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 Post subject: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 8:10 pm 
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"That's not to say the big one is imminent, experts say — but you never can tell. And analysts warn that with humanity more dependent than ever on the high-tech equipment that can be affected by a solar storm, the stakes are higher than in the past."
Catastrophe Looming? The Risks of Rising Solar Storm Activity
http://www.space.com/10893-major-solar- ... risks.html


Boston operator (to Portland operator): "Please cut off your battery entirely from the line for fifteen minutes."
Portland operator: "Will do so. It is now disconnected."
Boston: "Mine is also disconnected, and we are working with the auroral current. How do you receive my writing?"
Portland: "Better than with our batteries on. Current comes and goes gradually."
Boston: "My current is very strong at times, and we can work better without batteries, as the Aurora seems to neutralise and augment our batteries alternately, making current too strong at times for our Relay magnets. Suppose we work without batteries while we are affected by this trouble."
Portland: "Very well. Shall I go ahead with business?"
Boston: "Yes. Go ahead."


An exchange between telegraphists in 1859.

This happened at the dawn of the electric age. Today, a comparable solar flare could devastate our infrastructure. A 2008 report by the National Academy of Sciences found that a major solar storm could cause twenty times the economic damage of hurricane Katrina.

Solar flare 2011: How a dazzling display can wreak electrical havoc
http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2011/0 ... ical-havoc

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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2011 6:23 am 
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I guess I'd better buy some extra tinfoil hats. :twisted:


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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 8:47 pm 
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I dont think a widescale loss of data has ever been recorded due to solar activity, but in theory it could happen. Background cosmic radiation that leaks through our atmosphere can cause random bit flips here and there on memory devices. Up in space with no atmosphere, it is even a bigger problem, which is why computer equipment has to be radiation hardened.

A large solar flare could potentially cause lots of data loss and the only way to prevent this would be to shield hard drives with meters of lead and concrete (or lot's of mass in general).


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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2011 6:49 pm 
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I presume different types of storage would respond differently. I have no idea but I guess that optical disc storage would probably be least affected.


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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2011 7:48 pm 
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speedboxx wrote:
I dont think a widescale loss of data has ever been recorded due to solar activity, but in theory it could happen. Background cosmic radiation that leaks through our atmosphere can cause random bit flips here and there on memory devices. Up in space with no atmosphere, it is even a bigger problem, which is why computer equipment has to be radiation hardened.


I'm no expert, but here is a quote from the article: "If the 1859 storm occured these days, it would likely have devastating impacts, since our electrical and communications infrastructures are so much more developed. A recent report by the U.S National Academy of Sciences found that such a severe storm could cause up to $2 trillion in initial damages by crippling communications on Earth and fueling chaos around the world."

The 11 year cycle doesn't come around that often. Every 11 years our electronics become more delicate. And every once and a while you get a large sunspot storm like in 1859.

It is easy to get complacent. Here is an article about a Japanese Scientist that had similar warnings about the Japanese Tsunami and the inadequate preparations at the Japanese reactors
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142 ... lenews_wsj

Dr. Shishikura had an appointment on March 23 to explain his research to officials in Fukushima. But they were basically pooh poohing him as they did his research and probably wouldn't have done much aster the meeting.

"It's unfortunate that it wasn't in time," he said. But he also felt vindicated after past slights, remembering the local official who didn't want to help him dig holes in the earth for research and who called the endeavor a "nuisance."

"During the magnitude 9.0 quake on March 11, some people well inland, thinking themselves safe, took time to change clothes or to make phone calls. Others watched the disaster unfold instead of running to high ground. They proved what Dr. Shishikura's group wrote last year about local tsunamis: "It appears to be almost completely unknown among the general public that in the past great tsunamis have inundated areas as far as 3-4 kilometers inland as the result of earthquakes exceeding magnitude 8."

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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2011 8:03 am 
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Eunos wrote:
I have no idea but I guess that optical disc storage would probably be least affected.


I'm sure optical storage would be safer during such an event, but hard drives that aren't in a plugged-in computer would probably be fine as well. The telegraph equipment got affected because electrical current was induced in the telegraph lines, overloading it. The same could happen with power lines and other long cables, and power grids have been knocked offline by smaller solar storms in the past. If your equipment isn't plugged in though, it shouldn't likely have much chance to be affected.

Of course, if a large coronal mass ejection were headed directly toward Earth, there would likely be days to prepare for it as well. The 1859 storm moved uncommonly fast, but even it still took around 18 hours to reach Earth. That would provide plenty of time for news sources to make the information widely known, and for people to back up important data and unhook potentially sensitive equipment from the power grid.


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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 8:29 am 
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I know Google still uses tape to backup their servers for disaster recovery. I was reading about it in regards to how quickly data on different medias can degrade and how tape is the longest lasting media compared to hard drives, cds, dvds and flash drives. I need to work on my backup system as right now the only backup is a separate hard drive that is right beside the computer. If there was a fire, I would be out of luck.

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Last edited by TravisT on Mon May 23, 2011 2:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2011 5:03 am 
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TravisT wrote:
I know Google still uses tape to backup their servers. I was reading about it in regards to how quickly data on different medias can degrade and how tape is the longest lasting media compared to hard drives, cds, dvds and flash drives.
That is sort of surprising. It would seem that a stiff hard drive platter would be longer lasting than a flexible tape. I didn't even know they still made tape backup units.

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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2011 11:05 am 
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ces wrote:
I didn't even know they still made tape backup units.


Why did you not know this?! It's a multi-billion-dollar industry.


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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2011 3:56 am 
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If solar flares are powerful enough to wipe your disk drives (through the metal computer case and metal hdd casing, and at such a small scale), I think we have bigger problems. Where are you going to get the power to use them? Not the transmission electric lines that just burst into flames :). I would forget your data and move towards the nearest military base (ie, where some semblance of order is maintained).

And obviously if we are just talking about rare bit errors, better shielding and more redundancy seem good solutions to me.

If I had to pick a media, I would lean towards write-once optical over tape even. Then again, ever put a CD in a microwave? :)
Edit: the above is based on the assumption that all magnetic media is dead meat, although I'm not too familiar with the physical specifics of optical storage
edit2: paper might be your best bet. But if CDs, tape, & HDD fail, good luck finding a motherboard.

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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2012 1:09 pm 
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ioSafe Zaps Rugged Portable Thunderbolt Drive with Tesla Coil at CES 2012
http://www.legitreviews.com/article/1832/1/
ioSafe had Dr. Megavolt electrocute their Portable Thunderbolt drive with close to 1,000,000 volts!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... kAJ8FoBHyE

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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2012 4:09 pm 
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Saw this news on Cnet, about the latest solar storm. Wondering if it alread did any damage?
Link to Cnet article: http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-57364 ... ard-earth/
PS. I'm doing a backup right now, just to be safe, on a pocket hdd and a usb stick.


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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:20 am 
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The news report we had this morning was that any effects from this very large solar flare would be felt in 3 different waves:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=145643210

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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2012 9:53 am 
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I think most of the economic loss is attributed to communications (and other) satellites going down. I think, here on Earth, we are mostly protected.

As andymcca said, if the radiation is strong enough to mess with our boxes, I think we have other things to worry about than the integrity of our data.


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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:37 pm 
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Solar storm incoming: Federal agencies provide inconsistent, confusing information
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/cap ... _blog.html

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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 10:37 pm 
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ces wrote:
TravisT wrote:
I know Google still uses tape to backup their servers. I was reading about it in regards to how quickly data on different medias can degrade and how tape is the longest lasting media compared to hard drives, cds, dvds and flash drives.
That is sort of surprising. It would seem that a stiff hard drive platter would be longer lasting than a flexible tape. I didn't even know they still made tape backup units.


Drop a tape.... and then drop some backup hdds.

As one not directly living in the us i think the main reason for big companies to keep most of their data on tapes (long time backups) lies in SOX. Revision-proof and what not else you have to present in case of an audit.


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 Post subject: Re: Solar Activity and the Safety of your Backups
PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 12:03 pm 
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Even the small municipality where I worked at one time had tape backup. Definitely alive.

Should probably look into media other than HDDs and flash drives again, even if this solar thingamabob doesn't actually damage anything. Never hurts to have that "purely mechanical" copy of your dearest photos and documents.

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