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UPS and 2 Blown Hard Drives

by om1954 / September 6, 2008 12:33 AM PDT

I've been doing grief counseling over a major data loss this week.

Set up was a APC 1000xl UPS into which were plugged a Mac server and two external firewire drives. This is a very small office (less than 4 people) with no resident technical expertise so emphasis was on keeping things as simple as possible.

The server internal HD contained the OS and the externals were configured as a primary shared volume with Time Machine doing hourly, incremental backups to the other. Yes this is a Mac set up.

Remarkably both external drives.. the primary and the backup failed at EXACTLY the same time. After banging my head against the wall over the astronomical odds of tho separate drives in separate enclosures failing withing a hour of each other, I sent the primary to a data recovery company. Their diagnosis was that the drive circuit board had been blown by a power surge.

This would explain a lot... a voltage spike would have the same affect on the other drive as well.

But here's the thing. Due diligence had everything plugged into a UPS that to all appearance was operating normally.

Has anyone ever heard of power spike blowing through or being generated by a UPS?

The only other possibility would be something sent over the firewire cable connecting the drives to the server -or- even more unlikely, an environmental effect like a motor load being too close to the drives.

Anyone seen anything like this before?

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by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / September 6, 2008 12:39 AM PDT

It was a lightning strike. When I talked to them about backup they had omitted the crucial step of a backup copy off the premises. They never considered theft, fire, flood or other issues. Unless a complete backup plan is made, adhered to these stories will continue.

What's not funny is these plans are well known to any decent IT staffer. Why they forget the old plans is worthy of a discussion. The sign you don't have a good plan is the need to create one. Or they want to discuss it. After decades, "Are we done yet?"

I have a simple answer why this happens. "You didn't have a backup."


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...That Wasn't the Question
by om1954 / September 6, 2008 4:56 AM PDT
In reply to: Yup.

Thanks for your input. I understand the value of off site backups particularly as regards fire, flood and other natural disasters.

My question is specifically whether a UPS can transmit or generate a power spike of enough intensity to blow out two devices without displaying any signs of malfunction itself.

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by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / September 6, 2008 5:03 AM PDT

In fact, even power loss has lead to some parts failing and some not. The FORENSICS can be costly. Be sure to weigh this against the cost of sending the remains to They can get the data back even if the circuit boards are blown.

Some think "overvoltage" but those that have been around also know that in some cases, prolonged brownouts can do hardware in.


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Added protection
by Willy / September 9, 2008 2:01 AM PDT

Power is common to all electrical devices. You seemed to pin your hopes on an UPS as you mentioned nothing else. The value of the UPS is more to the loss of power and doing an orderly shutdown. Most UPS provide only the simplest of surge protection in whatever form it comes. Adding surge strips and/or solo surge plugs on top of the UPS helps. Further, if "AC line conditions" are known to sag/spike then having a decent "line conditioner" is a plus as well. Better AC protection line products are out there to review, etc.. The combo of the fore-mentioned will reduce problems or make it tolerable and any further action is warranted when known. I point this out to not rely totally on an UPS to be the total protection plan.

tada -----Willy Happy

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