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The IOBA Standard is the journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association and covers the book world, with a special focus on the online used, out-of-print, and collectible bookselling markets.


The Hard Way

There is a package on my desk, unopened. I know what’s in it. It weighs slightly more than a pound, and its cold, metallic heart holds my merchant’s life blood as surely as did that pound of flesh from another merchant so long ago.

It’s my hard drive, still encased in the static-free, plastic sleeve the technicians used when they returned it to me. Through the lightly tinted plastic, I can read the “Seagate Recovery Services” sticker.

I have finally learned the hard way what every computer geek and technical website has been saying since computers become commonplace: If you’ve never lost all of your data, it’s only a matter of time.

I can remember reading those words so clearly, and thinking that I really should back up my important files. But somehow, I never got around to buying that extra hard drive, never found the time to burn it on disks. I did find the time, however, to fully savor the heart-stopping moment when I realized that my hard drive was dead, dead, dead, and beyond the help of ordinary technicians.

Well, I’ve got the external hard drive now. Seagate Recovery Services offered to sell me one for $120 so they would have somewhere to load the 31 gig of recovered data, but I saved $20 with a Costco coupon. Frugal me. I could have bought nine of these external hard drives for what it cost me to have the lab recover my data.

And I got lucky, coming in near the low end of the $700 to $1900 quote for “economy” service (five to six weeks). To get my data back in a week would have been another $500. My friends who are IT techs tell me that $1000 is right in the ballpark for a data recovery job that has to be handled by a lab, as mine was.

So…what have I learned? I mean, besides the fact that life is much more difficult without my data base, my address book, my customer list, and all of my inventory, sales, and other tax records.

Well, the first thing is, all of those annoying techies who claimed that if you haven’t lost your data yet you surely will some day were right, at least in my case.

Second, the cost of that extra data storage is the same whether you buy it before you need it or after, but it’s a whole lot cheaper to make your own backup files as you go along than it is to pay a lab to do it after the fact.

Third, now that I’m reloading all of my programs and scrounging for the data files in my recovered documents, I’m putting everything I create in My Documents instead of making up clever personal folders for it, and I’m writing down where each program stores its files, so that I can get it all backed up on a regular basis.

Fourth, I’m thanking my lucky stars that this didn’t happen closer to tax time! I would have been able to recreate most of my records, but for Cost of Goods sold almost everything was on the computer, and I’m not sure I could have ever recreated that.

I’m considering hot-gluing my old hard drive to a suitable plaque and mounting it on my office wall like a diploma. It’s been an expensive education.

Alice Voith operates MyWings Books out of Schaumburg, Illinois and can be contacted at




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