Loss of Data


It’s probably happened to all of us at one time or another: you’ve been working on a spreadsheet or some other document for several hours, and were so absorbed in your work that you didn’t make intermediate saves, and then the server or your computer went down (say by a power cut), and you lost a whole afternoon’s work.

This was more likely to happen in the early days of computing, where application software didn’t carry temporary back-ups, and if an unsaved document was gone, it was gone for good. One example that clearly stands out in my mind was when a load management at Allied Steel & Wire cut out the mains a quarter of an hour earlier than I had expected, and I lost a 1-2-3 spreadsheet that I had been working on all afternoon. My expletives must have echoed through the building, because a manager of a few offices down the corridor came to compliment me on my command of the English language.

The situation was even more fraught in Iscor, where many of our documents were stored and edited through a mainframe terminal. In the end you started to read the warning signs when your connection started to slow down – often a warning sign that the connection might cut out – and then it was a race against time to try and save whatever you had before you lost your work.

At least I’ve never been in the situation of Steve Carless, who lost all his EngDoc work that was stored on a common drive when we changed our system of using common drives at Welsh Labs. The worst I did was to accidentally delete all my emails on my Lotus Notes account, and you know what ? I never missed a single one of them !

All of this confirms the adage that data isn’t data until it’s backed up. That was proven when I accidentally deleted more than a year’s worth of blast furnace 4 production records, and they were restored within a few hours from the server back-ups held by Process Control.

Come to think of it, considering that I’ve been working with computers for several decades, I’ve had surprisingly few mishaps. Either I’ve been lucky, or I’ve been doing something right.

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