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Bit rot, also known as silent data corruption, is the slow degradation of information that’s stored on a hard drive and is often undetectable. Most of the errors start off as non-critical, meaning they don’t affect the system negatively, yet eventually nullify your data to where it’s unrecoverable.

This means that a lot of systems, not only the ones that use RAID, could lose data randomly and without warning.

How to prevent bit rot

There are a couple of ways to keep your data safe.

  1. Invest in a NAS that uses Btrfs or zfs file systems.
  2. Take incremental snapshots of your data.

Choose the right file system

One of the best solutions is to use a NAS drive that uses btrfs or zfs file system. Both of these file systems were developed to combat silent data corruption.

The way it does this is by using either a checksum or some of the metadata is duplicated in case any info is lost. Checksums let multiple versions of the same file be compared to each other and if any changes have happened then the btrfs or zfs can repair the file.

Frequent incremental Snapshots

Incremental snapshots are great because they backup only what was changed from the last backup while keeping different instances of the data available. 

So if you notice a completely new backup with significant changes or if you notice you have files missing it can mean that something went wrong with your data or the backup. You can then compare snapshots and restore the files that went missing.

NAS with Btrfs or ZFS

Maybe your NAS drive is getting a little old or you have a model that doesn’t support Btrfs or zfs. This might be a good time to upgrade. Both of these file systems have advantages over the older ones. One of the major additions is what we discussed above and that’s the silent corruption protection which can keep your data safe. 

Conclusion

Bit rot is still a thing and it puts your data at risk. Make sure you have consistent incremental backups, preferably a few full backups in between to help safeguard you from data loss.

TL;DR

Bit rot can creep up and happen any time. Fight it off by investing in a NAS drive that supports:

  • Incremental snapshots
  • Btrfs or ZFS file system