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A horror story: Why you should always backup your computer and data

OK, so recently I learned the hard way that no matter how tech savvy you think you might be, no one is immune from a dreaded computer malfunction –- not even the founder of a company started to help people protect against and prevent such a thing. What’s worse is that even with all the great resources we put out to help avoid being the victim of such a disaster, this goose failed to take his own advice. I thought I’d take the time to share a recent experience I had, and reinforce one of the key things every computer user should do to protect themselves from an avoidable disaster.

Sleeping Beauty: Why Regular PC Backups are Important
Unfortunately, this didn’t work either.

What Happened

A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of our annual company summit (and just after lunch when I was due to give a presentation), I went to wake up my laptop from sleep mode only to find that my beauty just wouldn’t stir. With a room full of technical geniuses, and all the suggestions that were being thrown at me, I was confident we were going to arrive at a positive outcome. We tried everything from a hard reboot, to booting in safe mode, to booting from a windows recovery CD and even booting from the original Windows 7 CD. So desperate I was, I even went as far as trying to give it a kiss, although it seems that I was not the princely figure that my laptop needed to arise from its slumber.

Despite all of our best efforts, the final diagnosis was an irreparable Hard Disk Drive (HDD) failure. I was assured by our gurus that this wasn’t going to be a big problem; after all, all we had to do was open the laptop up, replace the HDD (maybe even go with a bigger, better, and faster drive), reinstall the OS (hell, I might even try Windows 8), reload all my apps, and then restore all my files from my backups. Ahaaa!!! I said, Ahaaa!!! Restore my files from my backups. Who’s the silly fellow who has never done a backup in their life!?! Yep, that’s right, you guessed it, ME! :-( (and that’s a BIG :-( )

I Didn’t Back Up my Data

In all my years of working in technology, both at big companies and small, the mantra has always been about protecting your most important asset –- your data. Heck, I’ve even been the one preaching the sermon. Upon reflection, I realized that I’d never in my life completed a comprehensive backup of the data on any of the devices I’ve owned. This led me to start thinking about the different data that I could lose. Sure my work files are important to me. I thought of the impact of losing all of the work I done on the countless documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and oh my, all my contact lists. Then it really hit me. I realized all of the personal stuff I have on my devices. Photos and videos of the most important people in my life. My family, some of which had recently passed. My nieces and nephews as they were growing up. All the time, and money, it had taken to download and organize my music collections. On this realization, I just could not help but shake my head in disbelief, and to be honest, in a little disappointment in myself.

My last chance was that one our gurus would be able to recover my data by connecting the damaged HDD to the newly configured laptop, and that the sectors on which my data was stored were not affected by the corrupted section that caused the drive to fail. Thankfully, this worked. We were able to retrieve my files and copy them to the new HDD. The only real consequence of this experience for me was losing about a week or so of access to my files while our techs were trying to retrieve them. I was lucky. Many people, however, aren’t so lucky.

Why Backups are Important

Whether you’re a computer nerd or a computer novice, I’m sure you’ve got some data on your computer that you would sorely miss in the unfortunate event of a HDD failure. Take the time to back this data up. Whether its only the key data you couldn’t bear to lose, or a more comprehensive backup of all the files on your computer, a backup should absolutely be part of your regular computing routine. It certainly has now become part of mine!

Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll give an overview of some of the types of backup mediums available and their respective pros and cons. I’ll also include some that we’ve tried and tested – and the one that I now use! :-)

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