As Murphy’s law would predict, it’s always when a user is traveling that they experience a catastrophic event with their laptop. Because of these types of issues, I’ve always tried to teach my users how to manage their data so that if something happens to their machine, they can minimize downtime and, hopefully, lose no data.
I’ve seen laptops stolen, hard drives crash and computers infected. There’s always the “something spilled on my machine,” and I’ve even had a laptop go overboard into the ocean. (It was actually recovered by a diver and replaced by Dell’s CompleteCare warranty.)
One of my most memorable stories with a positive outcome came about quite a few years ago. One of my users was traveling on the East Coast when his laptop got switched at security. He picked up the only laptop left, and when he got to his gate and fired it up, he quickly realized that someone had taken his by accident. (Some laptops do look alike.) So he walked through the airport holding it up and hoping someone would have discovered the same.
After trying that for awhile, he finally contacted me wondering what he could do next. I told him how to find the origins for the machine so I could determine, hopefully, the domain and the company it belonged to. Luckily, this worked. I contacted the company, which happened to be in Canada, and left a detailed message on their after-hours IT support line.
The next morning I got a very amusing call from the tech. He had heard the message and contacted the user directly, who hadn’t realized she had the wrong computer yet. Since he knew she didn’t have her machine, he played it off by asking her to just fire it up so he can make sure everything is working. All he heard a few seconds later was her scream of surprise.
In the end, we shipped the laptops to their respective owners. The first thing my user did when his arrived was apply a company sticker to the machine. And despite the temporary loss of his laptop, he was able to stay productive. He had a copy of his presentation on a USB drive and his BlackBerry to handle emails. No loss of data occurred and everyone walked away happy.
Not all outcomes are as positive as this one, which is why teaching users about backups and offline storage is so important. They can really help out in emergencies. It’s not a matter of if but when something will go wrong.
I know that anyone who has spent any time in IT support can rattle off similar stories, and these are the tales we use to remind our users why it’s best to avoid storing all your data locally. With a file storage service like ShareFile, you can keep your data in the cloud and sync it directly to the local drive. This allows users to access their data from any machine or mobile device. Finding any such tool that can prevent the headaches of data loss will always be a benefit to the user.
So before someone travels, remind them that Murphy’s law is always out there waiting.