Tuesday, February 09, 2016

A public service announcement!

by Rick Blechta

Aline’s computer debacle last week put me in mind of something anyone with a computer should know about and guard against, and it is this: you must always protect your data! It’s not if any hard drive you use will fail, but when. Do not ever think this won’t happen to you. It will — and usually at the worst time.

Computers are very complex machines, and like any machine, they will eventually fail. As expensive as having the motherboard on your computer going down can be, they can be fixed or replaced, and you’ll soon be up and running again. This is not the case with a hard drive failure. They usually can’t be fixed if the problem involves the discs on which your data is stored. To extract this data using heroic methods professionals have can be horrendously expensive — if it can be done at all.

But since hard drives can last for a long time, we’re often lulled into a false sense of security so we either don’t back up our data as often as we should — or we stop altogether. Trust me. Eventually it will come back to haunt you.

I speak from experience. I use three back-up systems, but a few days ago, I got bitten. The main storage disc (Time Machine on my Mac) got corrupted and could not be fixed. It had to be erased and re-initialized. While I didn’t actually lose any files, I did lose the history of those files, meaning I could no longer access past iterations of a job I was working and find something I’d discarded a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t catastrophic but it was a pain in the butt and involved several hours of needless toil.

For those of us who write, you must always protect your work with back-ups. I’m sure most of us do, but even so things can go wrong. You must always plan for the worst. Maybe you religiously back up on your computer with files kept on two different hard drives. The chances of both of them going down at the same time is minuscule, right? Well, what are you going to do if your house burns down? Both hard drives could likely be lost.

So here’s my suggestion to be as fail-safe as possible. By all means keep two copies of your precious work-in-progress, but also utilize a back-up assuring your work is stored away from your house. The easiest way to do that is to pay for some sort of cloud storage. This option is not necessarily expensive. Some small storage options are even free. (They give you a small amount of free storage space in hopes that you’ll buy a more generous option, usually at a good price.) Many can even be programmed to back-up automatically. Set it and forget it — and it will be there if you ever really need it.

It’s heart-breaking to hear of someone who has lost months of work because they neglected to take adequate precautions. Do yourself a favour and think about how you’re currently doing things. If the worst happened, would you still be able to carry on, or would you have to start all over again?

If that’s the case, then heed my warning. I’d hate to be the one to say, “I told you so.”


Rick Blechta said...

I just noticed that this post is the 2500th on Type M! That is one heck of a lot of writing by our many regulars and guests over the years (almost 10).

Thanks so much to everyone for making this little blog what it is today.

Mary Jane Hopper said...

That is pretty awesome when you really think about it! I enjoy reading the posts on Type M for Murder and hope they continue for another 10 years!

Rick Blechta said...

Thanks, Mary Jane! People like you are the reason we keep posting!