Melt Down

I make no secret about my over reliance on technology to run my business.  If my brains are the fuel, then my technology is the vehicle I use to deliver.  In more than five years in business I’ve experience two technology meltdowns which I pose in my out of office message as a “technology upgrade” that have really jolted me.  I’ve taken both opportunities to learn where my vulnerabilities exist and I’m happy to report, the second such meltdown, which I endured just this week, was not nearly as devastating as the one which took place about three years ago.

In January of 2009, my hard disk began making a terribly undesirable clicking sound and not five minutes later, after a fateful restart, the computer simply wouldn’t.  At the time, my backup procedure was wholly manual to an external hard disk and done when the spirit roused me, rather than on a schedule.  And at the time, the last time I had backed up was in November of 2008.  I utilized a recovery service in Arlington to get as much data off the hard drive as was humanly possible and all they could muster were my Outlook files.  That was my saving grace.  Because within my email, that I diligently save and organize by project, I could nearly recreate the preceding three months step by step.  I had all my leads, all my proposals, all my invoices, all my data wrapped up in email.  And I thought to myself just how much worse this could have been.  In the midst of this incredible nightmare I patted myself on the back because I had systems in place that could counteract the devastating loss of a hard disk crash.  Surely I would still spend the next three days, with one all-nighter, piecing together the preceding three months email by email.  But in the end, it could be done.

It begged however, for a lesson to be learned.  My backup process was not up to snuff by any measure.  I learned from my technology consultant of a service called Carbonite ( which, for around $50 per year, would backup all the files one would need backed up to a cloud – an offsite server accessed through the internet.  Fifty dollars a year?!  In order to avoid what I went through that week in January I would have gladly paid that each week !  No question I was their next customer!

And so when this week I experience another meltdown – my process was a little changed.  This meltdown also came with substantial warning.  The trouble was, I was on business travel when it unraveled.  Had I been home, I might have prevented any loss at all.  While on travel I got a courteous but hardly cute message from my computer that “Windows had detected a hard disk problem”.  Oh, a hard disk problem.  A hard disk problem?!  No good can come of such a message.  If I were home, I would have taken this moment to ensure every single file had been backed up in two places and I would have even potentially cloned my hard disk to a new, unbroken one.  I was still lucky – this warning lasted almost three full days.  But on that third day, when I was still away from my home station, while standing at the Baltimore Convention Center speaking to a colleague with my laptop in my bag, I felt an odd sensation of heat against my leg.  Knowing I’d had full control of my urinary tract to this point, I immediately suspected my computer might be overheating.  That was an understatement.  When I opened my bag, the heat emanating from the computer was overwhelming.  It was simply too hot to touch and the smell of smoldering computer parts was rather apparent.  A melt down.

In truth, no melting took place.  It’s time I sang praises for how this Samsung was built.  This very computer has now been under water and nearly ablaze and it was still possible to salvage some files through safe mode, but not until the computer cooled to a normal temperature.  With my Carbonite backup I was able to recover all but one file and my business productivity was not hampered in as substantial a way as it was in 2009.

That said, I’m continuing to look for ways to avoid the melt down every three years.  Given the number of hours I bang away on the laptop, it’s no surprise the computer ages quickly and melt downs are unavoidable – am I destined for a, dare I say, Mac?


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