So what the does NASA’s Physics of Whipped Cream have to do with data backups?
Why I point to this is not the fact that this incredible feat was achieved, but the careless take of The Guardian on data backup. Writing on this issue, Charles Arthur notes at the end of his article that
“OK, so it may have been expensive. But doesn’t it prove that you can get your data back from pretty much anything?”
Wrong. As the AP article notes quite clearly,
“And to drive home just what a long shot his recovery had been, [the person who recovered the data in one hard drive] later had no success with two other drives found in Columbia‘s wreckage. Blasted by the unfathomable furnace of entry into the atmosphere, their metals had lost the ability to hold a magnetic charge.”
When InfoShare designed the OneText peace negotiations support platform, Groove Virtual Office and its peer to peer architecture meant that data loss was kept at a minimum. All data was synchronised seamlessly whenever computers were connected to the internet and along with on-site / off-site traditional backups, vital information was always secure. This was one of the more hidden aspects of the design, but you only needed to be right once to prove that it was worth it all.
As a victim of catastrophic data loss myself (losing over a year’s worth of emails and documents one time my hard drive crashed) I’ve since toyed with a number of backup solutions and ended up with Apple’s new Time Machine on Leopard. It’s by far the best I’ve used, but it does take some getting used to in the sense that there’s really no user interaction needed or requested in how it backs up your data.
The point here is simple. Data loss creates and exacerbates conflict. In a context of violent ethno-political conflict and with many fragile peacebuilding processes at play, data loss can often not just be catastrophic, it can be positively life threatening.