Blue screen of death: Why data preservation should matter to you, by Kat Gerwig

Most times our computers work, until they don’t…

A couple of weeks ago my laptop silently and unexpectedly decided to take the big computer sleep and not wake up. I tried everything I could think of…pushing the power button, plugging it in, pushing the power button with a PB & J in my hand, pushing the power button in random sequences resembling Morse code. Nothing worked. With final projects looming it was not the most convenient time for my laptop to make such an important decision. What’s worse…it didn’t even consult me first! Our computers rarely ask our permission before they decide not to start, fail to open an important file, or present us with the dreaded blue screen.

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The thought of dealing with the computer repair rigamarole or purchasing a new laptop is traumatic enough, but losing all of the papers, research, photos, music, movies, presentations, and software stored on a computer is enough to send someone over the edge. One way to reduce the trauma associated with computer or file death is to back up your work!

Three backups in three different places.

sky

Cloud

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Flash

Uber-reliable laptop

Uber-reliable laptop

What works for me is to have one copy on my laptop, one on a flash drive, and one somewhere in the cloud. For obvious reasons you don’t want your only copy of anything to be on your uber-reliable laptop. So, back up somewhere. The obvious choice is a flash drive. Small and portable USB drives work well for backing up your information. They make way better bottle openers than the old floppy disks (but not nearly as good coasters). However, they also easily become corrupted, lost, or develop personality issues. That’s why it is important to back up your work in a 3rd place. Data preservation best practices suggest 3 backups in geographically dispersed areas. Three is an excellent number since it is highly unlikely your laptop will catch fire, flash drive will be eaten by the guinea pig AND the internet will cease to exist all at the same time.

A word on cloud services

Metro students, staff, and faculty have access to cloud storage via the university on what’s called the H drive. If you are a student at Metro State you have an H drive which you can access via any computer. If you are using a campus computer you can find it under Computer in the Start Menu. It is labelled with your StarID. If you are off campus you can access it through the Portal. It is on the lower left side of the main Portal page. You will likely have access to your H drive the entire time you are a student. Once you graduate it is important to remove your files from the H drive to ensure continued access to your work.

For the future, here are some cloud services you may want to look into:

Dropbox.com – 2 GB free with various ways to increase your storage, 1TB for $9.99/month

Google Drive – 15 GB free, 1TB for $9.99/month

SpiderOak.com – For those who are serious about privacy. 2GB free, 1TB for $12/month

Do you have a data loss horror story you’d like to share? Or a cloud service you love? The comments are always open!

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