...And just like that, I erased the computer hard drive; I had to wait 18 days until I could return to the California office to reload the most recent backup of my machine...
—Jason W. Womack, September, 2009
As I write our article this month, from a hotel room in London, I am typing on a "brand new" computer. Well, the computer itself is not new, but the hard drive is. You see, on day one of an 18-day work/travel trip through two countries and five states, the machine crashed.
A day and a half later (and after more than three hours of IT support calls) I reinstalled the operating system anew and added key software I repurchased in New York City; I won't revert to my hard drive back up until I get back to the California office in two weeks.
Do you have a backup plan?
Most professionals in the training and development fields have learned what they need and what they need access to two different ways: Their own experiences and other people's experiences.
Please, read along, and learn this valuable lesson through someone else's (my own!) experience. What you read, and then what you do, just may save you, or someone you know, valuable time and reduce unnecessary stress!
The Womack Company backup plan
Because we operate our organization from Apple computers, we researched and installed several backup measures to ensure we are never too far away from the information we need. We work remotely up to 75 percent of the time; and, as such, we felt the need to equip all of our associates with the ability to get to something they might need if the unforeseen happens.
No matter the size of your team or organization, consider doing what we did. Make a list with everyone's name on a white board or large piece of paper. Then, next to each person's name, list the programs (PowerPoint, Word, Quark, Photoshop, etc.), and the files (overview of services, important pictures, spreadsheets, etc) they need access to on a regular basis. Then, develop an IT infrastructure plan to account for several contingencies. We rely on one of our associates in Boulder, CO, to keep us "in-the-know" when it comes to these things. See: www.OutsourceLocally.com
Our backup plan includes:
Full hard drive (HD) backups. With the Apple computing system, keeping an updated backup is as simple as purchasing an external HD that is as big as your computer HD and plugging it in regularly. When I return to the office after every trip, I immediately plug my computer in and get the current "version" of everything on my computer backed up. Then, while my computer is plugged in at the office, Time Machine (an Apple backup program) automatically backs everything up hourly. (Yes, that's right, every hour!) If you are on a PC computer, look into some kind of backup plan that automatically, and regularly, backs up your data without you having to "remember" to do it.
Key documents/presentations "in the cloud"
We have access to our key documents such as PDF files, PowerPoint presentations, and word processing documents "in the cloud." As long as we have Internet access, we have access to the latest version of the documents stored there.
Here are a few "in the cloud" Internet-based backup services we like:
A "travel-sized" USB thumb drive
Purchasing a 4GB thumb drive that fits in my wallet was one of the best backup strategies I employed. (thanks go to Nathan at Outsource Locally for this advice.) I have filled that thumb drive up to the limit with all kinds of documents and files; from pictures, to short video clips, documents, and presentations. With so much space, I simply went through my hard drive (before it crashed, of course!) and copied anything I "thought" I might need at some point.
Name/number labels on equipment
Another key backup plan is to label your gear. On every free-standing piece of equipment I travel with (computer, camera, phone, presentation "clicker," power cords, and adaptors, etc.) I have written the following information:
Jason Womack 805.640.6401 Reward
Over the past decade, I have had all sorts of things returned to me after I left them behind. (Each of the things I listed in the parentheses above, in fact!) Now, it doesn't guarantee someone will return your things (trust me, I learned this after my computer bag, passport, camera, and car keys were stolen while traveling out of the country years ago). However, it gives someone the "opportunity" to get your things back to you "in case" something happens.
If there has ever been an article I hope you will act on immediately, this is it. Personal productivity, and the ability to make things happen, REQUIRES you have access to your data...all the time. So, stop reading, take out a piece of paper, and begin designing your own backup strategy.
Jason W. Womack, MEd, MA, and Jodi Womack, MA, help professionals up-level their organizational performance through maximizing time, energy, focus, and technology. For more information, visit www.womackcompany.com. To receive your own Personal Productivity Checklist, e-mail Jason and Jodi at info@WomackCompany.com