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BELLTONES: Advice on Data Backups? Do as I Say … Not as I’ve Been Doing!

By Mary Ann Bell - Posted Nov 1, 2011
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Truth be told, it is hypocritical for me to be writing and dispensing advice about this topic. That’s why I am doing it! The topic is backing up your important files. Are you faithful about this? I used to be, but recently I have grown careless. So this article is in the vein of “do as I say and not as I do.”

The topic popped into my mind because I had recently received reports of sad situations resulting from the loss of valuable data. One of my Facebook friends reported losing all of her pictures. She commented on this and mentioned that at least she had posted some images to her FB account. Those will be the only ones she will have that hold the memories lost with her other pictures.

Several days later a student contacted me at the end of the semester. She had lost her files, including her final project. This was especially sad because she had thought she was being safe and had saved the files to an external hard drive. Evidently she saved them directly to that drive, though, and did not have copies elsewhere. The external drive burned up. She said it literally melted. I had this happen years ago with my old Winnebago circulation files, and I have vivid memories of an electrical smell followed by a very queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Anyway, one way or another my student got her assignment in on time, but it was very stressful for her.

Finally, another unnamed Facebook friend shared that she had lost both a book manuscript and the final copy of her dissertation. That’s intense pain! In all of these cases, having saved copies of these files in other locations could have prevented the accidents.

Who, Me?

These sad stories made me realize that my own lax attitude toward saving important files put me at risk of the same disasters described here. The only difference between these unfortunate people and me was pure dumb luck. I told myself that I would reverse my bad habits if someone would just list the best options for me all in one communication so I could make up my mind what to do. Then I thought … I could be the person providing that list! I could thereby help myself and also share my information with readers of this column.

The first question I asked myself was … what is the best way to save your valuable files anyway? What are the alternatives? I made a mental list:

• Email to myself

• Save on multiple computers

• Save to a flash drive

• Save to an external hard drive

• Save in the cloud

I started into this inquiry with some preconceptions that I now think are erroneous. For one thing, I thought that emailing files to myself was a crude and lazy way out of the situation, but it turns out that it is viewed by people smarter than me as a pretty good option. It’s used by lots of people. However, it is not your best choice and has the downside of wasting server space. I also thought that flash drives were a mediocre choice at best, since they easily could be lost or damaged. I really still do believe that, but I learned that it is a very popular choice among educators. Regarding that option, I don’t think it is a very good choice, but I have to admit it is one that I employ when I save something on my laptop, email it to myself, and then save it to my work computer. That’s a bit circuitous, but it does get the job done.

Then, as is my frequent wont, I checked with colleagues via LM_NET, TLC, and EDTECH as to how people were saving their information. I had more than 125 participants, and here is what I learned:

•My first question was which of my five choices did they employ. People could vote more than once, so percentages are less revealing than are the total numbers of votes, which are as follows:


This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-to-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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