google, Yahoo, Twitter, YouTube, and many more have received this personal data. The site Doubleclick, which has obtained information, has the ability to match this data up with an already vast collection of online reading and buying habits, thus creating a detailed account of an individual. Healthcare.gov is sending this data even if a user has turned on Do Not Track, according to Gigaom.com. The third party sites are prohibited from using the data for their own use but the Obama Administration did not explain how they would monitor and control the use of the data. Instead, Administration spokesman Aaron Albright said that the government is only using the personal information to create “a simpler, more streamlined and intuitive experience” on Healthcare.gov. (AP) This all comes in the wake of President Obama’s new plans to protect personal data online and make corporations responsible for the data they store. The dangers go deeper than information used to serve advertisements. If one of the third party sites was breached by a hacker, millions of individuals’ private data would be exposed and as the world has seen in recent events, the possibility of this happening is extremely high. “You don’t need all of that data to do customer service,” said Theresa Payton to AP, former White House chief information officer. “We know hackers are just waiting at the door, salivating to get at this data.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation recommends installing Privacy Badger, which will block these third party connections.

The #2 Most Asked Question at cat-man-du [VIDEO]

The #1 most asked question at cat-man-du is “How did my PC get infected?” and I’ll be blogging on this soon enough. Today I want to focus on the #2 question “How did my hard drive fail (crash)?”

The simple answer is – Because a hard drive is a mechanical device, it has moving parts and when those moving parts fail or even have a tiny hiccup – your data can be lost. The best thing to remember is this – ALL HARD DRIVES WILL FAIL. Yep, every single hard drive is a ticking time bomb and it’s not a question of “if” but one of “when”.

If you take a close look at the picture on the left, you’ll see a hard drive that a cat-man-du guru took apart so we could see the inner workings. Notice anything familiar about the design? If you guessed “it kind of looks like a record player” then you just figured out more than the average computer user knows about hard drives.

Want to learn more – read on.

A hard drive (the basic design) has many things in common with record players. The information you save and the programs you install on your desktop or laptop reside on the mirrored platter you see in the photo. The disk(s) inside a hard drive are coated with a substance which is magnetized. Attached to an actuator arm is a “head” which is very similar to the arm, head and needle of a record player. At the very tip (where the record player needle would be) is a small bead of ferrite material with a coil wrapped around it.

As the computer user saves data, installs programs and opens files, electrical pulses are passed through the head, creating a pulse for a one and a reverse pulse for a zero.
The ones and zeros make up all the information stored within a PC or Mac. All those ones and zeros are just hanging out on the spinning silver platter (which turns at anywhere from 5400 RPM to 7200 RPM). How fast is a drive platter spinning? 7200 RPM equals about 75 miles an hour.
While all this is happening the actuator arm is moving back and forth across the platter faster than the eye can see saving and retrieving information. If even the smallest dust particle gets in the way of all this high-speed magnetic storage action, it could scratch the platter, interfere with the head and cause all the data to go to info heaven.
When a hard drive fails you need a service called data recovery which can be as simple as removing the drive and making a copy of the ones and zeros to a new drive. It can be a little more tricky the worse that the drive “crash” is. Data can sometimes be saved from failing hard drives using specialized software but if the mechanics inside the drive have failed, the drive has to be sent off to a clean room to be disassembled and the data retrieved – which can be very expensive.
Purchasing a hard drive from a brand that has a proven track record of brining reliable drives to market can also help. Cheaper hard drives are made cheaper and result in a higher failure rate. While there is no manufacturer that can get it right 100% of the time, we have partnered with Western Digital as our sole supplier of hard drives due to their great customer service and fewer failures (not zero failures).
So to sum it all up:
  1. Your hard drive IS GOING TO FAIL
  2. Hard drives are kind of like record players
  3. All your photos, documents, programs, music and videos are floating around on top of a metal platter
  4. Hard drives are imperfect mechanical machines that do awesome things with magnetism

So what do you/ should you do? You’ve heard it before – read on:

Back up your data!

Hard drive manufacturers, computer technicians and technology service providers are not responsible, nor do they warranty or guarantee your data. You are all on your own when it comes to being responsible for keeping your information from vanishing into thin air.

There are many solutions for backing up data, the best ones are the ones in the cloud. MozyHome Free, and Carbonite are two great places to setup an automated backup that will be in the safe (mostly) reliable (mostly) cloud.

Another option is to store your data in the cloud and skip the drive all together (this doesn’t replace a backup). Those with a Google account can use Google Drive to store many different types of information and Dropbox also has free cloud storage.

For businesses who need a cloud based backup solution, our business division (cat.man.du IT) has a great solution for you.

To wrap this all up, here is a great YouTube video that the Department of Design and Multimedia at The University of Nicosia put together to demonstrate how a hard drive works – enjoy!