I use Western Digital external hard drives and do monthly backups of all of our PCs and internal servers. We also use USB drives to make quick backups of critical data. I have lost data from hard drive crashes and learned the hard way to do backups.
I think I am going to migrate to a centralized file storage system using Linux and Samba that will make it easier to do regular backups. I'm using Samba right now and it works very well for file storage.
Backing up to tape is archaic and is only effective if you need to restore an entire hard drive.
Andy, if you still have your uncle's hard drive, there are several services that claim to be able to recover data from crashed hard drives. If a bearing or something electronic fails, the data is still accessible. From what I understand, those are the most common failures. If your family tossed the hard drive, that was probably a mistake.
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." -- Benjamin Franklin