When a friend on twitter this week lost 3 hours’ work to a USB thumb-drive failure, I was encouraged to write a quick post about backups. If we’re honest, we don’t tend to think about backups until it’s too late.
To further labour the earlier analogy about touch-typing as driving a car, if using technology is like driving, then having backups is wearing a seatbelt. It can restrict your movements, and you need to keep remembering it each time, but when a crash comes, it can save you.
There are a few different things to remember when thinking about backups, and if you’re curious, I’m happy to go into some more detail in a future post, but here are the main things.
- If the computer I’m working on crashes *right now*, how much work will I lose?
- If the computer I have my work saved on crashes (or is stolen), how much work will I lose?
- If I lose my USB key (or it’s stolen, or it stops working), do I have another copy of my work somewhere else?
- If my laptop bag is stolen, is my other backup copy of the file also stored in my laptop bag?
- If I accidentally delete a file, is there a copy of my work somewhere else?
- If I accidentally save a document and replace a more important one, can I get a copy of the more important one back?
- If I’m hoping to get my document back from [some kind of backup system], will I be able to?
With large web-based email accounts being available for free, it makes sense to be emailing yourself copies of important documents so that you have a backup copy in “the cloud” – but again, don’t make that your only copy. What happens if your account is hacked, or you forget your password?
The key to backups is to have a lot of copies of documents in different places. It’s time consuming, but it is much better than re-doing a lot of work!
Do you have any backup advice or horror stories you’d like to share?