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Today's Tech Stress: Bleeding Hearts and Crashed Hard Drives

How a string of recent incidents can help you prevent major tech stress.

The ominous clicking, rattling, and beeping indicated we had experienced a major malfunction. We're not talking, Oops, I dropped my cell phone in the toilet and lost all my contacts...not that that's not stressful in its own right.

This was an external hard drive filled with frequently used work productivity resources. A truly distressing loss that was having a heavy impact on my partner's workflow. The backstory isn't important, suffice to say he'd received a new laptop and had not yet loaded it with files he'd saved onto our external hard drive. But knowing it was a new and high quality brand name hard drive there was nothing to worry about until we got around to itright? Wrong. Crash. (But continue reading for the semi-happy ending)

This week on the photography site PetaPixel, photographer Scott Daveley published his own story about losing hundreds of photos stored on his camera's memory card. How many of us are guilty of taking bunches of photos and keeping them stored on a memory card or computer, never to see them printed into physical existence? In fact, recently I was cleaning out some moving boxes that had been untouched for years and came across my old hoard of 3.5" floppy disks. Some of you may be too young to have ever touched one, let alone have your photos from the '90s stored on them. My intention to someday find a disk reader to recover the relics was laid to rest—along with whatever embarrassing photos the disks contained. Never printed. Never saved to a hard drive. Crash.

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Yet another tech stress story in this week's headlines is the massive "Heartbleed Bug" security flaw that has us talking yet again about data protection. This time, a vulnerability that makes our personal information on certain websites accessible to hackers—especially on some of the largest web-based email services. So let this bleeding bug and our crashed hard drive serve as a reminder to change your passwords and backup your electronic data today—or this weekend at the very latest. Here are a few tech tips for preventing your own heart bleed:

  • Check out today's article on CNN to understand the Heartbleed bug and which passwords you need change immediately.
  • Change your passwords regularly on sites that utilize your personal information (banks, email, social media, etc.). Schedule reminders to do this at regular intervals and don't use the same password for every account. Lifehacker offers password setting tips.
  • Buy a new external hard drive and backup any data you would feel disappointed to lose (photos, work files, music downloads, resume...basically everything!).
  • Consider backing up your most important data to a second external drive that you can store at another location (safety deposit box, parent's house, etc.) High capacity USB 'thumb drives' or 'flash drives' are so tiny these days, you can stash them practically anywhere.
  • Print some of those photos and enjoy them now rather than keeping them stored away in electronic perpetuity.
  • Health and Mental Health professionals: If you are using a standard web-based email service like Yahoo or Gmail to send emails that contain client information, stop! Make the switch to a HIPAA compliant email service. Additionally, check with your malpractice insurance provider for your policy's rider on information security coverage AND talk to your business attorney about adding language to your client agreement regarding the electronic transmission of patient information.

 As it turns out, our hard drive crash wasn't so much heart bleeding as it was wallet bleeding. We took the device to a local data recovery company who told us the crashed drive was a complete loss—damaged beyond repair. But out of sheer desperation, my partner refused to give up and found a mail-in data recovery service with good reviews*. After a week of anxious waiting and a significant chunk of change, nearly all of his data was recovered and returned.

The psychological stress of losing data is real and legitimate, but hope is not always lost. If you think you've lost valuable files—whether due to a computer crash, hard drive malfunction, memory card error, or even files that were mistakenly deleted—don't give up before trying a data recovery service. And if they can't help, get a second opinion. Better yet, protect yourself before a loss can occur. Incidentally, Daveley reports on PetaPixel that he found a program that helped him recover many of the beautiful concert photos he'd saved to his corrupted memory card.

*I do not have any endorsement or affiliation with this company outside of utilizing their services for our particular instance of data recovery. Check with the manufacturer of your storage device for their list of preferred data recovery providers. 

 

Brad Waters, MSW provides career-life coaching and consultation to clients in Chicago and internationally by phone. He helps people explore career direction and take action on career transitions. Brad holds a Master's degree in social work from the University of Michigan and Master's certification in Holistic Health Care from Western Michigan University. Brad is also a career & personal development writer whose books are available on Amazon and BradWatersMSW.com

Copyright, 2014 Brad Waters. This article may not be reproduced or published without permission from the author. If you share it, please give author credit and do not remove embedded links.

Brad Waters, L.C.S.W. is a career and well-being expert based in Chicago. He is also a freelance writer with a background in social work and holistic health care.

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