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Calamitous Failure January 5, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Hardware.

Pillar   The year heated up quickly yesterday, two working days into it, when three people with unrelated problems showed up at my office door in person, by telephone, and through e-mail.

What began as a simple task of checking out a machine turned into the somber job of telling a staff member that both her power supply and her hard drive had died. I then had to ask the hard question, “How much did you back up??

She answered, “I haven’t been backing up anything.?

Slowly the consequences of her inaction began to sink in. She asked about her templates. She asked about her documents. She asked about her e-mail. Gone. Gone. Gone.

Each year, I give a speech each year to everyone in the college and repeat it ad nauseum. I remind them of the four pillars of trouble-free computing. If you forget one item, you render the structure unstable.

One. We all need to be running up to date anti-virus software. This process is largely automated now through Sophos Remote Update.

Two. We should have good anti-spyware software running. Most new machines have Microsoft’s recently acquired Giant software on them.

Three. We need to ensure that our operating systems are patched and up-to-date. A couple of clicks in Internet Explorer can take care of that.

Four. We regularly need to back up our data. There are plenty of tools for doing that but few people have ever had to actually recover their data to test out their back up systems.

All it takes is one calamitous failure to change your work habits. The other two issues of the day were equally pressing and challenging but I would rather now re-live them here. Thank goodness I have a decent team of experts around me to help when things get tough.

Update: The good news is that we were able to save all the data on that hard drive. Since there was no mechanical problem with the drive we could hook it to another computer and transfer the “women and children” off the sinking ship that was her old drive.



1. Zs - January 5, 2006

I am smiling reading this since I was one of the ones with a lost take home exam file, lost forever two days before the due date.
Perhaps people like me need to learn it on the hard way :-(
Since then I burn a CD every 3-4 months with all my docs on the computer. It’s so easy and since one can buy the 50 CD box, is cheap also. At least if I loose something I don’t loose it all.
More than that I got used to upload to my gmail account files I know I need. I just love the labels I can make for e-mails. With more than 2.5 GB storage place I have one more back-up.

Keep telling them, but don’t forget some of us learn only when the sky falls on our head. Good news: We don’t need a second time :-)

I’m glad I am not the only one who was nagging you; glad that there are many searching desperately help in the Computer Lab and you won’t “miss” me :-) Imagine how boring job you would have if no one would need your help!

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