Group warns of powering down hard disks for Y2K

For the love of data, don't power down that old disk.

Users with enterprise storage systems more than 6 years old may cause more year 2000 problems than they solve if they power down their disks for the new year rollover, experts warn.

An advisory published recently by the SANS Institute, a security and systems administration research firm, explained that drives that have been running for months non-stop can fail to run when powered back on. The drives build up matter on a part called a slider that is suspended over the disk, engineer Greg Houlette wrote. When the slider lands on the disk after powering down, it can become stuck to the disk.

"People tend to forget that these are precision electromechanical devices that have moving parts," he said. "They require a certain amount of care."

SANS Director Allan Paller said a major computer vendor lost 18 of 50 disk drives six years ago because of this problem.

Analyst Charles Burns at Giga Information Group, said there really is no legitimate reason to power down a mainframe. For certain Unix or midrange systems, Burns said, powering down isn't necessarily a bad idea. But the most stressful part of an electronic device's life is when it is turned on, he said.

Rather than cutting power, users should back up their data before the rollover and should have reliable uninterruptible power supplies in place. Users are better off suspending their transaction processing operations than physically turning their large systems off.

The SANS Institute is at http://www.sans.org

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