Thursday, December 27, 2012

How I Survived Finals Week Without My Computer

Technology is great… until it doesn't work, always at the worst possible time. For college students, this is especially true. We become dependent on our technology, doing most of our work on our personal computers and devices. So what happens when we can't use them? Unfortunately, during finals week of this past semester, with my computer out of commission, I found out.

I've talked to a lot of students who've dealt with computer problems during college. I've heard stories of losing papers the night before they're due, hard drives crashing in the middle of projects when they didn't have a backup, being forced to gather class notes from other people in the weeks before finals. Certainly doesn't help endear anyone to the idea of using technology in education.

We are told again and again to backup everything and often. But how many of us do? I certainly don't nearly as often as I should. So when I had to hand over my laptop for repairs the weekend before finals, everyone expected me to panic (and trust me I did for a few minutes). I thought about typing and turning in papers, studying for exams, all of my projects saved to my hard drive.And then, after about five minutes, I relaxed.  If only there was something that would back up all of my stuff, without having to think about it. Oh wait. There is!

Everyone knows that I love Evernote. I have all of my notes and a lot more in my account. So even though I couldn't access my desktop client, I had everything on my phone, my iPad, and in the web client. The web client became my most helpful platform. At Pitt, we have a pretty great computer lab system: 8 labs with over 500 computers, running 3 different operating systems. Any student can log onto these computers. So whenever I needed to work on something in my Evernote account, I logged onto a computer, went to Evernote's website, and picked up from right where I left off.

But what about editing files, formatting papers, working on presentations? While I could keep all of these in my Evernote account, it would take up a great deal of my monthly allowance. In comes Dropbox, another service that I'm a big fan of. For those of you who aren't familiar, Dropbox is a cloud based service that syncs files, photos, etc. to your account, making them available across your computers, devices, and from the web. I have my Dropbox account set up to sync everything saved in my Documents folder on my computer, meaning that I can then log into my account from any web browser, and download whatever files I need.

So no, maybe we don't run our backups as often as we should. But that doesn't mean that we have to be left in a jam when our computers decide to fail on us. Using a couple different services, we can easily have access to everything we need from anywhere.

How do you keep your files and notes backed up? Leave me a comment or let me know @OtterMC on Twitter! 


  1. Excellent post! I'm addicted to Evernote and use it all parts of my life.

  2. I am a big fan of dropbox too! I have to work on 2 computers, one at office and one home, on the same project in R programming language (an open source statistical programming language) and I configured it to save the work environment in the dropbox folder. I can now start at home at exactly where I left the project in office. Bingo!
    I am yet to explore the full potential of evernote though.