I decided to write an article on backup best practices thinking I could share the lessons I have learned over my years as both student and lecturer. I have watched countless students – from straight A students to those scraping a pass – walk into my office with an ashen face (often turning into full blown tears). Their work is gone.
You cannot fake the gut wrenching, blood draining, numbing realisation that you cannot submit your work.
Whether it is hours of work over weeks, or 12 straight hours crammed in before the deadline, the grief is the same. Corrupted, stolen, lost, driven over, saved over, computer crashed, in an out of date version. I’ve heard all the stories – both the genuine and the chancers. Now, remember – lecturers can generally tell when it is a genuine case of backup failure, or when someone is just trying a last ditch effort. You cannot fake the gut wrenching, blood draining, numb making realisation that you cannot submit your work.
Below are some tips for what to always do when working on something you cannot lose:
It may seem like a hack, but here is no bigger hack than restarting an assignment from scratch.
I was confident that I could offer my pearls of wisdom in this post. I had also never experienced a backup catastrophe in my years of undergrad, post grad and working. As the saying goes, “pride comes before a fall”. I was recently reminded that the only way to safeguard yourself is constant vigilance (Harry Potter fans will understand the gravity of that statement).
To reinforce how unexempt you are from the twists of fate, I offer the below illustration:
After submitting my master’s thesis for examination, my husband was sent to work in England for 3 months, and I went with. I knew that I had many ‘second to last’ copies of my master’s thesis. However, I also knew I only had one flash drive (henceforth known as ‘the precious’) with the final, ‘printed for examination’ version. I guarded it with my life. While I meant to make backups, I got overconfident and lazy and didn’t. While waiting for the examination process to run its course, I took ‘the precious’ overseas with me as I expected to do the final corrections while there. That didn’t happen and once back in SA, I sat down at my computer with the drive I had dragged from Oxford to Stonehenge. I plugged it in, ready to finish my work.
Prior to leaving, we had packed up and moved out of our flat. So somewhere among around 30 boxes and 2 properties was a small piece of blue plastic and metal…with my sanity on it. It is worth noting that fastidious backing up meant that I had many copies of the previous draft of my thesis, meaning that this mistake could have been frustratingly time-consuming, but not catastrophic. I am happy to say I got lucky and found it, however, I must stress that I have seen the reverse more often than not. The gods of academia were just kind to me. Needless to say, I made 2 more drive copies, emailed every family member a copy, and ‘dropboxed’ the entire contents of the flash drive.
Getting into a habit of backing up work is non-negotiable, so start working on it now. Work it into your weekly schedule like doing the washing or going shopping. It’s a life skill that will pay for itself tenfold. Don’t wait until you experience a crisis to start employing backup best practices.
I have watched the development of AL.com for years and marveled at the ingenuity and passion shown from the start. As a Linguistics major, university lecturer and burgeoning copywriter, the Advantage Learn story is one close to my heart. I hope to add to the development of educational thinking in South Africa by helping to relate topics and create spaces for thought on the challenges and opportunities facing South African learners, students, and parents.
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