Horror: Backup error

Backup error


What happened?

I had all my PhD data on an external hard disk and the most recent backup in another location was a month ago. I got a request from my supervisor and therefore needed to access the data on my external hard disk, which gave an error message when I connected it to my PC and I could not access the files. I was extremely nervous and this happened shortly after I became a Data Steward. After many tries of connecting and disconnecting my external hard disk, finally I managed to access my files and copied all the contents to 2 other external hard disks!

How long ago was it?

1.5 years ago

How was this solved?

By my external hard disk magically working after many tries of connecting and disconnecting and me managing to access my files and copying all the contents to 2 other external hard disks.

How could this horror be avoided?

By having an automatic back-up strategy with a storage medium that is more reliable than external disks.

What lesson can we learn from this story?

Manual back-up is error-prone and it is better to have an automatic back-up strategy, and external hard-disks do malfunction!

Also this is a situation that can happen to any PhD candidate, especially considering that most need to write their thesis after their contract has ended using their own devices such as personal PCs and external hard disks. Universities should take a responsibility here by offering an automatically backed-up network or cloud solution offered to PhD candidates even if their contracts are finished. I do not have such solutions offered to me by the university where I did my PhD study and therefore have to store my data on my own devices which are error-prone. Additionally, I never received any proper data management advice during my PhD and according to my knowledge there was no policy regarding research data management.


Did you experience data horrors in your research life? Do you think that researchers could learn from your experience? Would you like to share your story with others?

We would love to help you in turning a creepy story around data into a positive lesson learned. Use this form below to share your story with the Dutch Data Horror Team.

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Pompoen als hoofd van een donkere figuur

Are you ready for it?

Archiving panic? No backups? Bugs in your code? Licence confusion? Who ya gonna call? Just the thought of it!

And yet it happens every day.

During this Data Horror Week, researchers will share these horror stories, based on their own experience. To prevent you from making the same mistake!