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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Every 15 seconds, a hard drive crashes. This summer, I was fortunate enough to experience it firsthand. Twice.

Being of the computer generation, we tend to store large amounts of data digitally. Everything from music to movies, documents, pictures, receipts, financial records, e-mail - you get the idea. It seems like most people store critical information on their computer.

Of course, any computer expert will tell you over and over again to back up your data and do so regularly. Some people heed their advice. But some don't.

July 10: My MacBook's hard drive suffered a catastrophic failure. A gear got loose, physically destroying the rest of the drive. No option of recovery. I'm the proud new owner of an expensively wired paperweight.

I wasn't happy, but life went on. An iPod served as an impromptu music backup drive. My most important documents were stored online. But photos from the summer in New York City were gone.

August 18: The desktop computer, which holds the most critical data, suffers a system error and fails. At this point, I'm on the edge, fearing every digital file was completely lost. Nobody likes to rebuild their virtual lives from the motherboard up.

Many of you are owners of a new computer, whether you purchased it for the first year of college or are simply replacing an older one.

Be warned: Of those who store their personal data on their computers, only 57 percent actually take the time to back their data up, according to a survey commissioned by software maker Symantec.

Therefore, data recovery is becoming a booming business. According to a study by Pepperdine University, data loss costs U.S. businesses an average of ,18 billion annually.

Then there's the emotional cost. On August 18, I was ready to spill my life story to a shrink. A smart psychiatrist could make a pretty penny dealing with the psychological fallout from coping with the loss of data.

But realistically, we must acknowledge that most hard drives have moving parts. And they age with use. Wear and tear alone cause stress over time, and eventually, your hard drive will fail. And it will be heartbreaking.

The point of this sad story? To convey the importance of protecting your data.

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You know to protect yourself in bed. You know to buckle up in a car. You even know not to run with scissors.

But what you should do - protect your digital life. Surf safely. Use a backup drive.

Sean O'Key is a student at Ball State University.

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