How to avoid a bad breakup

I have been with her for just over a year. We hooked up in November 2005 and have been together, side by side, virtually every day, all day. I thought I treated her well, took care of her the way I should and yet it just wasn’t enough. Granted I dropped her about a week or so ago but I didn’t think it would end like this. This morning, my sexy little PowerBook’s hard drive conked in (it is a technical term). By the time I took her to Apple hospital I had learned a few important lessons and reinforced some earlier ones. They can be summed up with the following advice: backup often and as many times as you can!

So how do you protect your data from disaster and steer clear of the heavy drinking and/or deep depression that accompanies the realisation of just how much data has been lost or must be restored? I humbly offer the following from my own, very recent and painful experience.

Firstly, make sure your documents are backed up. This is old and good advice. I use an external drive which I back almost all my vital documents and settings files to every 2 days at around 2am. I think this is probably the longest you want to wait between backups if your documents change daily. After my baby comes back to me I am probably going to switch to daily backups. If you don’t have an external drive, backup to your iPod (with disk use enabled), USB drive or to DVDs/CDs. Just make sure you have some form of backup otherwise you will really be in a big pickle. Also make sure it works properly. An online solution have heard good things about is Amazon’s Simple Storage Solution (run by Amazon Web Services). The rates are pretty low:

  • Pay only for what you use. There is no minimum fee, and no start-up cost.
  • $0.15 per GB-Month of storage used.
  • $0.20 per GB of data transferred.

The features are pretty good too:

Amazon S3 is intentionally built with a minimal feature set.

  • Write, read, and delete objects containing from 1 byte to 5 gigabytes of data each. The number of objects you can store is unlimited.
  • Each object is stored and retrieved via a unique, developer-assigned key.
  • Authentication mechanisms are provided to ensure that data is kept secure from unauthorized access. Objects can be made private or public, and rights can be granted to specific users.
  • Uses standards-based REST and SOAP interfaces designed to work with any Internet-development toolkit.
  • Built to be flexible so that protocol or functional layers can easily be added. Default download protocol is HTTP. A BitTorrent(TM) protocol interface is provided to lower costs for high-scale distribution. Additional interfaces will be added in the future.

Another important lesson is to keep regular backups of your email, contacts and calendars. If you use services like Gmail and Google Calendar for your mail and diary, respectively, then you are covered there. But what about yur contacts? Well, Gmail has a contacts facility but you can’t really synchronise your contacts on Gmail with another service unless you use the import/export functions (not quite as good as automated synchronisations) so a service I use is Plaxo which has a free account. Plaxo enables you to keep in touch with other Plaxo users (as their information changes, those changes reflect in your address book) and also enables you to back your data up. Plaxo interfaces with Yahoo!, Aol Instant Messenger, Apple Address Book (via a synchronisation tool), Thunderbird and Outlook.

Don’t forget to keep copies of your original application installation disks and files together with the registration codes that you may need if you find yourself having to rebuild everything from scratch! Don’t forget all your office suite and operating system updates. If you downloaded them, keep them safe. It will save you a lot of download time.

Oh, one last thing. Insure your baby from the idiotic things you may do (and I have done). When faced with replacing all that data and the computer itself, the knowledge that it is insured makes a big difference.

It turns out my PowerBook can be repaired (the hard drive will probably need to be replaced) and she should be home next week. Till then, I am back on my PC and Google apps …

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