Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Don't Forget to Back 'Em Up Blues

Jessica Nelson

Smoke curls around small, intimate tables, each lit with a flickering candle. The house-lights are down, but the stage lights burn bright. A saxophone wails a mournful melody that gradually fades into silence as the performer takes the stage and straddles a spindly chair.

We hear it all the time.

The performer takes a puff of her cigarette and blows a plumb of smoke into the hazy air.

Save, save, save. Back up your files. OneDrive, Google Drive, external hard drive, jump drive. Whatever you do, save your work.

But sometimes that isn’t enough.

Another mournful wail of the sax and a heavy thump from the bass drum.

See, I always save my work. Three, four, five times over the course of a session. But always in the same document. I mean, who saves their work each time as a new document?

Cymbal crash.

Smart people. That’s who.

A few weeks ago, I was working on an edit. A long, time-consuming, brain-mangling edit. I’d easily put sixty-plus hours into this edit over the course of a few weeks. It was due on a Thursday—plenty of time for the client to review my suggestions and make changes before the he had to turn it in on a Monday.

Takes another long drag on her cigarette and releases the smoke slowly.

On Wednesday night, I’m finishing up a few things. Checking over my comments for silly errors and the like. After all, we can’t expect our clients to take our advice if we make mistakes. Anyway, I was working on the document late Wednesday night and decided to call it quits. So I saved my work, shut down my computer, and went to bed. All was well.

Thursday morning rolls around. All I have to do is review the last few pages of comments and write up the overview letter. Easy-peasy.

A single melancholy note plays over a building drumroll.

Except that when I try to open my work, “CORRUPTED FILE. CANNOT OPEN” fills my screen.

Drumroll crescendos and then cuts out with a final boom of the bass drum.

Corrupted?! I had it open no more than twelve hours ago! How could it be corrupted?

Microsoft Word tells me I can recover what’s left of my hours of hard work, so I do. At first, it all seems to be fine. The first four pages are perfectly intact. I breathe a sigh of relief.

Until I hit page five.

Cymbal crash.

There, where the comments I had painstakingly left for my client used to be, are blank bubbles. When I open each comment, there is nothing. Not even my name as the comment’s author.

I had lost over a hundred comments.

Six hours over the course of two days spent with the tech guy later, and the file still can’t be recovered. The only silver lining to this whole debacle is that most of my line edits survived.

The sax starts its mournful melody again.

Long story short, I spent Thursday finishing the letter so my client would have something to work with while I replaced all the comments. A little after midnight on Friday (technically Saturday morning), I finish the final comment and send the document.

The sax’s melody changes as a trumpet joins it. Not so sad now, but sassy.

Here’s the moral of the story. It’s not enough to just save your document. Especially not if you’re working with a large document. Every time you save, do a “save as.” You can number each new document, or label it a, b, c, etc. You can date it, time stamp it, whatever you want. You can go back later and delete all the other versions. Just do something.

I now save the document with the desired moniker, and each subsequent saved draft gets its own number. The last one—the one I’m going to use—gets labeled “FINAL,” all in caps. How you label yours doesn’t matter. Find a method that works for you and stick with it. Don’t get lazy. Do it every time.

That way if your file becomes mysteriously corrupted between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, you still have the next latest version to work from.

The trumpet breaks out in a solo, a punchy tune akin to a battlefield bugle.

Even if you save your files a dozen times a day, none of that is going to help if your computer crashes and the hard drive gets wiped. Back. Up. Your. Files.

We all have our preferred method.

Some people use cloud storage like Google Drive, One Drive, or Dropbox. Any of these will work just fine.

I prefer an old-fashioned USB drive. As long as I can remember which jump drive has the latest backup.

Cymbal crash.

Back it up, ladies and gentlemen.

Or you, too, can be singing the back-‘em-up blues.

The music crescendos as the stage lights dim. The performer struts off stage, blowing a smoke ring into the fading light like a kiss.