They say it's not "if" you'll lose your data, but "when." If you have already experienced your "when" then you'll be able to relate to the sheer horror and disbelief I felt when I realized that all my personal files were gone after a coworker had "used" my computer.
My story began when I tried to pull up a Microsoft Word document containing some of my best proposals for the company. I was certain that one proposal in particular was a "slam dunk" and I couldn't wait to show it to the boss. I eagerly sat down and double-clicked to open my trusty yellow folder named "the goods" saved prominently on my computer's desktop. It greeted me with an empty window showing 0 objects. I blinked hard several times, closed the folder, and then double-clicked it harder -expecting a miracle. No miracle, no files, no way could this have happened to me! Sweat beads formed on my forehead as I swallowed that slow, dry swallow of "something really bad just happened." I felt like one of those crime victims at a press conference when they say, "I always see this on TV, but I never thought it would actually happen to me!"
For the next 10 minutes I nibbled my cheek and scratched my head desperately searching for an explanation and solution for my dilemma.
"Maybe I'm logged on as another user and that's why my files aren't visible." Nope. My other stuff was visible.
"Maybe someone deleted them to the recycle bin." Nope. Holding my breath while I double-clicked to look didn't help. Nothing was in there.
"Maybe I moved the files to work on them at home." Nope. I knew I wouldn't have done that.
"Maybe they've been moved to another place on the hard drive." Nope. No such luck.
Maybe I'm about to learn a painful lesson." Yep. There was no other way to say it.
Fortunately, I found a backup from 2 weeks earlier (which is more than many risk-taking computer users have) but the backup was missing some of my best, most recent work. After vocally sharing my feelings with the computer then taking a moment to feel completely victimized, I resentfully began to retype my proposals -to the best of my knowledge.
When clients ask me how much they should invest in a backup system I ask "How many days of your business's data are you willing to lose?" So far 2 days is the longest time frame any client has given me (which was quickly recanted and changed to one day).
Backing up is probably one of the least glamorous parts of using a computer. It's a pain to do. So is buying insurance. Backing up is like buying insurance; you hate to do it, but when you need it you wish you had done more. And there are so many ways to backup now there is no excuse for ever losing more than a few minutes of data to a computer disaster. Today's technology offers some wonderful backup tools: Tape drives, Zip drives, Jaz drives, CD writers, DVD writers, USB drives, sending email attachments to ourselves and even old fashioned floppy disks can all be data life-savers.
The best option I've found to prevent "data-loss agony" is to use the automatic backup feature built into most good software programs. Typically it's found under the Tools > Options menu and will automatically backup your work in the background at intervals and to a location you specify. If you don't see this feature then make it a habit to frequently hit the CTRL + S key on your keyboard to "save" your work. I've learned to do this almost unconsciously every couple of minutes.
For a more complete backup of all your files Windows comes with a built in backup program you can schedule to run any time day or night while you are not using your computer. It is usually found under Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools and has a wizard that makes setting up an automated backup schedule a snap.
Few feelings are worse than losing a precious file you've put your heart, soul and time into. Restoring and seeing it pop up onto your screen enables you to experience a rare form of pure joy that few humans ever get to feel. Words can't describe it. I hope you never need to experience this joy. But set yourself up for it anyway. Go back up your stuff.