Make it a habit to save frequently whenever you are working on any document that requires saving

It is the age old advice to constantly save one’s work. We often roll our eyes at it, but it is very important to do so.

The reason, as many people have learned the hard way, is that applications can suddenly crash at any time. Most of your data is stored in “volatile” storage, namely computer RAM. If power is lost, then the data is gone. While end users do not have to save databases, where changes are saved as the user makes them, they do need to save applications such as Words, Excel sheets, etc, which are stored in memory and not any “non-volatile” storage. It is not just “work”, as even computer gamers must save their games as well.

The classic save button is common in applications. Most applications have a shortcut, such as Ctrl + S to easily save data. For those not old enough to remember them, floppy disks were once the primary storage media for transferring files between computers.

The problem is that software is imperfect, as are modern operating systems. There are always bugs that can lead to sudden crashes. One moment a user is fine with what they are working for, and then out of the blue, there is suddenly a crash. This is something that we have all been dreading. Here is what can happen:

  • The application suddenly lags to the point where it is completely unresponsive and the end user if forced to terminate the process.
  • The application can suddenly crash and terminate on its own.
  • The operating system itself can suddenly crash, either experiencing a Blue Screen of Death (windows) or a Kernel Panic (Linux, Mac OS X, and other UNIX based operating systems).
  • Then there is the matter that even if the software and operating system are perfect, it is still possible to lose one’s data. Power loss, particularly on desktops that do not have a backup Uninterruptible Power Supply can of course cause instant shutdown.
  • In a thunderstorm, a power surge can suddenly destroy your computer, which is also why offsite “cloud” can be useful, along with a good power surge protector for your expensive equipment.

There are of course other possibilities, but these are the most likely ones. The point though is that they can happen extremely suddenly, happen when the user least expects it, and cost the user a great deal of missing data. Human hands and mistakes can also occur, which is why revision control is extremely important on top of saving. An example is someone accidentally unplugging a desktop power cable. That is for another article though.

Another consideration is that, while there are data recovery functions in many applications, they are not always reliable and an end user should not always depend on them entirely. Many applications do have their own “auto save” function too. Even this WordPress application does. The problem with these, apart from the fact that they do not always work as intended, is that you do not know when you crash when this autosave was, even if it does work. This means that you do not know the exact point at which you can begin recovering your data. The autorecover means that the end user must spend a bit of time looking backwards at where they left off. It is a good feature, despite its limitations, but I would not recommend relying on it completely.

The last thing any user wants to do I believe is to:

  • Permanently lose data
  • Have to do the same work twice over, losing precious time
  • Having to rely on document and file recovery, which do not always work
  • Having an unexpected disaster strike

I do not know about you, but if that happened to me, my mind is going to look like this:

Most applications can easily be saved by a simple keyboard shortcut, Ctrl + S, or a similar set of 2 buttons. Even many web applications also have this function. This will take a small amount of time while the data goes from memory to permanent storage, but is well worth it. It is especially important when you are doing work that has many steps, requires precision, and is not easy to memorize. An example can be Spreadsheets, where if there is a crash and even if the recovery is successful, finding formals can be a nightmare. At least with word processing, the end user can easily recover.

Another consideration is that if you do know that you are going to lose data, save immediately. An example is if there is a power outage and you have a backup power supply. They typically only offer a few minutes of power, which gives you the time to save and safely shutdown but not much else.

It is not too difficult to make saving your data a habit. It is a great habit to get into. Once you are used to it, it will be second nature to you. It is all to easy to forget about saving one’s data when busy, but it is exceptionally important. Happy saving!

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