I need to configure a notebook to "backup" a live-database for 10 years.

The client wants to open the notebook in, let's say, 7 years, start the OS, open up his applications, check some data, shut it down again. It's like a long-term-live-backup-system. I advised him, that maybe a VM with the running DB + clients + virtual storage, saved on an archival DVD / BluRay / tape / SSD (whatever) would be a better and more flexible idea. He was thrilled and said I should do that, too...

So now I need a notebook which has the chance to start up again in ten years.

Ordinarily, every system should be able to provide that, if the hardware is stored in a safe place (temperature, etc.) but maybe somebody here knows of a very stable / durable notebook I could use.

Of course they will be needing a CMOS battery and maybe a new PSU or something, but the main system has to be up and running again on very short notice.

Somebody got any experience in this and could provide me with some info / thoughts?

Edit: tl;dr: I need a "durable" laptop, which will be powered off for 10 years and still has a chance to be up and running again on short notice, with no to few expectable hardware failures.

  • I'm confused. This notebook has to do database backups while off? Is this only going to be turned on a few times in the next 10 years? What happens if this laptop dies before they want it to? – Cfinley Apr 3 '17 at 21:20
  • @Cfinley That's the problem. There are no backups, because the system "sleeps" while powered off. They have to keep the data for 10 years for legal reasons, it's not being worked with. – Lenniey Apr 4 '17 at 6:47
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    I don't believe there's a good solution for ten years of cold storage: hard-drive bearings will lose lubrication and freeze up, while solid-state drives will lose data. The rest of the computer will survive just fine, as long as you package it to keep dust and insects out. – Mark Apr 4 '17 at 20:09
  • @Mark yeah I tried to persuade them to only use VMs for example, but they decided to use the laptop AND the VMs, so well...I'll do what's asked of me. They know about the possible risks and to be somewhat safe I'll use SSDs and archive all data on M-disks, too. So you believe just about any notebook should be fine? I thought so, too, but just wanted to check. You can add that as answer if you want to. – Lenniey Apr 5 '17 at 7:00

I have something similar for archiving and documentation purposes (BIM/CAD data for houses). There are some prerequisites you need to take into account:

  • You need a rugged notebook, and depending on the value of the data a 2nd one as spare parts.
  • The mode of operation to keep it off for X years and to start it up after such a time is a no go. If your client insists, you have to insist more that this is not the way to go (see below)
  • You cannot use a proprietary system for storage and you cannot use proprietary data formats for storage. If that is the case, you need to work out a data format and retrieval concept 1st. Also make yourself acquainted with archival storage formats such as PDF-A and seek for their equivalents in DB systems.
  • Redundancy, redundancy, redundancy. Depending on the size of the data and if this is the only data to be stored/retrieved, you have to partition your notebook hard disk N times, where the Nth part is able to hold these data. Copy them N times. Use also more than one hard drive (better two smaller than one bigger. Use different technologies (one SSD, one HDD, if the notebook has optical drives - as rugged notebooks often have, use these too)
  • Documentation, documentation, documentation. You need to keep the notebook together with extensive - written and printed - documentation about hardware, place of purchase, manufacturer, components etc. in one place. You also need to make very extensive ab initio documentation how to retrieve the data, where you provide a plan A, B and C of retrieving the data in the documentation.

Mode of operation:

As I wrote above, forget about opening the notebook in 7 years. Set up a periodic schedule once a year to start up the notebook (also have this procedure exactly documented in your printed out documentation).

The bootup should basically show any pending problems. If you get reading errors, maybe some SSD has started losing data. It's better to know that earlier than later, because retrieval may still be possible than when you get to know 5 years later.

You should never store the notebook with the battery plugged in. Also, the battery (Li-Ion) should be loaded only 70%. If you can get a notebook with LiFePO4 battery - get that. Life expectancy is 20 years.

Your VM proposal of a "life" backup system is also important. Do it. It's another kind of redundancy. A "hot backup" contrary to what I've described above which could be perceived a cold backup.

The notebook should also be stored in a safe place. A safe maybe, for the extra safety margin with temperature and humidity sensors (some capacitors tend to dry out) and keep environmental conditions in approved range.

There is of course more that could - and in case of real mission critical data should (as e.g. geographical dislocation of the two notebooks) - be done, but the above should get you going.

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