I work as a computer software engineer, and sad experience had taught me that backing up one's data is vital. Not just my own, but that of some of my employers, all of whom should have known better, been better prepared, or both.
The first time I encountered data loss, I shrugged it off as an aberration. I was working for a place in the west 40's in Manhattan, a little hole in the wall that did data processing for one of the large department stores that has since gone belly up. We were at lunch, in one of the many restaurants that peppered the area, when the conversation turned to smoking:
“John had given up smoking,” Colin, my boss, said, “but he took it up again when he deleted our source code. We had to restore it from backup, and he started smoking again.”
“What happened?” I asked.
A backup utility had completed unsuccessfully, leaving the data unreadable.
“But,” Colin added, “If you copy the data out and copy it back, that can't happen.”
I duly made a mental note.
The next time it was my fault. I had moved on to a new job, and I was trying to learn the ins and outs of the backup and restore utilities. I made a mistake, inserting a space before a comma, and ended up deleting the entire data set instead of just one member. My boss covered for me, and restored it from backup.
I duly made a mental note.
The next time, however, convinced me that backing up one's data is vital. I had moved on to yet another job, this time working for a large bank as what today would be called a system administrator. We had a number of specially coded routines that had to be inserted into various spots in each new release of the operating system: accounting utilities designed to keep track of resource usage for billing purposes and others designed to validate privileges for accessing data. They were stored in the same kind of file that the first place had used, and they used the same utility in the same incorrect manner.
They did have procedures that were designed to alert someone (not us) that an error had occurred, and they did back up their data. But by the time someone noticed the problem, all the good backup copies had gone out of retention.They switched to a library package, but the missing programs had to be painfully recoded. There are several lessons from this story:
Don't ever use that utility.
Always make sure that what you're doing really worked.
And consider buying a library package or finding some other way to safeguard your data.
Now a days most of us have laptops. But nothing, not even a laptop, is going to last forever, which is why I resist storing anything vital on mine.
All of which is by way of convincing you, I hope, to find a way, some way, to back up your files. Keep it in a cloud. Back it up onto a thumb drive. Find a service that will back up your data for you.
But back it up.
What do I do? I keep master copies of my work on Google documents, which is available online from any computer I care to use. It's easy to upload files and I can modify them there if I want to. I can download them again. I can share them with others, or email them a copy. I can organize my files into folders, and I can search through them easily.
And yeah, I've had to revert to backup copies.
Don't, repeat, don't, believe that it can't happen to you.
Readers: Do you back up your data? Pray it will never happen to you? Use a service? Let us know what you do and how you like it.
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