Backup Your Important Data . . . or else . . .

Backup Important Data

I will never forget my first crisis with lost data for a client. For my client, it was a catastrophic event, and judging from her behavior, equivalent to any major global crisis. Her world had ended and I was blamed for destroying it. I felt like the meteor in Armageddon, except I succeeded in demolishing every single last piece of my client’s body of work. After years of therapy, I am finally ready to speak about it in hopes that my experience might possibly prevent someone else from going through the same thing.

If you don’t get anything else from this article, please remember: Backup Your Data.

Before I worked as a Website Designer and Developer, I worked in IT Support for a private school. I worked with faculty and students to integrate technology into the classroom and also helped find solutions to their technology problems. One day, I received a call from a faculty member who was having trouble on her laptop computer. I determined quickly that her user profile on the machine was corrupt and needed to be recreated. I explained to her that I needed to delete and then recreate her profile and asked her if she had all of her important information backed up in another location, so we could restore all of her documents. She said, “yes of course,” and quickly left for a meeting. I trusted her response that her data was safe, especially because all faculty members had access to a personal folder on a server to save important documents specifically for situations like this one. So, when the confirmation box in Windows popped up, asking me if I was “sure” I wanted to delete this user’s profile, I confirmed the action with confidence. Big mistake.

If you don’t get anything else from this article please remember: Backup Your Data.

A couple hours later, I received a phone call from the faculty member asking where I had placed her documents. I told her they should be in the shared folder if that’s where she had been backing them up.

“What and where is that?” she replied, the frustration in her voice rising.

“You don’t know what that is?” I questioned, hoping that she was experiencing a temporary memory lapse.

“I just need my stuff back,” she stated, the frustration turning to anger: “All my documents were backed up to my Desktop.”

At this point, I knew everything was gone and I had been the one who deleted it. Debating who was responsible for the misunderstanding or who should be responsible for backing up important data was irrelevant due to the destruction that had been caused. Judging from her tone already, this was going to get much worse when she would have to confront the fact that her data was gone, lost forever.

“I had to delete and re-create your profile, which deleted everything on your Desktop. If you don’t have your data backed up to the shared folder, then it’s gone. I am very sorry.”

“Gone?” I heard nothing except some deep breathing on the other end as the reality slowly sunk in. And then click . . .

If you don’t get anything else from this article please remember: Backup Your Data.

Thinking that was the end of it was a mistake. We all handle crisises in different ways. This faculty member completely broke down to the principal, her peers, my peers, and my boss, stating that not only had I destroyed important documentation preventing her from doing her job, but that her teaching career had now been jeopardized because there were documents she had been working on for years that were now gone. Her responses quickly got back to me from other faculty members who were wondering what I could have done to cause this. My working reputation was damaged and took months to repair completely. I also had to deal with the emotional impact of possibly significantly damaging someone’s career. Regardless of whether she was overreacting or not, when someone makes a public declaration that you have destroyed their career, it’s hard to deal with on both a personal and professional level.

Ultimately, the faculty member was able to find her most important files on her computer at home, but still had to re-do some lost work. Needless to say, she did survive and is still teaching today.

There is a very important point in this story and its bigger than just back up your data. The most important point is that data does not have a set value or price. Information you have been collecting or working on for years cannot be measured in value or be easily replaced. So, wouldn’t it just be logical then to take the time to backup information that is precious. Many of us simply do not. We put too much trust in technology when the only certainty is that, at some point, technology will fail; your computer will die, your USB drive will fail, and your CD or DVD will crack/break. It’s bound to happen.

Leo Laporte, better known as The Tech Guy, over at Tech Guy Labs has the best policy for backing up your data. He calls it the 3,2,1 plan. You always need to have 3 copies of your data, in 2 different formats (DVD, USB) and always keep 1 in an offsite location (cloud storage, office). This can be time consuming and carries a cost with it, but consider the cost of losing data critical to your website or business – it’s just not worth it.

At MSK Digital Media, we build a backup implementation plan for the site files and database — a plan that is implemented into the project whether the client specifically requests it or not. I don’t want to be the destructive asteroid demolishing important work ever again, even if it wasn’t solely my fault. It was a tough way to learn this lesson, but I’m glad I learned it early on. And hopefully, now you won’t make the same mistake.

Until Next Week,

Matt