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How to Keep Your Sanity Afloat if Your Computer Drowns (or other equally devastating catastrophe)

By Alyssa Gregory

Earlier this week, in an incident involving an 8-month old, an open water bottle and a serious lapse in attention and sound judgment, water spilled on the keyboard of my MacBook Pro.

Luckily, I recovered from my heart attack quickly enough to shut down, turn the computer upside down and ask for help (thanks to all of my Twitter friends who shared their expertise and equally painful flooded computer stories)!

This was a serious reality check that forced me to confirm all of the checks and balances I have in place to keep my business and my sanity afloat in case of a disaster. And happily, I passed the test. Plus, the computer booted up last night without a pause, and I lived to tell about it.

Of course, there were a couple minor hiccups and a lot of lessons re-learned. So I thought I’d share some with you as a review that will hopefully help if you ever face the potential disaster of a drowned or otherwise ruined computer.

Make sure your data is backed up and know the backup schedule.

I think everyone backs up their data these days. But how often do you check your backed up files to make sure the data is sound? And how often do you review what the time lag is before your files are synced?

Being the overachiever that I am, I have a few different backups, local and online, and I use them regularly so I know the data was intact and usable. I didn’t, however, have time to verify if everything I had worked on that day was synced before pulling the plug. It was a minor time drain comparing files and figuring out what was missing.

Have a second computer that works (and has what you need).

What’s your plan for continuing your work if something happens to your primary machine? Do you have a backup computer with comparable software that has access to your backed up files?

I work concurrently on a PC and a Mac every day, so I was able to shift right over to my PC and continue working with only a small pause. But if I didn’t already use my PC regularly, moving over to a new machine would take some time. It would take even more time if you haven’t booted the backup computer in a while and had to run updates and other maintenance before getting started.

Have a way to access your “right-now” data.

It’s funny how quickly we forget what we’re doing when something yanks us off task. And if you tend to have multiple apps running, windows opened and brain processes chugging along, it’s nearly impossible to pickup where you left off on a different machine at a different time.

This was one area I neglected to consider when I setup all of the backups and contingency plans. I didn’t have a plan for being able to access the exact information I was working on at the exact time of the “incident.”

For example, my inbox acts as my running reminder list. While I had access to all of my email messages, I didn’t immediately know which ones I had flagged, sorted and tagged in my email client. Another minor headache that was quickly resolved once my Mac came back to life, but could have been much more serious if it had died.

Your lessons?

Have you ever been in a similar situation? What were the lessons you learned?

Image credit: dreamjay

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  • http://www.curtismchale.ca curtismchale

    For my instant backups I keep everything in DropBox. Then it’s on all my computers ‘on save’ and in the cloud just in cast. Once the project is not a current one I move it off to my PC and archive it. Mozy picks that up nightly and pushes it offsite.

    Having a second computer around (I too work on a Mac and a PC daily) is totally worth it.

    • naptown14

      DropBox is an incredible tool and I use it daily. Most users of this site probably have multiple computers, and DropBox gives you an opportunity to both access documents easily via Windows Explorer from all computers, plus keeps it all in the cloud for access from anywhere in the world. Haven’t heard of Mozy, I will need to check that one out.

  • http://www.livescript.co.uk Markdidj

    All my websites run from a memory stick that is usually around my neck. IIS is pointed to it, as is WAMP. I back it up to my PC and an external drive. Every now and then I’ll back it up to another memory stick and post the old one to myself with secure recorded delivery. When it comes in through the post I store it in a secure place.

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