Right off the bat – do not, I repeat, do not rely on diskettes for backups.

Over the years QW Support has had to rescue countless users who backed up on diskettes but then found them unusable when the need came to do a restore. (It was actually one of the most interesting parts of the job.)

Here is why:

Under Windows, a program writing to a diskette has absolutely no way of verifying that the data it asked to be written is in fact on the diskette and readable. The “write verify” option that DOS programs relied on before Windows is totally unreliable – and here is an example: I’ve copied a file to a diskette and then taken the diskette to another machine and tried to copy it from the diskette – and I get a read error on the diskette. In fact, I get a read error no matter what machine I try the diskette in. I go back to the original machine and do the copy again; no problem reported. If I immediately use the command-line command COMP to compare the original file to the copy on the diskette it reports the files are identical – BUT – the diskette light never comes on during the compare. This tells me that COMP is being fooled by Windows who has cached a copy of the original file in memory during the copy, and COMP is being fed the cached copy to compare to – not the copy on the diskette. If I pop the diskette out and then back in and do the COMP again I get a read error because there is in fact a bad sector on the diskette, and popping the diskette out caused Windows to discard the cached copy and actually do a proper read of the diskette to perform the compare.

That was long-winded – but it’s really important stuff.

The bottom line is this: DO NOT TRUST DISKETTES FOR BACKUPS. At QW, we became pretty good at predicting that with each additional diskette in a backup set the chances of being able to succesfully restore from those disks went down by 10%. So, if you backup took 10 diskettes, our prediction would be that your chance of restoring from them is zero – and we were usually right.

Another example: I recently bought a 1 Gb USB drive to replace my trusty old 256 Mb one. Guess what? I got stung twice by copying data to the drive and going to a client’s office and finding the data on the drive was corrupted. I returned the drive and got a replacement and it works fine. Correction: (and important distinction) It has not failed YET.

So, what do you trust your backups to? The answer is nothing – you can’t trust any media to be readable when disaster strikes. All you can do is use multiple backup methods/media (CD, USB drive, tape, etc.) to make sure you are covered. So, backup onto USB drives (plural) – they are cheap and pretty reliable. Also, do backups on CD. Backup to another machine in the office. Mix and match these methods and you reduce your chances of disaster to near zero.

Now, with that diatribe over I’ll address your reply above. If you stop using diskettes for backup and move to a method with ‘modern’ speed and capacities, it won’t matter how big your books get, and the need to start fresh books every year is gone.