Bí Ullamh

Years ago, as a boy scout the motto Bí Ullamh was drilled into me. It’s the Irish for “be prepared” and although it didn’t turn me into a overly cautious fretter who couldn’t leave home without a pen-knife, waterproofs and matches in a Ziploc bag, it did make me aware that anything can happen. And it usually does.

Which makes it all the more galling when I lost an entire WordPress website a few days ago because I hadn’t backed it up.  It was a hard lesson. All I needed was to install the BackUpWordpress plugin, which backs up the site automatically.

The best backing up, of course, is automatic. Last year the hard drive on my trusty 12 year old Apple wheezed it’s last, but thanks to behind-the-scenes back-ups to a external hard drive everything was saved and was effortlessly transferred back to the new hard drive.

When it comes to my study notes I’m even more prepared for a catastrophe. Techies will tell you that your data should be saved in three places: on your computer, an external hard drive and in the cloud. The latter is easy and free, and everyone should be using it. Being a belt-and-braces type I use both Dropbox and Zumodrive. Both are free and store your files on their servers so you can access them anywhere you have an internet connection, even your smartphone.

This is particularly useful if you’re away from home and need to access files saved on your home computer. Folders can be linked, so that anything you saved in your “study notes” folder on your computer is automatically saved on a “study notes” folder in, for example Dropbox. If you are away from your computer just go to the Dropbox website, log in and view or edit your contents of your “study notes” folder. I’m quite fastidious about saving study notes and essays in all of these folders and also save pdf copies of articles from the online library in case I need to refer to them.

Another site that I can’t do without is Delicious, which stores your bookmarks in the cloud. Again, if anything happened your computer, which you didn’t back up, then you could access them again. Or you can also access them from other computers. Delicious lets you organise your bookmarks with tags, like “UK politics” or “Illiberal Democracy”, and share them with others. This can be really useful for study groups, who can agree on a tag like “UoLPoliticsstudygroup2012”. If anyone in the group finds an article online they would like to share, they can save it to Delicious, tag it with the agreed name, enter a description and reason they find it interesting. If anyone in the study group puts “UoLPoliticsstudygroup2012” in the search bar, this article and others with that tag will be listed.

Luckily it didn’t take too long to reinstall and reinstate my WordPress site, but as exams loom in the next few months the cost of losing your hard work grows exponentially. It’s never too late for a New Year Resolution, so take the time to backup your study notes and bookmarks. Don’t think it couldn’t happen to you.

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