Archive for October, 2012

Yes, I Know What Year It Is

This week I went back in time.  Back to when the news coverage was all about a slow speed chase of a white Bronco, Tanya Harding orchestrating an attack on her rival, Nancy Kerrigan, and everyone was saying “Life is like a box of chocolates.”  1994 was an interesting year.

In the world of computers, MS-DOS 6.22 was released and us computer geeks were more excited than current Apple fanboys when a new iDevice is released.  This was interacting with the operating system with nothing but a keyboard, no “pretty windows” to click.  There wasn’t even a start button.

Earlier this week, I had to install MS-DOS 6.22.  Yes, I am aware that it is 2012 and I was installing an operating system as old as Justin Bieber.  When I tweeted or mentioned that I was doing this, several people asked me, “Sharon, why would a company have such an old computer?”

“It’s not the computer that is the issue,” I tell them, “but the equipment that the computer controls.”  In this case, the computer controls a very large and expensive industrial wood saw.  The cost of replacing the functioning saw because the computer failed is not cost-effective at all.  It’s much less expensive to rebuild the computer and tinker with the connectors than to upgrade or replace the entire unit.

Consider your local hospital, hopefully you are not there that often, but most of the equipment is run by computers.  You may not always see the computers, as they are usually hidden in a cabinet, cart, within the equipment, etc; but they are the brains of the microscopes, diagnostic imaging devices, slide scanners, etc.  Hospitals don’t have the budget to replace these expensive pieces of equipment every time Microsoft releases a new operating system.  The old adage, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind.  In most cases, these expensive pieces of equipment will be kept running until it can no longer be fixed, or it becomes cost-effective or imperative to replace the entire unit.

Luckily, with my 20 years of experience, time travelling between 1994 and now is not a problem, although I do wish I had a DeLorean to get there in style.

Saturday Night, Popcorn, Wine and Backups

Saturday night had finally arrived after a long week of nonstop work.  I was comfortably dressed in sweats and a tee, complete with fuzzy slippers.  The family was getting ready to watch The Avengers, which none of us have seen before. The popcorn was popping, a bottle of red had been opened (for the adults), and I was just finishing up some emails.  Then it happened.

My work phone rang.  I looked at it, then the wine, kids and hubby who was just finishing up the popcorn.  Do I answer it?  I had been working 14-18 hour days for the last few weeks and was beat.  Downtime was a necessity at this point.  But I answered it anyway.

An acquaintance was calling about her laptop.  It had just crashed, and she needed to retrieve her files ASAP.  The client’s Monday morning presentation was on it, and she desperately needed those files, and she had not done a single backup.


After some discussion and a few attempts of pushing power buttons and pulling the battery, I knew I would have to be on-site to recover the data.

I packed my bag with my recovery discs and off I went, looking at the wine, listening to the family settling in to watch what happens when Bruce gets mad, and smelling popcorn as I closed the door behind me.

I arrived at the client’s house and, luckily, I was able to boot the laptop.  Our first priority was to backup her critical files to a USB key.  But we both knew that a local backup was not enough, and she needed an off-site backup as well.  We quickly created a Dropbox account and moved her files to the cloud.  Her laptop will probably fail any day now due to a hardware issue, but at least she knows she has a copy of her files that she can access from any Internet-connected device.


Here are 4 quick, easy and free cloud solutions to backup your files to:

  1. Cloud Storage – Dropbox offers 2 GB of free storage (there are similar online services, such as
  2. Google Drive – another cloud solution.  Sign up for a free Google account and take advantage of the 5 GB available to you.  A great addition to this service is Google Cloud Connect.  This add-on automatically syncs your Office documents to your Google Drive storage.  Personally, this is what I use and I can’t count the number of times it has saved me.  I have mine setup to automatically save to Drive every time I save the document.  I then have at least 2 copies, one locally and one in the cloud.
  3. SkyDrive – this is the Microsoft alternative to the Google offering.  You can access 7 GB of free online storage (but as far as I am aware, this currently does not have the same Office Suite sync feature that Google does).
  4. iCloud  – the Apple solution for those who enjoy the iDevice ecosystem.  It has 5 GB of free storage, and has similar (but not identical) sync features as the Google and Microsoft solutions.

Luckily, with today’s technology and resources, off-site backups, or just backups in general, are easy and very inexpensive.  Call your IT Professional (during the day) to discuss a backup strategy that works with your budget, files and workflow.  Trust me, it’s much cheaper than calling on a Saturday night.  But if you do end up having to call me on a Saturday night, a good bottle of red would be nice.

I prefer a shiraz.

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