Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Back It Up!

By Mark W. Danielson

Ever lose a computer document? I have, and there’s nothing more frustrating. Computers pretend to be our friends, but only with a snake’s emotion. They obey because they have to, then out of the blue, self-destruct. Suddenly, your masterpiece and your sanity vanish. To prevent this, I offer these pearls:

First and foremost, whenever you begin a document, save it. That should start with the document’s title. From there on, constantly save the document. Write a paragraph, hit Save. Write another paragraph, hit Save again. Repeat this pattern until you type, “The End.” Of course, none of this matters if your computer crashes. That’s why you need external backups.

External hard drives are great, but they’re not always automatic. Ideally, you should buy an external hard drive that’s big enough to hold all of your computer’s documents and photos. That way, if your computer crashes you can re-load all your stored data onto your replacement computer or hard drive. These days, a 500 GB external hard drive costs around a hundred bucks. Lose one manuscript in a computer crash and you’ll wonder why you never bought one.

Flash drives are equally wonderful, and the cost keeps coming down. I just purchased a 16 GB Toshiba flash drive for 40 bucks at Office Max. That’s a lot of memory in a two inch accessory. Plug it into the USB and you’re set.

The problem with computers is they have a limited number of USB ports, so if your printer and external mouse are plugged into a two-port laptop, there isn’t room for an external hard drive or flash drive. Now, you must sacrifice the mouse or a printer to save your work. Interestingly, as much as people hate mice in their houses, it’s the printer that usually goes. Anything for a back-up, right?

But let’s say you’re on the road or you can’t find your flash drive and you still want to back things up. That’s easy, too. Just e-mail it to yourself and it will be there whenever you need it.

Now here’s the thing -- I wrote this in Word without any external back-up plugged in. Why? Because I was too lazy, even though my external hard drive and flash drives are sitting in front of me. I’ll be doing that real soon, though. Sound familiar? Thought so. Be forewarned, computer crashes happen, and the price of external memory has never been cheaper. The cost of losing one’s sanity? Immeasurable. The excuse for losing one's memory? There is none.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Great advice, Mark. I like flash drives but I keep losing them. :)

Mark W. Danielson said...

Mucho Bummer, Jean. There's nothing worse than losing your memory:(

Beth Terrell said...

Words of wisdom, Mark. I don't back up nearly as much as I should. Why do I fear that will come back to haunt me one of these days?

Anonymous said...

My computer guru (author Ivan Van Laningham in Utah) says CDs are the most reliable backup tools. Consequently, I have about 10 pounds of CDs weighing down my tote bag because I'm afraid to leave my apartment without them. (:

I have some flash drives that I used about 6 years ago but so far they are still good. Also in my tote bag.

Also in my tote bag are 4 CDs of files that a computer
genius (friend of a friend) retrieved from the hard drive of my last computer when it died. Yes, it can be done, and he only charged me $50. Best bargain I ever got.

What I really need is an external hard drive. Note to self .....

Pat Browning

Mark W. Danielson said...

Beth, the old saying, "those that have and those that will" certainly applies to computer crashes. Thankfully, they don't happen often, but . . .

Pat, CDs are also excellent backups. Thanks for mentioning that. Before my last computer died, I backed up my files on CDs, as well. Now I have plenty of CDs and flash drives brim full of data, and little idea what's on any of them. Every once in a while, it's fun to stroll down memory lane by opening them up. :)

Flash drives and CDs are both great for storing important data in safe deposit boxes.