Now before anyone starts to panic, it’s ok. I haven’t lost anything. But I was reminded of the importance of backing up your thesis work when I saw this twitter post via Linkedin (shown to the right).
This post feeds into a paranoia I have that somehow my PhD thesis and data are going to go missing. At the moment, I am carrying my laptop with me everyday to and from work. My laptop contains my academic life, all my data, all my readings, all my reports. Everything. I am paranoid that it will get dropped, or damaged while I am moving it around, or I’ll be mugged on the way home one night (because we all know that’s what happens to tourists in New York…)
Unfortunately, lost work is not that uncommon. I used to work in a call centre for a computer repair company. My job was to take calls and book in technicians to go out and fix the client’s computer problems. I still vividly remember the day a completely distraught girl called up our office asking about data recovery from a USB stick. Apparently her masters thesis was due in two weeks and she had been saving it to a USB stick, when she accidentally bumped the USB and the memory stick was corrupted and she lost everything saved on there. To say she was upset would be an understatement. Turns out that her laptop hard drive, which contained the original version of her thesis had burnt out, causing her to lose all her masters work to date. The USB stick version was the second attempt at writing up the thesis, which was now also lost. She had learnt her lesson from the first time and rather than save her thesis to her hard drive, she was instead using a USB. In my crazed effort to help her out I discovered that data recovery from USBs is next to impossible and she would likely never be able to recover her work.
Having heard so many horror stories of lost work, I personally take a more paranoid approach. I have backups of my thesis and data in various locations, both locally and remotely. Prior to travelling to New York, I uploaded a copy of all my thesis work so far to an online data server called DropBox (I highly recommend everyone sets up and account here. It’s free and you can access the contents from anywhere there is internet).
I know there are plenty of stories out there of lost essays, missing reports and corrupted data. Share them in the comments below, as well as the measures that you use to ensure your work is safe.