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Hotchalk Global

news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Lesson Learned (Again): Always Make a Backup

A few summers ago, I learned a very tough lesson.  There I was, working on a PowerPoint for a presentation I was giving the next day for my summer job, when the computer froze.  Annoyed, I did a hard restart of the laptop.  That was the last I would see of all the data on my hard drive.  Madeline, my laptop at that time (do recall, gentle reader, that I name my electronic devices), never booted back up.  I ended up getting a new hard drive (but never recovered my data) in that laptop, which I gave to my husband, as well as a new laptop from my employer, which I still use.  I also lucked out for the next day’s presentation because I had a copy of it online in Google Docs.  But I lost a LOT of stuff that night.  I now own two external hard drives.

Frustrated woman does NOT look happyYou would think I would have learned.  Nothing in this digital life is certain anymore.  I do backups of all my documents, pictures, movies, and music every other month or so (in fact, I think I am due to do another backup now).  I like to think I’m on top of it.  I mean, just last month, I finished all the projects for my Masters degree in Educational Technology.  I am all over this geek thing, right?


I HAD finished it all up.  I did sing from the rooftops (of Twitter) and shout from the rafters (of Facebook) that I was done – DONE! – with my Masters program.  But then something bizarre happened.  I had about an hour and a half before I needed to leave for a meeting when I saw an e-mail pop up in my Inbox.  A fellow Masters candidate in my grad school cohort reported that some of his work was gone from the wiki where we were all posting our final projects.  Missing.  The past three days’ worth of revisions.  As if they had never happened.

Aggravated man with hand to faceWhat? I said to myself.  “WHAT?!” I cried out loud.  My husband looked up from his laptop. “What?” he wondered in my direction.  A lump formed in my throat, and then I became rather unpretty while for the next ninety minutes I scrambled to rebuild my final project, and my husband wrangled my young son out of the room and away from the ugliness that ensued.  I did manage to more or less rebuild the wiki page I had lost (the revisions were never recovered), and this time I kept a copy (in Word of all places) on my computer.  But the panic and heartache were enough to remind me (for what I pray is the last time I ever need to learn this painful lesson): always make a backup.

The tools we have available today give us no excuse; yet perhaps they give us a false sense of security.  Keep a copy in Word, a copy in Google Docs, and an extra copy on a USB drive or external hard drive.  This is what I tell myself.  But we mustn’t grow complacent.  It’s still vital to have scheduled backups.  It might be worthwhile investing in a subscription to a paid, online storage service that will do automatic backups.  Some of these services include Backupify, Dropbox, or MobileMe.

Image from Flickr user ImNotQuiteJack, some rights reserved, Creative Commons.
Image from Flickr user striatic, some rights reserved, Creative Commons.

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