Google Geeks Study Failure Trends of Hard Disk Drives

Google Logo with HDD artwork

Three computer scientists from Google Inc. have published a study on “Failure Trends in a Large Disk Drive Population,” a thesis they presented recently at the 5th USENIX Conference on File and Storage Technologies (FAST’07), February 13-16, 2007 in San Jose, CA.

Eduardo Pinheiro, Wolf-Dietrich Weber and Luis Andre Barroso culled their data by examining the population of hard drives under deployment within Google’s computing infrastructure.

It’s an interesting academic study, especially if you’re a geek too. But if you’re only half a geek who gets sleepy reading “thesical” language, I’ll tell you what it says:

1) 90% of all new information produced in the world is being stored on magnetic media, most of it on hard disk drives;

2) Disk drives are generally very reliable but are also very complex components;

3) They can’t really tell exactly when a hard drive is going to fail or why. Hey, things just happen, you know.

Which reminds us of that Murphy guy, “If a hard drive can fail, it will fail at the worst possible time for you,” or something like that. So back up, kid, always back up if that data is really important (Oh, you know that already).

[Paper: Google Labs, PDF 242KB]

Chris Malinao

About Chris Malinao

Chris teaches Lightroom as workflow software to photography students at the FPPF, Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation. He also teaches smartphone photography.