I recently had a crash on my laptop and thought I'd like to talk about computer crashes and back ups and how they're important to the working musician.
Now I'm sure by this point you're aware of how important it is to back up all of your important projects on a regular basis. It's a good idea to have two separate back up systems going. For example you could have an external hard drive for one and a DVD back up for the 2nd. You need both. They need to be different systems and preferably in different places. There are a lot of online back up systems available now and they're free. Most of them have lots of space (some up to 5Gb) and are easy to use. They are the perfect thing for musicians who need to back up crucial files on a daily basis. Once you get a recording done, you can back up the entire thing online with a touch of a button. If you're like me and don't have your main recording computer hooked up to the internet, it's a good way to make sure that you use that external drive or DVD. You can then use those to make the transfer on a connected computer.
Ghosts in the Attic
Since we're on the subject of crashes I'd like to mention Ghost. Ghost is a program by Norton that makes an image file of your hard drive. That way, in the case of a crash, you simply run Ghost and it returns your hard drive to the exact way it was before the crash. This is unlike system restore which simply makes adjustments to your existing system. The great thing about this is that you can setup your computer to where it has all of the necessary drivers and programs and in case of a crash, you can set it back to that exact point. I do this whenever I get a new computer because if I want to set it back to it's original settings, I can. This is also way less work for your computer since system restore running can take a lot out of your system performance. Some manufacturers (like Dell), ship some of their systems with a restore button (actually, a series of buttons that you press on start up) that restores the computer to its factory settings.
The last point I'd like to make about computer crashes is about keeping things simple. The crash in this case wasn't my main computer but my laptop. I use my laptop as my 'office' so it's just as critical to my business as my main computer. This is where I keep all of my important documents as well as all correspondence and internet related stuff. With all of this on a single computer, it's easy to get disorganized and lose track of things. The biggest problem with this aside from it being a time waster, is the fact that it makes it hard to back up. Here, more than anywhere is why it's important to keep organized and efficient. Herein lies the title for this section: Keep It Simple.
There are a couple of ways to do this: First of all try and get all of your emails from one place online. Most of the email programs now have systems where you can have all of your mail going to the one place. This makes it easy to keep track of, keep organized and most of all no need to back up. You can also use this space to save some of your important documents and even create the documents online. This saves you money and the need for extra programs to be installed on your computer. You can also use the planners online and send emails to yourself to remind yourself of important appointments.
Remember, if the files are really important, you still need two systems.
As long as we're talking about crashes and keeping things simple, we should try and apply that to the computers themselves. It's all too easy to overload your computer with a ton of extras that you don't really need that slow down your system and may cause a crash. This includes themes, animations, plug ins and widgets (browser and desktop), utilities, and programs. Try to find the best application for what you want to accomplish and stick with that. It's easy to get out of control. I once had a half dozen media players installed on my computer at one time. These things slow your system down and are time wasters in more ways than one. It also makes backing things up much tougher because you've got all of those extra files and file types to deal with.
Finally, since we seem to have so much drive space these days, there seems to be the need to fill up every inch of that space. If you come across some items that you feel you really need, then save them and archive them as soon as you can. Or, if it's an article that you really love, make a hard copy and delete the file. I have a binder that I keep as a reference for important articles and material. Get all of that stuff off of your hard drive. If you have a laptop or just the one computer, that's hard drive space that could be used for more productive things (like your projects and business files). Having your hard drive free of clutter is not only good for the drive, but it stops you from wasting time accumulating all of this clutter, then feeling the need to organize it, thereby wasting more time.
Not If...But When
Always remember that if you rely on computers, the case of a crash ever happening is not if, but when. Not only do you want to be prepared when it does happen but you also don't want to have all of your critical files, projects, songs and pictures on something so unreliable as a hard drive. Have two systems going constantly and do it on a regular basis. Keep your computer uncluttered and use it efficiently. When you have a crash, or transfer to another computer, the move won't be such a big deal. Most of all you'll have piece of mind knowing that in this area of your life at least, you're covered.