Shutting down old disks for Y2K could do more harm than good
December 30, 1999
by David Orenstein
(IDG) -- 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 Monday by the SANS Institute, a security and systems administration research firm in Bethesda, Md., explained that drives that have been running for months nonstop 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 Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., 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.
Dalton, Ga.-based Shaw Industries Inc. will take those steps instead of powering down its aging and soon-to-be-replaced Groupe Bull mainframe. The company will be backing up data through about 10 p.m. on Dec. 31 and will then suspend transaction processing until after midnight, said Robert Watson, information technology director. The company took the added precaution six months ago of buying new EMC Corp. drives because it didn't want to roll into the year 2000 with old hardware, he said.
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