Backup Your Stuff

A middle-aged woman walked into the computer store, holding a slightly battered MacBook Pro laptop under her arm...
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Think for a moment on how much in today’s world our information is kept in a fragile format; data on a hard drive on our . Think of what we’d lose if it suddenly evaporated, lost to us forever.

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Story 1:

A middle-aged woman walked into the computer store, holding a slightly battered MacBook Pro laptop under her arm. She wore that worried expression that we’d seen so many times from so many people. The computer’s hard drive had stopped functioning.

Worse than that, not once in the life of the computer had she ever made a of the information. Everything that was on the hard drive; documents, emails, music, and worse, photos were unrecoverable by normal methods.

As if that weren’t enough, her husband and children had died in an accident a year earlier, so the photos on the computer were her main reminder of them. She had almost no prints of the photos.

We had to send her drive abroad for data recovery running up a bill of around US$1,500. A backup drive for her computer was less than one tenth of that cost. The data recovery service was able to keep the costs as low as it was by focusing on only recovering the most valuable data: her photos.

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Story 2:

A small business informed me that their clerical assistant’s computer was running unbearably slowly. On arrival, I found that the hard drive was so full, that the computer had no space to use for its own running (computers need free space on their hard drives to run properly).

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When a hard drive gets as full as that one was, the mechanical parts of the hard drive wear out much faster trying to find and use any available free space for the running of the computer. This one had just about enough. We couldn’t even copy data off of the drive.

During one attempt to copy critical data off the drive, the computer froze, and the hard drive was never online again, and no, they’d never made a backup. All their invoices, quotations, contacts and some graphics were on that hard drive. Now they have none.

The hard drive was replaced with a new one, the main software (the Operating System) installed, but we found out that some of the software on the original hard drive had no corresponding CDs to reinstall them.

Howsoever that happened, no one knew, but they now needed to purchase the software again.

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Story 3:

One elderly friend of mine had made copies of her data manually, using USB flash drives and rewritable CDs. I advised her multiple times that a backup drive for her computer would simplify life for her and make restoring her data much easier if anything untoward happened. She always repeated the same thing: That the drive was expensive, and that she was certain that she had all her documents safely stored.

Predictably, the hard drive died, and a new one installed. She was perturbed by the loss of the hard drive, but felt consoled that she had backups. Unfortunately, because she didn’t use the automated Time Machine software built into her Macintosh, I had to build everything over again. All the applications were reinstalled. I had to set up her email accounts again (she lost old emails as well), and she didn’t remember her passwords, so I had to change the passwords. This whole process took days, as she would regularly discover something new that wasn’t “as it was before”.

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The software that was already built into her Mac would have saved the entire contents of the hard drive, and restored everything; applications, documents, email & email settings exactly as it was at the last backup session. What should have taken hours took days, and much frustration all around.

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Those are real stories, not fiction to scare you.

If you lose your data because you haven’t backed up, you are the only person to blame. I feel for people like those just mentioned who lose irreplaceable photos and documents, but in today’s world backing up is easy, automated, and fairly cheap.

If you use Microsoft Windows, talk to a computer store, a -savvy friend, or go online and get information on how to back up your whole computer, not just the bits that you think are important.

If you use an Apple Macintosh, Time Machine is included and it’s your friend. It’s ridiculously simple, and it’s always been there for me and all the clients who’ve listened to me.

I’ve seen first hand how backups and a change of drive had a computer up and running in a few hours, and turned a possible catastrophe into a mere inconvenience.

You are responsible for your backups. If you lose your data, don’t shout and scream at anyone else.

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