When Corruption Kills - Backing Up Your Data

I recently had the pleasure of typesetting sixteen pages. These pages contained names, I.D. numbers, owners names/addresses, as well as several other pieces of data about dogs. After two days of deciphering non-standardized forms to find the information, I came to work expecting to fix any mistakes that had come up in the proof reading and opened the file.

This particular file was divided into four sections, and as they had to be done quickly, I was supposed to print off each section as I finished it. Starting with the longest section I noticed it had not printed the last page. When I checked, I found the last page was missing! I knew that it was there (or had been only a few minutes ago) so I shut down the program, expecting to open it up with my saved version of the file.

The file was corrupted.

I didn't have a backup.

With help, we managed to get it done again by the end of the day (working off the proofed sheets, eliminating the work of finding the info) and the book got out on schedule, at greater cost to the company.

Backing up is simple if you follow a few easy steps:

  • Automated Backups - Many programs provide an "auto save" feature, which will save your work, even if you don't hit the save command, every few minutes. With one of these, you can generally choose to store the last few copies of your work, in the case that you made a major change and decided that you didn't like it.
  • Save As - Almost every program provides a "Save As" command, which saves a copy of your work. In instances where there is not an auto save, I generally keep two copies of the file. One with the real name, on with the real name and "(backup)"
  • Nightly Backups - If the file isn't too large for a disk, and the work is important, save a copy onto a disk every night. Hard drives can go down, and it always helps to be able to work on another computer if yours must be taken away for service.
  • Long Term Backups - Many people backup their documents every week or every month. This is a good precaution, as you can not only delete those documents off your hard drive (assuming the backup will remain intact) but you can also keep a fresh copy in the even that you have to call it up in six months, and the original has been deleted/corrupted. CD's or tape backup drives are good for this use.