Trial By Fire

Last week one of my students came to class with the horrifying news that the previous evening she had arrived home to find fire trucks in the parking lot, trying to control a fire in the apartment directly above hers. She came to class because, she said, “I need something to do to keep my mind off the horror! I had to be here!”

Fortunately the fire was contained before it destroyed her unit. A week later her apartment and belongings are being treated for smoke damage. She still has not been able to spend more than a few minutes at a time in the apartment and has been unable to determine whether her computer works or not. Fortunately the story she had written for class last week was stored on her work computer. We all have our fingers crossed that the contents of her home hard drive will be intact.

You never know when a fire will start. You never know when a thief will come. You never know when a hard drive will die.
Are your files backed up? Are your really important files backed up outside your home?
For several years I’ve lamented that basic safe deposit boxes were not wide enough to store backup CDs. That is no longer a concern. You could fit enough USB drives in a small box to store a few terrabytes of data. SD cards (like you use in cameras) are thumbnail size and can hold up to several gigabytes. They can store any kind of file, not just camera-generated photos. Stick them in a card reader, and they are like an old-fashioned floppy on mega-steroids. The price is dropping fast. You can buy an external compact hard drive with around 200 gigabytes of storage for under $100. These drives are the size of a stack of about 30 index cards. You could fit one in a small safe deposit box with plenty of room left for wills, financial records and a small coin collection.

But you don’t have to go to the bank unless the security of a bank vault matters to you. The systems administrator of our public library uses two external hard drives to back up the whole library system. She takes a drive with a fresh back-up image home with her each night and brings the alternate one in the following morning for updating. In the worst case scenario, only one day’s work would be lost. You could use this approach with a friend or neighbor, probably less frequently.

I know too many people who have gone through the heartbreak of losing the stories of their lives to hard drive crashes. Please, please, don’t let your name be added to this list! Back up your stories! Do it NOW!

Write now: about an unforeseen disaster in your life (may be computer-related, or not). Were you ready? What happened. Why? How did you cope? What would you do next time?


Yvi said...

That's a great idea, just having a USB stick in your bank deposit box.
We have a backup hard disk at home, so we are save if somethings happens only to the laptop, but not if there is a big fire or earthquake ...
Thank you!!!

Ritergal said...

Yvi, may you be spared those disasters, but I'm glad my words may keep you safer, in the land of earthquakes and fire.

Vanessa said...

Google docs is also a great option. Lots of space, version control and selective sharing, while being incredibly user friendly.