Just before I packed up the laptop for the drive down to Southern California, I copied my PowerPoint slides and audio clips onto my USB key, then clipped the key back in my handbag where it lives. (Since I’m one of those women who is surgically attached to her handbag, I can be sure I’ll always have the USB key with me if I need it.) Then I put the laptop and my 2.5” external hard drive into the laptop case and loaded them into the trunk along with my other baggage.
I’d gone about 250 miles when I lost control of the car and spun off the road into a ditch. This was not, shall we say, one of the high points of my journey. However, I emerged with nothing worse than bruises, and surprisingly few of those.
Two hours later, when I said goodbye to my car for the last time and loaded my bags into a rental car at the Bakersfield Airport, I had no idea whether my computer had survived the accident. It’s probably a good thing I was carrying so much, because it didn’t have a lot of room to move around. The bag looked undamaged, but I had another 150 miles to drive, and it wasn’t until the next morning that I was able to confirm that the computer, like me, had made it out alive.
I’d have been pretty upset if the computer were destroyed, but I knew that I could still give my presentation. Actually, after the technical difficulties at my last presentation, I’d already determined to make sure I could deliver the thing with no slides at all, if I had to.
I didn’t have to, though I had a nervous moment when I went into the presentation folder on my C drive and found that somehow, mysteriously, the PowerPoint file had disappeared. (This might have happened while I was transferring photos from my phone, something I’m not terribly good at yet.) But since my business data gets backed up to my second internal drive (D) automatically whenever the machine is idle, and since I’d backed up to the X (portable external) drive the day before, and since I still had Wednesday’s version of the presentation on the USB key, I knew I was covered.
That’s what backups are for: to save you from yourself and from unforseen occurrences.
My fellow presenter and favorite podcaster Shel Holtz wasn’t quite so lucky. The hard drive on his Mac laptop died at 10,000 feet en route from New York to California. That put paid not just to his slides but to all the work he’d been doing on his trip. (See Shel’s blog for all the details.)
Shel backs up, but not while he’s on the road. That meant he couldn’t just borrow another laptop to run the slide show. He gave what I understand was a brilliant presentation with no slides whatsoever—refreshing to the PowerPoint-saturated audience, no doubt. (His presentation was the same time as mine, so I didn’t get to see it.) Now he’s faced with the possibility of losing all his recent work, even if he pays a fortune for data retrieval. Ouch.
The good news from Shel’s perspective is that he gets to replace the Mac he hated with a Sony he’s been coveting. But there’s no brand of computer that’s proof against drive failures. All hard drives fail eventually. (The Ur-Guru goes through about a dozen every year.) And they don’t make them like they used to, either: it’s not unusual for a drive to die within two years. If they make it past two years, they might go for as long as five. A drive that lasts longer than that is contending for the Guinness Book of World Records.
If you create data on the road, then you need to back it up on the road. In fact, given the greater likelihood of theft or breakage when traveling, backing up when traveling might be even more important than backing up at home. The reason my first external drive was a 2.5” model rather than a less-expensive 3.5” model was so that I could take it on the road without needing extra luggage. These days a road warrior like Shel Holtz would be better served by a 4 GB flash drive or 1.5” drive, easy to carry and easy to attach even in cramped circumstances.
Anywhere you take your computer is a place you should be making backups.
Now if only it were so easy to make backups of a car…