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Translator, heal thyself January 15, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Tech tips.

I’m not one of those religious zealots, but certain Bible verses have crept into common language and I had to play off the phrase “Physician, heal thyself” from Luke 4:23 for this post because it fits. Despite the fact that I have written articles about the importance of backing up your work and the fact that I bought an external Maxtor hard drive a few months ago to replace my dead hard drive but never got around to installing Ghost to back up my data, I have learned my lesson and am about to eat crow.

Yesterday morning I woke up ready to translate all day to finish a large job that is due today. Unfortunately my computer would not boot up. It beeped a lot and the hard drive revved, but it wouldn’t boot. I called Susanne of In-House Translators – A Dying Breed in a panic, and we tried to troubleshoot the problem over the phone. Nothing we tried could make the computer boot up.

At that point I admitted defeat and called in a professional. I called a local computer troubleshooter who was able to come over within a half hour and take a look. He figured it was the power source and took it to his office to work on it. He e-mailed me the file I needed, and I was able to work on my backup computer in the living room. He is bringing the fixed computer back at any moment.

So what have I learned from this incident and what do I want you to realize? It does no good to have an external hard drive if you don’t back your data up on it. I had also gotten lax and stopped e-mailing the files I’m working on to my Gmail account. No more! As soon as I get the computer back and have finished my translation (should be done in the next half hour) I am downloading Ghost and implementing a backup solution. The computer guy is also suggesting I use his off-site backup service, which costs $20 a month. I think that might be a good investment.

So do what I say and not what I do and heal thyself! Get a computer backup system up and running if you haven’t yet. I was lucky – I had a backup computer with Trados already installed and could continue working once the tech recovered my file off my hard drive.

Mmm, crow pie sure tastes good!



1. Roberto Savelli - January 15, 2009

Hi Jill, as the owner of a small translation company, I am in charge of various tasks, among which is backing up all the important stuff we have at the office.

Since we have accumulated quite a lot of stuff over the years, and since backing up everything all the time is quite a tedious task, at some point I decided to take a look at our processes and tried to set some priorities. Here are some considerations that might be important for other fellow translators and some facts that, to some extent, make the backup needs of a translation business so unique:

1) today’s work is often more precious than last week’s work, so you have to backup often, preferably once a day.

2) e-mail is often a key repository of projects received and delivered, so it’s very important never to get caught with all your emails on one single PC that might get stolen or stop functioning. Use an e-mail provider that supports IMAP so that your precious e-mails are always available, even if you log in from a different PC. We switched to Google Apps for Your Domain 2 years ago and never looked back.

3) If you use CAT tools, the single most important asset for your business are the translation memories. In a way, they act as some sort of manual backup system, as they contain every single sentence that you have ever translated. You have to make sure that they are always backed up.

After some consideration, I decided that if I just had a good backup of our translation memories (since e-mail had already been taken care of) we would be pretty much covered. So here’s what I came up with:

– the server on which the translation memories reside is backed up every day with an imaging solution similar to Norton Ghost, so the PC (and the files) can be restored to its normal functioning state. The images are backed up to an external HD.

– however, this does not cover us from fire and theft, so all the files are also continuously backed up remotely to a service called Mozy. Another similar service is Carbonite, and they work pretty much in the same way.

We have never experienced a hardware failure on our file server, but we certainly made some mistakes like deleting, overwriting or corrupting files, and we were always able to recover all our work within minutes. This is quite a simple system to set up, but I’d be glad to hear about the backup strategies of other translators and any useful suggestions.

2. jillsommer - January 15, 2009

Robert – Thanks so much for sharing this. This is indeed valuable advice. The off-site backup service recommended by the Computer Troubleshooters tech, and which I signed up for, is indeed Carbonite. You are absolutely correct – e-mail, translation memories, current files and our invoices are the most important things we should back up every day. My system is now up and running.

3. Marco - January 16, 2009

To Jill and all Translators: I strongly recommend Syncplicity (http://www.syncplicity.com), an oline backup (and synchronization) tool that works perfectly, I’ve been using it for more than 1 year and I am extremely satisfied with it! If 2 GB of backuped data are enough with you, it’s totally free. If you need more space (like me), you can have 50 GB (and unlimited computers) for only 99$/year, it’s extremely coveniente compared to other similar tools on the market, and very much more trustable I believe. If any of you is interested in trying it out, please send me an email and I will send you an Invitation. You do not need to get invited, but if I invite you and you sign in I get an extra 2 GB 🙂 My email is: xmarcor@tin.it Thanks, Marco

4. jillsommer - January 16, 2009

Hi Marco, From what I hear Carbonite is unlimited and they fed ex you a hard drive with all your data (i.e. an identical hard drive). My tech told me about one of his clients who was burgled – had all the electronics and computers stolen from the office (six or seven computers). After they bought new computers at a local computer store they were up and running again as if nothing had happened by 4 PM that same day. That sounds totally worth it to me. Not that I’m going to get robbed, but you could have a fire or something. $240 a year for peace of mind and immediate turnaround if you have a problem sounds worth it to me.

5. Corinne McKay - January 16, 2009

Wow, this is a great story, very instructive!! I think you have to give yourself major credit for having a backup computer with the necessary software installed; so many people don’t have that, and it’s a key ingredient. Thanks for the reminder about off-site backups; I also get lax about doing them. As you said, I’m not that afraid of getting robbed, but spilling a cup of coffee on the computer… not so hard to envision!!

6. céline - January 17, 2009

Time Machine was one of the reasons why I switched from PC to Mac: ever half hour or so, my entire HD is backed up on my external drive without me having to do anything at all. Fantastic.

7. chacher - January 18, 2009

I have to agree with Céline — Time Machine is wonderful, and switching to Mac has been a pleasure (even though I continue to use Windows for most translations).

Marco’s suggestion is also excellent. I use a similar program that doesn’t require an invitation — http://www.getdropbox.com
The program also offers an easy way to send large files to clients in the form of direct download links — a great alternative to an FTP server, which can be intimidating for some clients.

8. MT - January 20, 2009

We bought a terabyte MediaServer NAS (Hewlett Packard), which includes automatic shadow software, both Mac and Windows compatible, and it automatically just copies everything that gets changed on the HD on the main computers onto the backup drive. We wanted an NAS drive so that we can back up while using laptops in the yard during the summer. 🙂

9. céline - January 20, 2009

Sorry to highjack your thread Jill, but I don’t know how else to get in touch with MT: dear MT, why can’t I comment on your blog? I use Firefox, are you aware of problems with it?

10. jillsommer - January 20, 2009

No worries, Céline. For what it’s worth, I use Firefox and can comment on MT’s blog without any problems.

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