If you're looking to grab a new storage device and back up some of your precious data, better hop to it. This may come as a shock, but a majority of the stuff inside your computer is manufactured in the third world. This means that, in addition to the general guilt of buying stuff made by people working in sweat shops and coltan mines, we're also screwed when those places get hit with natural disasters.
That's exactly what's happening in Thailand right now. Massive floods have devastated the Thai mainland, grinding to a halt the distribution of computer hard drives from major manufacturers like Seagate and Western Digital. To give you an idea of how many bytes are at stake, Western Digital alone "made 53.8 million hard drives, giving it a 32 percent share of the global market" in the 2nd quarter of 2011, according to iSuppli.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is certain the disaster will impact sales, both for Apple and around the tech industry. He cites Nidec, a company that produces around 80 percent of the world's hard drive motors. Companies are now predicting that the resulting data storage drought will last well into 2012, so it might be a good idea to mind your megabytes and do some deep cleaning on your existing drives.
Of course there are much more pressing issues at hand than our ability to store all 5 torrented seasons of The Wire. 350 people are dead and the 14,000 factories that have been shut down due to flooding have left nearly 700,000 people out of work. Bangkok officials are now coming under fire as citizens lose confidence in the government's ability to deal with the region's worst flood in 50 years.
As for the rest of us, maybe the oncoming data drought will force us to conserve and appreciate the digital storage space we already have.
- Move non-essential files to USB flash drives, online storage or CD-RW's, and label them.
- Uninstall programs you don't intend on using in the near future. Keep the installation disks nearby, or create new ones using programs like Free ISO Burner.
- If you're a PC, schedule a monthly hard drive defragmention. Run diagnostics to identify and fix bad sectors on your hard drive.
- Cut back on downloading torrents. They're enormous data hogs, probably illegal, and seriously, Netflix is still super-cheap.
And don't be a dick. Unlike our data, there's no 'cloud' for those folks in Thailand to escape to. Donate to Thailand Flood Relief