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Do You Travel With Your Computer?

Whether out recreationally, a scientist performing tests, a photographer, or using the computer in the "field" for any other reason, you will be pleased to know that companies are now releasing equipment resistant to the damaging effects of field use. Companies that, for years, have been selling to fire departments, police stations, and various government organizations across the world, are now offering consumer grade field equipment that makes it easier to use computers outdoors, provides protection against extreme cold and hot temperatures, and makes it easier to travel.

With modern traveling practices that include small carry-ons and liftable suitcases, weight becomes one of the more centric obstacles. Weight restrictions are not uncommon when traveling and these restrictions include camera equipment, computers, and everything else we need. The practice of traveling with two or more computers to guarantee uptime has become increasingly difficult and, thus, has led to the release of significantly more dependable equipment that reduces the need for this redundancy. There are various options to suit various uses and priorities.

As many have already discovered, hard drive damage is the most frequent type of failure. The hard drive system consists of a glass or ceramic hard disk coated with a magnetic material that is accessed by the head of the hard drive in which the disk is permanently mounted. The issue is that if the head (which must be only microns away from the platter) ever touches the platter, the data is destroyed. In addition, the platter usually spins between 7,200RPM and 15,000 RPM via a ball bearing system. If the drive is moved while the disk is spinning the bearings can be damaged or the head may touch the platter. For these reasons, most computer failures result from moving the computer while it is on. Some companies have been providing SSDs (Solid State "Drives") as a solution to this. Though SSDs provide a storage option that contains no moving parts, these should be avoided because they simply trade one fragile characteristic for another, more severe, characteristic. SSDs, unlike magnetic hard drives, decay after the data has been changed too many times. Typically this is between 100,000 and 300,000 times. This may seem substantial, but with the way most software works today, a typical computer user, can go through that in a couple of months because the software makes many changes in the background without direct user intervention. In addition, when an SSD does fail, it is much harder, and in may instances, impossible, to recover data. The field computers of today incorporate systems that allow you to use mechanical drives reliably. These hard drives are suspended in a frame that protects it from shock. The small hard drives also include sensors that can detect a free fall or sudden harsh movement and, within millionths of a second, secure the head and shut down the drive until the shock passes. All you notice is a slight pause before everything returns to normal. Your data is undamaged.
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