Monday, April 23, 2012

Back that Data Up!!!

Over the weekend, a student asked me for help with her laptop. But the Blue Screen of Death indicated that Windows 7 couldn’t find her hard drive, couldn’t load Windows, and thus couldn’t get to the class notes and outlines that she needed to study for exams.

Her computer was only two years old, but she wasn’t sure if she had her purchasing and warranty information. Its possible to retrieve data on a bad hard drive, but in more situations that is not going to be cheap or quick. And, worst of all, this student had not backed up her notes and other law school documents. All I could offer her was my sympathy, and the suggestion to find some local tech support help: the law school, like most institutions, just doesn’t have the time or resources to perform data recovery services for students.

At orientation, we urge students to buy locks and security cables for your laptops, or at least not to leave them unattended here in the library, or anywhere else. Cables and locks for laptops are relatively cheap, and there are also many low-cost, or even free, data back-up solutions that students should also consider.

At the very least, you should make a second copy of your class notes and documents on a thumbdrive and keep that in a separate place from your laptop. If you have a lot of files, there are plenty of good freeware solutions that will sync up the files on your harddrive with the backup files on a thumbdrive. SyncBack is my personal favorite: like other such programs, it has different settings, but basically you specify two directories and it backs one up to the other, only copying over files that have been updated since the last time the drives were synced.

If you want to dispense with separate backup media like thumbdrive altogether, there are also plenty of on-line backup solutions. All the big on-line services offer at least some free web site storage. Google’s forthcoming Drive service has been in the news recently, and will apparently be Google’s entry into cloud storage, offering users 5 gigabytes of space, more than enough room for all your course notes and outlines.

Windows itself also offers a cloud storage solution, with 25 gigabytes of storage, through Skydrive, part of its Windows Live suite of services. Files on your PC can be synced on Skydrive using Windows Live Mesh. And Apple afficionados have similar options with Apple's iCloud service.

Also, realize that the mention of the above services is NOT an endorsement by the law library, College of Law, university, or myself, and I/we are not guaranteeing that any of them will always work (but, come on - Microsoft, Apple, and Google? Are they really at risk for losing your data if you use their services correctly?). But, whichever you may choose among these and other available options, take the time to guard against pre-exam data loss and back up your class notes and course outlines!

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