Techie Tuesday: Backing Up & ICLW intro

So it’s about freaking time I get back to Techie Tuesday.  Next week I plan to write on MF and how to read a semen analysis report, but this will take more research than my addled brain is prepared for.  So instead, I give you a computer Techie Tuesday post.  For those visiting from ICLW…WELCOME!  To learn more about me and my journey, I recommend reading these posts:

TTC History (the long version)
Why the title IF Optimist, then…

I am a major computer geek.  Some people say this, but they are mere posers.  I have been an Information Technology professional for over 18 years.  I can build a computer from a pile of parts and chips and boards - install operating systems, software, update and configure the BIOS, etc.  I have installed and troubleshot many operating systems Windows 95/98/NT/ME/XP/Vista, Mac OS 7-OSX, SGI Unix (IRIX), Linux.  I was the person you called on a tech support line for years (I ran the tech support and repair service department of a $50 million computer hardware company when I was 24 years old).  I have purchased, installed and troubleshot hundreds of computers as an IT professional and manager.  OK.  Computer Geek = established.  Right?

The importance of backing up data

There is one thing in computers that is an absolute guarantee.

ALL hard drives will fail.  All of them.  100% of them.  They are mechanical devices with lots of tiny parts whirring around at 7200 RPM.  These parts eventually wear down. It may not happen today or tomorrow but eventually it will happen and if you don’t back up your data you are guaranteed to lose all your data.  Most hard drives have warranties of 3-5 years.  Yeah, yeah you know this, but hey take a second and THINK about that for a moment.  How old is your computer?  All downloaded email, all letters and documents, all spreadsheets, all contact info you keep on the hard drive.  Maybe a big deal, maybe not, but you will also lose ALL OF YOUR DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHS.  That’s right.  If you have one of the new-fangled digital cameras,  you probably download the images to a place on your hard drive.  When (not if) you lose your hard drive these photos will be GONE FOREVER unless they are backed up.  Are you willing to lose these documents?  Are you willing to lose these photos?  I especially want to stress this to folks who had a baby recently.  I have read stories of people who have lost all photos from the first years from their baby’s life never to be seen again.  My heart sinks every time I read this.  I feel sick.  Backing up data is not hard, but it does take a small amount of effort on your part.  Once you have done it one time, you’ll realize that the inconvenience is minor but the benefit is enormous.  Here are a few options to consider:

Option 1:  Buy an external USB hard drive and use it as a backup
Lots of people do this.  It is a common and quick way to back up.  You can either purchase a fancy backup program (or use Time Machine on Mac OSX) or just drag and drop the files onto the backup hard disk.  Advantages: relatively cheap (you can get a good drive with a very large capacity for under $100), easy to use.  Disadvantages: Backup data can be accidentally deleted or altered.  It is still a hard drive and will still fail one day, so you need to make sure that this is an additional copy of your data not the ONLY copy.  Also these drives are typically kept in the same location as the computer so if you have a fire, earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood (water damage in the basement computer room, etc) you may end up losing both your original and backup copy of data.

Option 2:  Use CD-R/W or DVD-R/W media to back up files
This is a good option for people who don’t have vast quantities (more than 50GB) of data to back up.  The media is cheap, it is easy to use and you can even make multiple copies.  Advantages:  Very cheap (4.7 GB of media backup on a DVD-R/W cost about 40 cents when you buy a 25 pack or greater).  Media is estimated to be viable for approximately 20 years.  Data on disc is static and can’t easily be deleted or altered.  Multiple copies of discs can be made and one copy stored off-site in case of fire, earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood (you could save the extra copy at your Mom’s house 3 states away, or in a safety deposit box at the bank).  Disadvantages:  Need a CD or DVD burner (most modern computers already have these installed).  CDs can be burned using drag and drop from Windows XP, but burning DVDs may require 3rd party software, like Nero or Roxio (Windows Vista has DVD burning built into the OS).  Improperly stored discs can be damaged (don’t just leave them laying around unprotected.  Get a disc wallet or a hard case).  Data backup must be broken into smaller chunks (700MB for CD, 4.7GB for DVD).  A small amount of organization is necessary to find on which disc your data is located (print a copy of the contents or label the disc with a sharpie).

There are other options like backup DAT/DLT tapes that I won’t go into.  Those options require expensive drives and expertise typical to IT professionals.  Backing up up to a USB chip may seem like a good option that is similar to #1 if you don’t have a lot of files.  I don’t use these as permanent backup devices.  I use them as transport devices.  They are too small and easily lost for my taste.  I don’t recommend services that backup your data via the internet.  It’s a nice idea, but I don’t feel you have the control you need and the upload can be painfully slow.

All this computer nerd talky-speak is making my head spin. Cut to the chase!

So here’s what I do.  I own an external USB hard drive (500GB for $89) to back up my files quickly. I needed a big drive because I have a lot of RAW format Nikon files that take up a ton of space. Any time I add new photos, finish a project or have new important files, I make a copy on the external hard drive (it’s as easy as drag & drop/copy & paste).  I disconnect and don’t use my external backup drive every day to keep down the wear and tear on the motor and read/write heads.  I know that I am covered for most typical crashes and emergencies.  2-3 times per year I get off my lazy duff and make data DVDs as backups for my files and pictures.  I label the DVDs by the date range and then throw one copy in my DVD wallet and take the 2nd copy to the safety deposit box.  I also call my sister-in-law and pester her through a backup session.

Sound anal?  Maybe.  But I’ve never lost an important file or a photo.  I remember my old tech support days talking to people who lost entire novels or years-long photography/videography projects.  Remember.  ALL hard drives will fail.  Please do your old pal IF Optimist a favor.  Take an hour this week to back up anything that is precious.  Don’t wait, no excuses.  Don’t make your husband do it if he is a laggard.  If you have any questions, post them here and I will answer them.  You have an expert at your fingertips.  I am happy and honored to help. :-)

17 comments on "Techie Tuesday: Backing Up & ICLW intro"

Sunny on July 21, 2009 at 1:22 PM said...

What an informative post! I learned so much about you from the first two links, and I had to laugh at your explaination of "IF Optimist, then..." It makes perfect sense now. My hubby is a computer/electrical engineer, so although he can't do much with the hardware stuff, I should have recognized the "if, then..." format of your name from all the tech talk around our house. :)

I appreciate the reminder to back stuff up! I do save our pictures on three different hard drives, but I'm not so good with the other files. :/

Suzy on July 21, 2009 at 1:49 PM said...

Fortunately I have a techie husband and I'm so thankful for that!

Great post!

ICLW & a Braces Buncher

Mrs. Gamgee on July 21, 2009 at 2:23 PM said...

I confess that I am one of the people you are preaching to... and I am sufficiently chastised. I will figure out some form of back up tonight!

Sprogblogger on July 21, 2009 at 2:31 PM said...

You are my heroine.

I'm one of those people who's lost an entire novel in a hard drive crash.

I'm also one of those people who learned her lesson & is now completely anal about backing up. Mac's Time machine is fantastic, btw. Can't recommend it highly enough.

Can't wait for next week's techie Tuesday!

K on July 21, 2009 at 2:37 PM said...

Holy cow! Ok, I am totally freaked out now. And yes, I have one of those experiences. (I paid a firm in CA to recover data from a fried hard drive that I needed for a trial. It cost me $3k. ) And, I have one of those techie hubbies (though not a slacker, just out of town now). But you can bet I will pester him when he gets back. Thanks for the post!

EC on July 21, 2009 at 3:51 PM said...

This is excellent advice!!! My old computer died, and I was totally out of luck. I have a fancy device that does the backing up for me, but you gave me some things to think about! Maybe I need a back-up of my back-up!

Beautiful Mess on July 21, 2009 at 7:13 PM said...

Happy ICLW...again ;o)

My husband backs up all of our stuff! He's religious about it, too! Thank goodness becuase we had all of Zilla's baby photos on my PC and it crashed HARD. But all was well and all I lost were some junk photos. Nothing of ANY importance.

Thanks for the reminder though. It's been a few weeks since we've backed anything up.

The Steadfast Warrior on July 21, 2009 at 8:23 PM said...

Aye, aye Lady! Backing up in process. :) Don't worry, I haven't forgot about calling you, oh, goddess of all things computer. Work is just leaving me exhausted so far this week. Backing up stuff over the next day or so and then we'll get down to the nitty gritty of fixing my poor laptop.

Thanks for the reminder. P.S. Was this post aimed at me by any chance? ;) lol.

IF Optimist, then... on July 21, 2009 at 10:32 PM said...

You guys are all so awesome and the Steadfast Warrior cracked my shit up. No girlfriend, you were not the reason I posted this (but you should call me soon and we'll get your computer back up and running). I kept thinking "Techie Tuesday, Techie Tuesday -- what is important to post?" I have read many blogs, talked to many people who have lost photos. There is also a virus going around on Facebook flash apps like Farm Town and Bejeweled lately.

It reminded me that a few years ago a virus (the "I love you virus") targeted JPEGs. If you got the virus on your computer, it would delete your original JPEG and replace the filename with a virus copy. I don't know what type of asshat would program that, but if I ever meet him (you know it had to be a guy) I will kick him so hard in the nuts that his future partner will have to start an IF blog!

Lifeslurper on July 21, 2009 at 11:03 PM said... are a 'Puter Goddess who manages to fit all this ttc stuff in during your spare time? Sheesh!!! Is there any form higher than deity? That's quite a tortured ttc history, but thankfully you have survived to blog about it and still laughing!

Liddy on July 22, 2009 at 6:07 AM said...

Thanks for the information. My hubby (E) recovers data off of failed hard drives for a living. He said the worse feeling was watching a doctoral student who did not save her dissertation, come in and request an emergency recovery. Seeing that I was finishing my master's thesis he gave me 'the lecture' about backing up and saving.

Lisa RM on July 22, 2009 at 9:30 AM said...

Thanks for the butt kick- going to back up my vast quantities (how did I use 53 gigs?!) to the external drive.

Clare on July 22, 2009 at 12:30 PM said...

Thanks for the info I have forwarded on to my hubbie, who is always backing stuff up, i cant tell you how many hard drives he has lying around! Also thanks for your comments today, i embedded the Jackson 5 video and song now to the post!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog. I really, really appreciate the support!

Liddy on July 23, 2009 at 7:22 AM said...

Now I am really leaving you a comment for ICLW (even though I am a reader).

So funny (ok, not funny for me) story. I photograph during my summers off- lots of RAW and either TIFF or 1/1 JPG. All of a sudden I went to dump my pictures off of the compact flash card onto my laptop and no pictures were there. My compact flash card had hit the crapper. Lucky for me, my husbando (E) saved me with his data rescuing skills and got my pictures off.

Needless to say, I now owe E for his data rescuing skills. When I asked what the bill would be if I was not his wife and some desperate photographer. He said, "$500 minimum. Because it was an emergency and you needed it in less than 24 hours, the price is doubled ($1000)." Umm yikes but fear not my husband was not done... "And because I had to do 3 recovery techniques on your card another $250. Which makes your total, $1250."

While it is not a hard drive, I learned a lesson, never keep that many pictures on the 8 GB CF card.

Thank you again for your informative post.

Stopping by for an ICLW visit...
No. 95: The Unfair Struggle (male-factor infertility, good friends, neighborhood rumblings)

WiseGuy on July 23, 2009 at 8:08 AM said...

Well, you're hired!


Billy on July 23, 2009 at 11:54 AM said...



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