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cleaning up before you turn out the lights July 1, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Getting Fired, Technology Trouble.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today marks the beginning of Q3, and many companies are soon to discover that they haven’t made budget and will need to start doing layoffs.

Something a lot of people don’t realize is that they’ve put a whole lot of things on their work computers that they want to take with them — and not even personal stuff at that; what about designs? Code examples? Documentation? In other words: your hard work.

photo by Waldyrious

photo by Waldyrious

Resignr has a 10-item list about what to do when you quit, when it comes to your work computer, and interestingly, it’s not until item 9 that they talk about backing up your stuff. I, on the other hand, am of the mind that you should back up your data every month or so — not just because hard drives fail, but because it’s entirely possible that, when you’re laid off, you’ll be escorted out and you won’t actually have the time to go get your stuff.

What to back up: Anything you’ve designed, written, developed, coded, produced, edited, prototyped, or collaborated upon. Usually you can find all of this in My Documents, though if you’re very technical, you may have folders scattered all over the place. Make a list, or consolidate. Also, if you have a shared directory or drive, back that up too — recently at CorporateSpeak, the drive containing every piece of shared artwork for the past five years completely crashed and the data is likely unrecoverable, though our IT guy is doing his best to get it back*.

When to back up: Once every month; more frequently if your job is in danger. Set an appointment in your calendar so you don’t forget. It’ll likely take you about 20 minutes to set up the backup, even if you drag every folder manually, and another two or three hours for it to finish. I used to back up my personal computer that way, though now that I have Vista I rather like the native backup program.

What to use: External USB storage is amazingly cheap these days. I recently bought a 1TB external hard drive for $130, and if you’re a savvy shopper, you can get even better deals. I recommend against using an internal drive, because it’s a lot more difficult to pull it out of your computer when no one’s looking. Also, backing up online or in the cloud takes time and probably costs money (I’ve never done it). Figure out how much data you’ll have and buy an external drive that will hold it all; one terabyte is a great investment, and there’ll probably be room left over for your porn, too.

How to back up: The most basic way to back up your work is to drag the folders onto the external drive, one at a time, into a dated folder. However, there are plenty of free programs online that you can use to run a backup, and you may even have one as part of your OS. Setting up incremental backups will save you a ton of time after you finish the first one (which will take forever, or so it’ll seem, because every single file will be copied over).

I don’t have these programs: Adobe CS/3 is expensive. Microsoft Office is expensive. Visio is expensive. But none of that matters. You don’t need the programs to have the files; if you go to an interview and they want your design comps, provide PSD files. Of course, most designers have obtained tools to use at home. If you produce a lot of video, you can make DVDs; if you’re a writer, OpenOffice works just as well as Microsoft and is completely free. (I’ve had some trouble getting it to work with Windows Vista 64-bit, but that may be unique to me.) But, seriously, if you don’t have programs at home that at least somewhat mirrors the kind of work you do at the office, then now’s the time to start saving up.

What about my personal stuff: If you have the time, pull everything personal off your work computer. You’ve probably got a ton of pictures, passwords, and purchasing information stored on there. Get it all off; the Resignr article referenced above has lots of useful tips to do that. If it’s too late, then honestly, you might want to format that drive. If your company hasn’t backed up all of your software and kept a list of licenses, then it’s their own fault.

Last week, while I was cleaning off my external hard drive in advance of doing a backup on my personal computer, I found a folder of all my work stuff, backed up off my computer just before it was replaced in early 2008. I haven’t done a backup since then, and today, I’ll be remedying that situation. After all, CorporateSpeak did announce that there’ll be another round of layoffs this quarter, and even though my bosses have said we won’t be affected, I’m not taking any chances. There’s a lot of art, animation, code, and writing on that PC and I don’t want to lose any of it.

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* And I know he really is working on it — this IT guy is a true gem, and everyone at the office appreciates how much work he puts in.



1. Alphager - July 1, 2009

Everything you produce during work-hours (your code, your designs, your texts) belongs to the company; copying it (and showing it to non-company people!) is a breach of contract and opens you up for lawsuits concerning business secrets and copyright.

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