Information Technology Blog

Avoiding Disasters

September 12, 2013

Every week the IT Support desk witnesses this unfortunate scenario: A student or faculty member has worked for hours on their very important paper. They’ve been so engrossed in what they are doing that they haven’t slept, eaten, or clicked save. And then… their computer crashes.

Sometimes the computer auto-saves the document, and sometimes it doesn’t. Every time, the student or faculty member has a panic attack, loses their train of thought, and gains a couple of grey hairs.

Here is some advice that you already knew, but it’s worth repeating anyway.

  1. Prepare for the worst – It’s always good to start a list like this with something so positive. However, when you are typing something as important as your research paper or thesis, it’s beneficial to imagine the worst thing that could happen while you’re typing, and plan accordingly. For example, the University is located in an Earthquake zone, so it may be one thing to save your document on multiple devices, but it probably isn’t a good idea to keep those devices in the same building.
  2. Save more often than you can ever imagine – Try and get into the habit of saving very frequently. Every time you save, you are reducing the amount you could lose when your computer crashes, or there is a power outage. Ctrl + S (Command + S on a Mac) is your friend. Whenever you pause from typing, you should automatically save. Never rely on a program’s auto-saving ability – it doesn’t know how important the document you are typing is.
  3. Save in multiple locations – Saving your document only to one device is a bad idea. The IT Support desk has seen many people believe they are safe by saving to a USB drive. Unfortunately, USB drives, and all devices, fail at some point. While IT does have tools that can recover this data, they should not be relied upon. Save to your USB drive, and then back that data up to the cloud (using a service like Dropbox or SkyDrive – as long as you don’t have confidential information on there). If you are an employee, use your personal NAS drive. That way, your data will be on more than one device, and also in more than one location.
  4. Use a reliable machine – You may have used “Ol’ Smoky” the laptop for years, and become quite fond of it. However, if your machine is unreliable, then so is the data that is stored on it. Use a machine that will reliably last the length of time you need it to. The lab computers in the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center are regularly maintained, and are all connected to backup batteries in the event of a power outage (providing 15 mins for you to save your work before the computer safely shuts down).

If all else fails, come see us at IT Support. We can’t guarantee that we will be able to recover your data, but we certainly have tools and the knowledge to help you as much as possible.


General Information, Training

Out-of-Office Message Security

September 9, 2013

When you are away from your office for an extended period of time, you can set up your University e-mail to automatically respond to all senders with a notification about your absence. The main IT site contains information on setting up of Out-of-Office message.

The automatic reply feature can help communicate your absence to coworkers and customers, but you should also be careful about how much information you include.

In the message of the automatic reply, you should state that you will be out of the office.  However, you should probably refrain from saying that you are on vacation because this implies that your house will be unmonitored.  Potential burglars can use information people post online to know when their houses will be unmonitored.  Instead, just state that you will be out of the office.

An example out of office automatic reply could be:

I will be out of the office from [date] to [date].  In the meantime, please contact [contact] for assistance.  Thank you.

You can use a simple message stating the days you will be out office and alternate contact info senders can contact.

E-mail, Security