Yesterday I upgraded several of my blogs/sites to WordPress 2.5. (If you’re a WordPress user, I recommend that you do this also. Be sure to back up your blog first—the whole thing, not just the database.)
One thing I noticed in the course of doing this was that I really have very few posts/articles about writing. Indeed, many of the posts that started out on the Author-ized Articles blog were actually about podcasting, and I’ve moved them over to the Podcast Asylum site. Fifty-odd posts about writing and publishing versus more than 300 on backup is a pretty dramatic ratio. If it’s as a writer and not a computer consultant that I want to establish myself, shouldn’t the proportions be reversed?
The answer to that would be “absolutely,” but for a few points:
- There are many e-zines and blogs about different aspects of writing and publishing.
- Almost no one writes about backup.
- I didn’t actually start writing this Backup Reminder in order to make money.
- It’s useful to demonstrate that I can write about a boring technical subject in an accessible way.
I started reading Podcasting for Profit the other day. One of the first points author Leesa Barnes makes is that you need specific, measurable goals for creating a podcast. Reading that reminded me that this Backup Reminder didn’t come about because of any kind of strategic planning on my part. I started without having very clear goals, which makes it kind of difficult to tell whether it’s worth continuing. How do you know whether you’re successful if you don’t know what success looks like?
Though I heard a lot about the value of e-zines for marketing in the first few years (before I had the blog to host the archives), I didn’t start the Backup Reminder as a way to market my services. My motive in writing about backup every week was to spare my clients the trauma of data loss. I was still masochistic enough to do tech support work in those days, but I ran into one too many situations where I couldn’t save the client’s data. It’s heartbreaking when that happens. And even when you can get the data back, it’s back-breaking labor. Much easier to help people set up their backup systems than to attempt data recovery.
So I suppose one way to define success would be “When all my friends and clients have (and use) working backup systems.” If I achieved that goal, then maybe I could move on to doing something else.
And, indeed, many of my past and present friends and clients do now have backup systems in place, whether or not I was involved in creating them. (I just sent out a message asking them.) But what about future friends and clients? And what about the fact that we all have more types of data to back up, and more options for doing so, than we did five years ago? I still hear tales of woe from people who thought they had backups and people who never knew they needed them.
There’s always going to be a need for someone to spread the word, and no one else seems to be volunteering. Sure, there are tons of white papers about enterprise backup, storage, and data protection systems. And there are increasing numbers of products available for the small office/home office computer user, plus at least one site dedicated to reviewing backup products. But nothing quite like this.
Am I really providing a valuable enough public service to make it worth putting in so much time and effort? I usually enjoy it, but there’s no question there are other things I could be writing which would bring me greater financial rewards (like a couple of post’s for a client’s blog, which need to be done today). I’m not arrogant enough to think that writing an e-zine with a small subscriber list and a 20% open rate is going to make the world safe from data loss.
But it might mean fewer tales of heartbreak from the people I know personally. And it does mean that if my readers lose their data, it won’t be because they didn’t know they were supposed to make backups.