The headline is “Another reminder to back up,” with the much more provocative subtitle “You can only be lucky for so long.” In it, Pogue describes the adventures (and headaches) caused by the crash of his Dell hard drive, which ultimately inspired him to consult DriveSavers, story to be continued. The person he talked to at DriveSavers told him that the only good hard drive is the one that’s backed up. Pogue had backed up “My Documents,” but not his Outlook PST folder or his Dragon Naturally Speaking “training” files.
I’m glad to see backup mentioned in a high-profile non-tech publication, of course. What surprises me is that such a well-known author and columnist on tech subjects should have failed to back up such an obvious thing as his Outlook data. (Whoops, there go 2000 e-mails from readers of the column.)
Which brings me to a question that one of my writing clients asked me the other day. “With your background in languages, what the heck are you doing writing about computer backups?”
First, I try to respond to what clients ask for, and back in 2003 one of my Tech Services clients asked for a weekly backup reminder. (This was the day before I had to spend 12 straight hours salvaging his data, reformatting his hard drive, and reinstalling all his software, after which I got a serious lecture from my bodyworker about throwing myself on laptops as if they were grenades.)
Just as importantly, though, it’s because of situations like Pogue’s. People who ought to know better—who probably do know better—still don’t back up. And then, eventually, tragedy strikes.
And how, asked a podcaster who just phoned to discuss using his audios as the basis of an e-book series, do you write about something you don’t have a background in? (Just in case you don’t know, my degrees are in classical languages and literature, not computer science, engineering, or anything like that.)
Research, that’s how. The same way I wrote about Greek and Roman drama and all the other things I had to write about when I was in graduate school. Research, including practical experience testing products myself where I can, and asking other people about their experiences.
Actually, after two years of writing about something, you do have a background in it. But you don’t have to be an Ur-Guru to say “If it’s important, back it up.” You don’t have to be a geek to be able to back up, either. There are plenty of no-brainer backup solutions (though they tend to cost more than the ones which require more thought and work). In other words, for all the excuses people make, there’s no excuse.
David Pogue has promised to tell us all about his DriveSavers experience in his next column. For his sake, I hope he gets his Outlook data back. Even if he does, the lesson he’s learned about what he needs to back up is an expensive one. I’m sure he’ll remember it, but I don’t recommend you follow his example. Learn from it instead.
You can read and comment on the full NYT article, but go make your backups first.