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[SLUG] hard drive failure, back-up, and other unhappiness

I've had a back-up hard drive fail today (just the backup drive, not the

Worse still, my son's hard drive failed and then his back-up drive also
failed, so he is in deep doo-doo.

Fail = clicking noises, won't mount or mounts then won't read/write,

Both back-up drives were in USB external cases. I suspect my back-up
failed because of a dodgey power issue with the external case, but
that's conjecture at this point.

OTOH, I do cross-backups between two servers - rsync'ing with cron - and
haven't had a problem (so far) for several years.

Does anyone have a thought about using external cases for back-up? is
this just plain bad luck? Is it true that not all external drives are
born equal? 

Does anyone have any thoughts about back-up between drives installed
inside one box - ie, what's the likelihood of the system inadvertently
destroying both copies. Obviously this sort of backup doesn't protect
against fire or theft, but it strikes me that the biggest danger is
drive failure.

any thoughts gratefully received.