Bushfires Pose A Major Threat To Hard Drives

Bushfire season has well and truly kicked off in Australia. The big technology lesson to remember? Make sure you've got a good backup strategy in place that includes both physical and offline options — while drive recovery techniques are impressive these days, bushfires represent one of the most challenging scenarios, since they can literally melt your hard drive.

Picture by idan586

I was chatting yesterday with Adrian Briscoe, general manager APAC for data recovery specialist Kroll Ontrack, and he highlighted that the extreme conditions involved in a bushfire often mean that data recovery is virtually impossible:

Bushfire is a difficult one, because they literally just melt. Server room fires are OK, because things just smoulder, but bushfires just tend to be too hot. We received two laptops from a post office near the centre of the fire that were actually in a fireproof safe, but the cases of the laptops were fused together because it was so hot inside the safe. It was just like being in an oven.

At the other end of the spectrum, if you're a victim of flooding, don't try and dry any damaged drives, since it can do more harm than good. Again, protection strategies have their limits:

This year in Queensland, we had people with waterproof safes, but they found that if you had five metres of water, water actually still gets in. As soon as you have any pressure, it's a problem. And we had a recovery in Christchurch where someone put a tape on top of the waterproof safe, then the earthquake hit and the tape dropped in the water, which of course had mud and grit. Though that one was a full recovery.

Data recovery is an expensive operation, so data recovery insurance is also worth considering. Briscoe also predicted that there might be a rise in attempted recoveries because people are continuing to use older drives due to the recent price rises caused by the Thailand floods. So make sure you've got an effective, multi-pronged backup strategy.


    Maybe it should have been demonstrated to our Kiwi brothers that waterproof safes are more effective when the object is placed *inside* the safe.
    I, however will be taking no chances and wil be keeping a wary eye out for harddrive killing bushfires.
    Even if I do work in the Sydney CBD.

    Shock horror fires destroy hard drives, among other things.

      REALLY!!! OMG haha this article is just stating the obvious =D

      Most people would reasonably assume that things placed in a fireproof safe are protected from fire. What this article is pointing out is that this is not necessarily the case. Also the same with waterproof safe / flooding.

    Lifehacker tip: to securely destroy your data, start a bushfire.

      Then, do not pass go and spend a long time in jail!!

    I'd be more worried about oh you know... the rest of my house?
    If you had data that was that important I'm sure it wouldn't be much effort to back it up on a few external 2.5" drives that you can just whack in the glovebox if you're going to leave your house behind. All the rest should be insured.

    I wonder if an ordinary house fire would destroy a hard drive...?

    What about a chemical fire...?

    What if I just set my computer on fire before the police get hold of it.

    So many questions... so few answers.

    While on the topic of backup strategies, http://www.crashplan.com/ provides a free client you can use to backup to/from friends/family, as well as a paid service to backup to their systems. ~$10/mo for unlimited offsite backup.

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