Regular backups are a critical chore no one should overlook. In a small
office environment this might involve copying the Outlook file to an external
hard drive once a month; around here we sometimes plug a 2TB HDD into a vertical
SATA-to-USB docking station (ie. Tt BlackX Docking
Station) for this.
Pretty standard stuff really. But how many of you check the state of your
backed up Outlook file by coping it back to a PC and opening it up? Not many,
I'd wager. Well, you might want to because there's a chance that backed up email
could be corrupt.
We had this problem recently and it was a bit of a devil to solve. Hard drive
space was fine on both destination and source, the anti-virus system was
disabled temporarily to ensure it wasn't being overloaded by a +4GB file.
Zipping the PST file to decrease the amount of data didn't help either. Having
ruled out insufficient storage space, corruption by virus scan and corruption by
too-big-a-file, we were at a bit of a loss.
Methodical Testing Saves the Day
To find out what was going wrong we tried several variations of a backup to
determine if it was a problem with the file, how the file was being moved, or
where the file was being moved to. After each step we checked the Outlook file
to see if worked.
1) Backups of the Outlook PST file copied over the LAN were not being
corrupted, so the original file was okay (although ownership permissions caused
other, unrelated issues).
2) Copying the backup over eSATA cable to the
external HDD also worked. No problems there.
3) Using alternate USB ports for
the external drive didn't help. The problem was USB related, perhaps?
lot of time was wasted while we ran tests copying the file off the external HDD
back to the computer, testing different cables and such because the file was
already corrupted (the first time it was copied to the external HDD). The
tedious solution was to copy a working file out, then copy that back for each
5) With the problem traced to the USB cable, we tried different
cables. First, plugged into the USB extender cable then plugged directly into
the computer. The existing solution of USB cable and short USB extender cable
worked fine for two years, but for whatever reason was corrupting big moves of
data. The solution was to replace both short USB cables with a single 6'
shielded USB cable... After this, the test was run again with success!
The Take Away from this Tale of Woe?
Test your backups to see if they actually work. If you're getting corrupted
data over a USB-based storage device, try swapping out the cables while keeping
total cable length under 6 feet.
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