The Almanac

An eclectic collection of research and resources.

Lessons Learned From the 9/11 Data Crisis

For two weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, consultants at Acquis Consulting Group LLC couldn't get into their New York offices because of concerns about the structural integrity of their building and nearby buildings, a block away from the World Trade Center.

As a result, the firm's staff was unable to access critical business data on laptop PCs inside the offices, says Randall Kane, chief operating officer and founding partner. And there was no formal, mandatory backup procedure -- many consultants hadn't backed up data in over a month -- which "left us blatantly unprepared," he says.

After returning to its offices, the consulting firm embarked on a serious search for a system that would provide mandatory backup for its often-traveling consultants.

Acquis picked an online backup service from Connected Corp. in Framingham, Mass., and Kane says he has been very happy with the service. Now, when a consultant's laptop crashes, a disk image can be downloaded to a new laptop, for example.

Best of all, Kane says, backup has become unavoidable. Users can defer the online backup routine two times if it's inconvenient, but the next time the laptop goes online, the Connected backup process begins automatically.

World's Tiniest Drive Holds 4GB of Data

Hitachi Ltd. has unveiled a 4GB version of its Microdrive miniature hard disk drive, which is expected to sell for about $500. The company says it's the world's smallest hard drive, weighing just over half an ounce (16 grams) and equivalent in size to a matchbook.

The Microdrive competes with 4GB Compact Flash memory cards, which allow for faster data access and lower power consumption but cost at least twice as much as the Microdrive. Both use the FAT32 file system, because the FAT16 system has a limit of 2GB.

Hitachi Ltd. has unveiled a 4GB version of its Microdrive miniature hard disk drive.
Hitachi Ltd. has unveiled a 4GB version of its Microdrive miniature hard disk drive.
Microdrive technology was originally developed by IBM but was acquired by Hitachi when it bought IBM's hard disk drive business .

-- Martyn Williams, IDG News Service

Patent Watch

An expandable, modular, hard-disk system. Upgrading PC storage capacity often requires installing an external hard drive or replacing the internal hard drive and upgrading the power supply to match. This invention calls for a stack of interconnected hard-disk modules with self-contained power supplies. Adding capacity would mean plugging another storage device into the stack.

As an added bonus, if there are three hard drives, data can be stored on two of the drives, and parity-checking information for that data can be stored on the third drive. If any one of the disk drives fails to operate, all of the data can be restored by accessing the remaining two drives. -- U.S. Patent No. 6,640,235, issued Oct. 28.

Inventor: Michael H. Andersen, for Intel Corp.

Controlling the disk-drive rotation to reduce noise and vibration. The on-screen user interface (which looks like a volume-control slider) is able to alter the speed of the spinning CD-ROM to provide a sufficient rate of data exchange while also reducing the objectionable noise and vibration. -- U.S. Patent No. 6,639,883, issued Oct. 28.

Inventor: Vladimir Knyazhitsky, for Data Stream Info Inc., New York

Hot Tech

Storage ranked No. 5 in a recent survey that asked CIOs what new technologies they're most interested in.

1. Wireless (Wi-Fi)

2. Voice over IP

3. Linux

4. E-commerce

5. Storage networks*

6. Web services

* Storage-area networks and network-attached storage

Base: 75 U.S. and 25 European CIOs

Source: Merrill Lynch & Co., October 2003

5 Petabytes of Biometric Data

5 Petabytes of Biometric Data
Credit: Getty Images
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is gearing up to install a huge biometric border-control system to check the identities and visas of the 500 million foreigners who enter the U.S. each year. Each visitor will be checked against lists of people with terrorist connections, criminal convictions or visa violations .

The first phase begins Jan. 5 with fingerprinting and photo equipment at 115 airports and 14 seaports. In the next few years, the system is expected to cover all air, sea and land ports of entry. It will add other types of biometric identification, such as facial recognition or iris scans, as the technologies mature.

The U.S. General Accounting Office has called the massive IT project "a very risky endeavor." And one of the challenges will be figuring out how to store and transmit all of the biometric data collected, says Katherine Goodier, technical director of business development at WamNet Government Services Inc. in Herndon, Va.

Goodier estimates that the full-fledged system will collect about 5 petabytes of data per year and will need ultrafast database and networking technologies to make sure there aren't long delays for travelers. "It will require things that don't exist today," she says.

"There's been a lot of discussion about the front-end biometrics, but little discussion of the back-end storage challenges," Goodier says. The data-transfer challenge is especially great at the remote U.S./Mexico border crossings, where IT infrastructure is poor and may require wireless access, she adds.

-- Mitch Betts

Special Report

The New Rules of Storage

Stories in this report:



Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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