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Saturday, July 8, 2006

My Laptop Disaster Recovery Plan

As a working writer you should always have a plan B for when technology lets you down. It’s my own fault. I should have known better. In fact, I usually do. When I first owned a computer in the early 1990s, I fell prey to a Word macro virus. I got my act together, installed an antivirus program and have not had a single one since.

I've been equally ferocious about backing up. First I used floppies, then CDs, then DVDs. If nothing was handy I used a virtual backup drive by emailing my work from one email address to another. I never lost anything. That was the old days. If you read my previous post you'll know that my laptop died and I lost a couple days' work. So how could this happen to someone who's usually so well organised?

Well, there are a couple of reasons. I'm much less well organised since I had a child. Simply put, there's much less leftover brain power to apply to keeping my life ticking over. I wouldn't have it any other way, but this wouldn't have happened to the old paranoid me three years ago. I'm stretched thin and suddenly very busy. The result of that is that when I managed to do 25 tips for LifeTips (I finished them on Wednesday when my daughter was napping), I forgot to back them up. Most of the time you can let things slip for a little while, and there's no danger. Not this time - and there was no warning. At 5.15 my laptop was working. At 6.15 it was dead.

What this has taught me is that it's important to have a plan B when you make your living with a computer. Until recently my plan B was my husband's computer, but he's on the road more, so I can't relay on having access to it. The library doesn't open at hours that suit the rest of my life. I quite often work late at night after my daughter’s gone to bed and my local library closes at 5.

While I was facing the loss of two days' work and the prospect of 10 days without a computer (and I admit, shedding a few tears of annoyance), I thought of a plan. My hubby had a tablet pc he had never used so maybe I could use that as a backup. We bought a USB keyboard and then tried to get it connected to our wireless network. Nothing. I fiddled around with settings, still nothing. Eventually I discovered that Microsoft’s tablet software does not support WSP-PSK or whatever it is, so it's not going to happen. So I dug out an Ethernet cable and finally got online.

All of my work at the moment has to be researched on line so doing without a net connection is not an option if I'm to meet my deadlines. Now I've got to figure out how to prop the tablet up so I can type and see the screen at the same time.

Meanwhile I am missing my favourite programs:
- Firefox - I will install this soon
- Thunderbird
- Performancing - my blog editor of choice (by the way, that’s why there are no links or fancy formatting in this post. I’ll go back and fix it once I’ve got my laptop back).

I have lost
- 21 lifetips
- a new poem
- my WritingUp backup
- my invoice template
- this week's writing jobs - most of which I had submitted

The lesson I'm getting to is that you need to have a plan B. So, I've now got a few.

First, I'm moving everything that I can online. I already use blinklist and Google calendar. Now I'll use my gmail account for backing up my work in progress. That way I can access it wherever I am.

Second, as soon as I can afford it, I'll get a cheap desktop pc as a backup.

Third, I'll replace my 80GB external hard drive with something that I can keep permanently attached to my laptop, so I can backup as I go.

Fourth, I’ll put a reminder in my diary so that I always do it.

Fifth, my new laptop will come with an international next day onsite warranty.

Apart from the social deprivation of being without a reliable internet connection (regular writnguppers will know what I'm talking about), this incident has very real consequences for my writing. I'm going to have to make up a couple of days' work over what is already a busy week. I won’t get caught this way again.

How have you done with disaster preparedness? Do you have a plan B?

PS. If I'm a bit slower than usual responding to comments you'll know the reason why. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

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