How stupid is this stupid hard drive question?
August 15, 2012 1:08 PM   Subscribe

How bad an idea is storing my backup disks (hard drives in my car)?

I'll keep this short.

I'm a photographer (not professional anymore but wicked seriouz). I'd like to be backing up my photos monthly to hard drives that I keep off case of fire, theft, etc.

For quite a while I kept my hard drives in the trunk of my car, which lives on the street. Obviously there is a risk of theft, but I figured it was unlikely that my car and my house would get robbed the same night, so if I did lose my drives, I could still backup my computer.

Then someone mentioned that it does get painfully hot in a locked car in the summer. Yup. Hadn't thought of that one.

So...leaving a hard drive long term in the hatchback of a parked car, is that likely to do damage over the long term? It's just a convenient solution for me, I can keep the drive offsite enough that I figure a common accident would be unlikely to force me to lose both my computer and my backup drive at the same time, but close enough that updating it regularly is pretty convenient.

But if the drive is going to get destroyed (note: these drives stored like this have worked fine) I should probably find another solution.

posted by sully75 to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
I'm assuming these are not solid-state drives. In theory you should be fine, as long as the drives aren't spinning around in 120F heat there's little chance they'll be damaged. You probably should, however let them cool down to room temp before using them again, just be safe.

On the other hand, any reason why you can't just get a safety deposit box at your bank? That would be an even better solution.
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:13 PM on August 15, 2012

It seems like a really amateurish backup solution. Besides the drawbacks you mentioned, I suppose mechanical damage from the car's motion is a worry. If your work is very important to you, a proper backup service that you pay for is indicated, in my opinion.
posted by thelonius at 1:14 PM on August 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Upload that shit to the cloud.

Last week I had a tree branch fall on my car. Could have been the whole tree. You can keep backups off site, but the Cloud is a pretty great place to park stuff.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:15 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'd also be worried about the vibration of living in a car. Are they in a well-padded box?

The heat might not be a problem: it gets awfully hot in a locked car, but a running hard drive get a lot hotter than ambient. So a powered-off hard drive in a hot car might not be any hotter than it's designed to be.

I'm a little dubious about the idea but as long as you assume these drives will fail a bit earlier than you expect it seems workable. A safe-deposit box or a drawer in a friend's house would be better, though.
posted by hattifattener at 1:15 PM on August 15, 2012

I'd guess that it's safer to store backups in your house than in the trunk of your car.

It is highly unlikely that your house is going to burn down, or that in the event of a robbery, your backup hard drives would be stolen (unless you're at risk for corporate espionage or something).

I'm pretty sure there's a strong risk of accidentally destroying a hard drive in a car.

Even if the heat wouldn't necessarily ruin the drives, think of all the accidents that can befall a car. What if your groceries spring a leak and the drives get wet? What if they get crushed under something? What if you take the car to get vacuumed out/detailed/valet parked, and they get stolen? What if you're in a car accident and they're destroyed? What if someone sees them, assumes they're valuable*, and breaks into your car? What if you come to a quick stop and they slide down into a part of the car that's difficult to access?

Assuming we're talking about amateur photography that is important for personal reasons, storing your backup drives in your house should be fine. Lock them in a well-hidden strongbox if you're really worried about burglary.

*I once had a car broken into for the sake of a 5 year old broken cell phone, so yes, this is a much bigger risk than the drives being stolen from your house in a burglary.
posted by Sara C. at 1:22 PM on August 15, 2012

dude: a flickr account is $25 a year and will store EVERYTHING you have, as neatly categorized as you're capable of doing.
posted by lia at 1:23 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't think it's a good idea for all the reasons people have listed above. Why acerbate a car accident with data loss? Get a safe deposit box. Get a spare drive and install it in the computer of your buddy with a good connection and back up to it with something like CrashPlan. Buy some cloud storage. Better still, do two or more of these, or similar things.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 1:33 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you keep your backups at your place of employment?
posted by mmascolino at 1:35 PM on August 15, 2012

A car accident shouldn't lead to data loss unless the primary storage is also lost at the same time, laconic s.; and the basic idea of backups is to store your data in places with uncorrelated failures, which this seems to do.
posted by hattifattener at 2:11 PM on August 15, 2012

I'd check with my bank to see how much a security deposit box costs per month.
posted by porpoise at 3:54 PM on August 15, 2012

I figured it was unlikely that my car and my house would get robbed the same night

Aren't your car keys in your house? I feel like this is just tempting fate for a burglar to use your car as the getaway vehicle.

More seriously, I wouldn't even count something as "off-site" that was in the same zip code. Freak earthquake? Tornado? Fire? These things could easily affect the entire street that your house is on.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 4:14 PM on August 15, 2012

(Er, all that was assuming that your primary data source is in your house. You seem to imply that it is, but I could be misunderstanding.)
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 4:16 PM on August 15, 2012

This is such a tremendously bad idea that the only response I can muster is "wow."

Please do not do this.
posted by rr at 4:22 PM on August 15, 2012

A car accident shouldn't lead to data loss unless the primary storage is also lost at the same time, laconic s.

If you take your data redundancy seriously, then you protect your backups just the same as any live copy. Damage to one of the backups is just as bad as damage to the live data.

and the basic idea of backups is to store your data in places with uncorrelated failures, which this seems to do.

That's only part of it. A part missing is that these places where you put your backups are also relatively safe places. Because you treat damage to a backup copy just as seriously as damage to any live, working copy. All mechanical devices fail. I'm repeating myself but I think it bears repeating. If you take this to heart there's a good chance you'll never lose any data.

If you have your data saved in a bunch of different, safe places, sure what the heck, throw a 3TB disk in the car, just don't have it be your only extra copy.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 4:53 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can look up the operating temperature for your specific hard drive, but it's probably actually quite low... lower than a hot parked car. Of course operating temperature and safe non-operating temperature aren't the same, but I personally wouldn't use that as my primary backup storage when there are so many other ways.
posted by anaelith at 8:24 PM on August 15, 2012

You have a backup. That is fantastic. You are doing better than most people.
What laconic skeuomorph said - the more places and the safer these places are the better.
Like lia said, a flickr account is cheap insurance. Even if they reduce the image quality of the stuff you upload (i'm not sure, and i'm not checking) it's still better than losing something forever.
Add that and maybe a backup drive that you keep a at a trusted friend's place and you're probably in the top 10% as far as home backups go.
posted by itheearl at 9:14 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

The inside of a car during the summer reaches 115 degrees if it's 100 degrees outside. While you're not operating the drive at that temperature, you're are storing it at that temperature. Look up your model and see what the maximum temperature is. (Here's one that's 158 degrees.)

I would be worried about condensation due to temperature changes and humidity (your car isn't air tight, but think about what happens when you and friends get in on a rainy day, all the water you bring in, then you go for a drive and get out. The next day, the sun is shining and your car is a swamp.

I would be even more worried about it rattling around. Sure the heads are parked, but every pothole, speed bump and curb you should have missed but didn't might just be the one that kills it.
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:16 AM on August 16, 2012

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