Last Friday, after about seven hours on the phone with tech support, it was determined that while my laptop wasn’t quite dead yet, it was well on the way. And couldn’t be brought back to life without some major repairs: a new motherboard, memory and whatever else isn’t working.
On the plus side, this was three weeks BEFORE my warranty ran out. When was the last time you ever heard of that happening? I thought they were designed to break three weeks after! Not only that, but about a month ago I had purchased an external hard drive and had been backing up my data. I should have everything I need.
The downside is by the time I send the laptop off to Dell, they fix it and send it back, it will have been at least two weeks. I can’t run my business without a computer for that long.
As a result, Friday was one of the most stressful days I’ve had in a long time. By the end of my marathon session with tech support, my brains were melting out of my ears. All I was good for was having a nice glass of red and watching truly mindless t.v. Anything with a plot was beyond me.
I didn’t want to go out and buy a new computer; I’d have my old one back probably better than new in a few weeks. Not to mention I had not budgeted for a major purchase right now.
Guess all my brains hadn’t leaked out my ears because I made a few quick phone calls and found some friends who had some spare hardware I could borrow. It pays to have geek friends.
I picked up the parts, put them together and after a full day of geekiness by my husband, we got the borrowed computer up and running. Then I saw the problem. The borrowed machine had only 300 megabytes of RAM. My laptop had 2 gigabytes and I still found it too slow. I tend to have at minimum four or five programs running at any time. The loaner couldn’t cut it. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I could load Office onto the thing at all, never mind some of the more memory intensive programs.
After another sleepless night I looked at my husband. I needed a new computer now. Monday morning we headed off to the store, looked at a few machines and bought the cheapest one that had everything I need.
Now it was time to set it up. I had to clear space on my desk for a 20” monitor! Wow – so much bigger than the laptop screen. Then figure out how to get all the cables attached. Then boot it up.
Next, I had to figure out how to navigate Windows 7 (the laptop was still on XP). It’s amazing how much any change to a computer slows you down. Even the new keyboard is causing me troubles. A few items are just not quite right and I’m always hitting the wrong key.
Then came the time to start reloading software. It took almost a day and a half to download new versions of stuff like Tweet Deck and Firefox and install everything. My husband worked like a dog and was able to save my email address book. But my saved messages are still unreachable as are my calendar appointments. Don’t know if I’ll ever get them all. Still don’t have all my bookmarks from Firefox, although I’d been saving most of them to Delicious so that shouldn’t be too bad.
How to Avoid this Mess in the Future
While I had been doing some things right, I hadn’t really planned properly to protect myself. As a result of my failure to plan, I’ve lost three full days of work and still have some catching up to do. However it could have been worse. Here’s my disaster prevention plan for the future.
While buying the new computer very nearly caused me to have a heart attack when I heard the total bill, it is the smartest thing I’ve done. Once I get the laptop back I will have two computers that are fully functional for my business. The odds that both crash as the same time are slim so next time this happens I’ll be able to keep working without a major disruption.
Better backup – Automate everything
While I did have the external hard drive, it still isn’t quite good enough, so I plan to build is some redundancy to my systems. First, I’m following the advice of several people and plan to purchase an online backup system. Why? Because a hard drive can fail. Also, in the event of a fire or theft, all my equipment could end up being lost at once. An additional plus, if I’m away from home I can access my data even without my laptop. Off-site backup will ensure I am never caught out again.
The second redundancy will be to start using Google Calendar. This way all my appointments will be accessible to me any time I have an internet connection. I don’t have to give up my desktop calendar to do this: Mozilla Thunderbird has a plugin that will automatically sync the two calendars.
Third, I’m going to ensure all my bookmarks get copied to Delicious. No more lost links
Finally, I have a friend who has all his email copied to his Gmail account. This way if his email crashes he still has them saved. I’m going to ask him how he does it and start doing it myself.
If you are like a lot of small business owners you aren’t fully prepared for computer catastrophe. I lost three full business days (and an entire weekend) and I had been backing up stuff. If you didn’t fully backup your computer data yesterday, you are vulnerable. If you only have one computer capable of handling the software you use, you are vulnerable. If you rely on your memory to perform backups, you are vulnerable.
Please learn from my mistakes and put systems in place today that will protect you and your business from catastrophic computer failure. Trust me, when the day comes and disaster strikes, you’ll be glad you did.
Andrea J. Stenberg
Have you ever had a computer die? How did you recover? What systems do you have in place to protect your data? Please leave a comment and share your experiences.