Winning The War on Computer Disasters

Posted: July 22nd, 2010

The Deceased

The Deceased (R.I.P.)

Well, it happened sooner than I thought it would. Not too long ago, I gave the automated online backup a try so I could relieve myself of the pesky task of having to remember to do it myself. Turns out it was like buying life insurance before a vacation to Afghanistan. The beloved tower of power, a workhorse to countless projects and surviving several deadly viruses, had passed away.

He was 4.

Despite a quick mourning, the sudden death didn’t really phase me. His understudy, the Vista laptop, quickly took over the reins and was left a nice fortune from the completed and up-to-date backup sitting online.

Carrying out the work duties from the little Vista wasn’t cause for much pain and downtime. There are, however, some new protocols that I’ve put in place in order for the next unexpected death to create absolutely zero downtime and zero cause for pain, work buddy death notwithstanding.

1. Having a laptop that is completely synchronized to your desktop computer

I’m pretty thankful for the Carbonite backup saving my ass but there is one gripe I now have about it. I have about 20 GB of data to download and it takes three days to complete it. While I’d recommend to get an online backup, of any kind at the very least, a three day wait for your data can set you back.

Recently, though, I tried out Dropbox (thanks Jon) and wished I had started with this from the beginning. It not only backs up your data, it can synchronize files between any number of computers so, if one bites the dust, you have another computer to fall back on without the wait to update it.

Dropbox is even free for up to 2 GB of data and 10 USD/month for up to 50 GB of data.

2. Using an online service for the RSS reader and bookmarks

To me, it made the most sense to utilize a Firefox add-on for an RSS reader and save bookmarks through the browser. They are all part of a happy family so why not?

Not so smart. These were long forgotten as a part of the backup. Similar to the feeling of losing a few dollars from your wallet, it wasn’t anything too serious, but I would like them back.

While you can technically utilize an add-on, FEBE (Firefox only), to backup your bookmarks, RSS and browser configurations, it’s easier just to stick to online appplications with Google Reader and Delicious to store bookmarks. You can carry on without missing a step if you have to switch to another computer.

3. Use a password storage service instead of auto-saving passwords in the browser

OK, this one I started doing even before the online backup. We do tend to get lazy when it comes to passwords though. I mean, do you autosave in the browser (not exactly bad) or, worse, use the same password for everything from the Gmail account to your blog server to your online bank?

The issue is, of course, is that it is hard to remember all those passwords, much less, coming up with them. I don’t know about you but I’d rather have to handle this than someone who hacked my PayPal account then emailed all my friends to tell them about it from my Gmail. Uhm, not that it happened…

Anyway, I’d highly recommend you try out Mitto which has proven to be safe, using online security similar to those of banks. Plus it’s free. And it would be wise to change those “password123” passwords you’ve been using since the 90’s to stronger ones with a random mix of letters and numbers. This password generator makes it a whole lot easier.

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Have any Plan B’s in case your computer goes down or have any other suggestions to minimize downtime upon computer disaster? Let’s hear it in a comment!