I’ve heard someone say, “There are two kinds of people: those who have lost data, and those who are going to”. That means, you’re guaranteed to lose your data, and when you do, you will be more careful in the future. Every year, I have about five students come to me and say, “Teacher, I’m so sorry, I can’t give you the assignment today. My [+ problem]”
- USB memory stick is broken
- USB memory stick is lost
- USB memory stick is at my parents house in Shizuoka
- file on the USB memory stick does work
Failed USB memory stick screen shot. (c) Andrew Blyth 2015, Winjeel.Com
I can’t help that student. I don’t know if they are pretending to have a problem because they are too lazy or badly organised to do the work on time. Or if the problem is real. The result is the same, they failed to submit the work on time. If this happened in a company and it was for a big contract, your company could lose millions of dollars of work, because you had a problem in managing your data. So, it is really important that backup your data. Backing up means to make a spare copy of something, so if you lose the original, you have a copy you can use.
- Never store anything on the desktop computer at the university. You may not sit at the same computer next week, or the computer might have a problem and be replaced.
Kingston USB Collection, CC Patrick Lauke 2009, https://flic.kr/p/6DdTS7
2. Use USB memory sticks. These are very transportable, and so you can work on things at the university, at home, on your laptop in the library, in an internet café, anywhere.
3. Don’t use tiny USB memory sticks, because they can easily get lost. Don’t use cheap brands, they are easily broken.
4. Keep two USB memory sticks. Use the one in your pencil case, and keep the other at home. Once a week, copy and paste everything from your main memory stick onto the one you keep at home.
5. Use cloud storage like DropBox. It is like a USB memory stick, but on a website, and smartphone App. Upload your important files there. If you forget your USB memory stick, just log onto the website, and download what you need. So, you can do this from any computer with an internet connection.
Data storage options, USB memory sticks and a cloud service like DropBox. (c) Andrew Blyth 2015, Winjeel.Com
6. Use an external hard disk drive (HDD) on your home computer, never ever store anything important on your computer. Computers have problems, and occasionally you need to replace the operating system (like Windows) and start fresh, and you should replace the computer every five years anyway. It is much, much easier to store your files on an external device, and attach it to the new computer. I really don’t know how to easily move files from an old computer to a new one. Do you? Consider that HDDs have moving parts, so these usually fail after about five to eight years (some after one year), which includes the HDD inside your computer. If possible, use a solid state disk drive (SSD) instead. An SSD has no moving parts, and so their life span is much longer, and have no problems with bumps and drops.
My external drive! CC Hafeezul Flybyhacker 2010, https://flic.kr/p/9eKynM
Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong, will go wrong. Assume that there may be a disaster, like a home fire, a broken water pipe might destroy your home computer, a virus destroys your home computer or USB memory stick, your bag with memory stick is stolen or lost, or your cloud service might go bankrupt and disappear.
Which reminds me of one more important point. Always use security software on your personal computer, and keep it up to date. I suggest AVG Free for anti-virus protection, and S&D Spybot to protect you from non-virus threats. Update these weekly, and run them weekly. Also, scan your USB memory sticks, especially if you use internet café computers.
In short, follow the 1-2-3 rule. For each (one) file, have it stored on two different media (eg: USB memory stick and cloud; or memory stick and external HDD), in three places (eg: two USB memory sticks and cloud; or on your main USB memory stick, an external HDD, and cloud). Have you lost data? Tell us about it. What other data storage and back-up ideas do you have?