10 PROVEN TIPS TO SURVIVE A COMPUTER CRASH By Eve Abbott, excerpted from her new book, How to Do Space Age Work with a Stone Age Brain TM
COMPUTER CRASH Do these words strike fear into you? If not, maybe they should! A computer crash is at best time consuming and expensive, and at worst a genuine business disaster. Here are things you can do now to prevent a crash and/or insure a smooth recovery whether you use your computer at work or for your personal life-or both, like me!
The first rule in minimizing computer disasters is backup. The second rule in easier data recovery is BackUp. The third rule in computer organizing is BACKUP. I am astounded at number of people (in large and small businesses) who do not back up their work regularly. Without good backups, you risk losing everything if your hard drive goes belly-up.
Start by setting all of your programs to save automatically after 2 minutes. This will protect your work against temporary freeze-ups and unplanned shutdowns.
Second, plug your computer, monitor, and other electronic equipment into a UPS Battery Backup unit to protect it from power surges and outages. A unit like this one will give you 5 minutes to save your work and shut down your computer normally if power goes out.
Then-BACK UP! (If you're not sure what best way to back up is, keep reading.)
I bought a brand new Hewlett Packard Pavilion XP system and began to back up weekly. Seven months later, I returned from making a cup of tea to hear my computer going click-click-click loudly. My hard drive had just crashed for no reason at all. As is often case, I lost everything on it.
I felt confident because I had my data backed up by copying my entire working C-drive onto a CD-but even with backups, and even if your computer is still under warranty, let's get realistic about how much time and money a crash can end up costing you.
It took four days for me to get special shipping box HP sent me to return computer. They replaced hard drive, and it was returned within 10 business days at no charge for repair and shipping. This still adds up to three weeks without my computer.
First, I rented a laptop and spent hours installing programs I normally use. Laptop rental cost me $250.00 for one month, with a $500 refundable deposit. I could have rented a desktop system for a little less per month, but I would have had to wait a week to get computer. It was great to have laptop to use until my repaired computer arrived. But, I had to go through same restoration process again when it was returned with a new hard drive. More time lost and more frustration, too.
Second, I spent hours importing my data from backup CDs. I still lost almost a week's worth of data (Quicken entries, Word documents, calendar and contact information) because that's how long I go between backups.
Third, I spent hours recreating custom settings on my software. Fourth, I had to install some smaller programs that I'd forgotten I would need. THE DAMAGE: Sometimes data can be recovered from a dead drive, depending on what has caused crash. Professional data recovery services charge from $500 to $1500 to get your data back, and you have to pay whether or not they recover anything.
You can find more information about data recovery services at http://www.drlabs.com/pricing.html and http://www.dtidata.com/data_recovery.asp.
I paid $1,000.00 in computer consultant fees to get laptop set up, and my computer taken apart and set up again to get it running A-OK. That's apart from data recovery costs, which my backups saved me from having to pay.
The grand total: $1,250.00 and 7 days in lost time. Pretty expensive considering that I had all my current data backed up onto CDs.
There are many ways to back up information. Diskette, CD, Zip drive, External hard drive and Web (on-line). I will not discuss tape drive backups simply because tape media is unreliable and awkward compared to newer technologies. If you have more than one computer, you can back up from one to another via network drives-but that only protects you in event that disaster strikes one machine at a time.
There are four questions you need to ask yourself regarding your back-ups:
1) How critical is your data? (My business and life are on my hard drive = critical) 2) Do you add or process high volumes of information? 3) In what time frame do you add enough to make it a real loss? (day, week, per project) 4) Do you work with very large files of any type? The more information you process or add to your computer hard drive, more often you need to back up. For high volume or crucial files you need to backup daily.
Diskette: There is small file backup onto diskette. For example, you just entered a lot of Quicken data and you don't want to take a chance on losing it but you don't want to do a full back up, or you have a single Word file, just pop it on a diskette. Remember to label any and all backup media with contents and date.
ZIP drives and disks: ZIP drives and disks can work well for back ups of larger projects. I had a client who was an author and she kept one ZIP disk for each of her books, which contained every file related to book - not just text. If you are satisfied using a ZIP drive and disks for your data storage - don't change to another media. Note: many more people have CDs than zips, so if you need to share data you may need to switch to CDs.
CD: In same way you archive paper every year after taxes (along with a backup of your accounting program and data), consider backing up entire projects onto CD when you're finished. This keeps data available and safe, without cluttering your hard drive. You can file a project closeout CD with matching archived paper files. Or keep a variety of backups in a CD organizer (date labeled) divided up into Projects, Backups and Programs.