The Lesson I Learned From A $2,000 Cup of Coffee

Photo credit: Jason Wong. Unsplash.

On July 12th I was at work when I received a phone call from my wife. Her first words were, “Don’t freak out, but…”.

That’s never a good way to start a phone call, but I bit my tongue, sat back, and listened.

According to the website,, 30% of people never back up their computers, phones or other devices. And 29% of disasters are caused by accident.

Ooops! I was about to become a statistic.

Like most other parents with kids in sports or other activities, we volunteer our time to help out the team and keep expenses down. Once a week she volunteers with The St. Paul Figure Skating Club to serve as a rink monitor.

It’s a dull but important job that someone has to do. And besides, you are at the rink anyway. You might as well be productive.

To pass the time, my wife brought her Apple laptop thinking she could get some work done.

Skating rinks are cold. Coffee is hot. Laptops are sensitive to large amounts of caffeinated beverages. I think you know how this ends.

Cutting to the chase, it became necessary to replace my wife’s laptop faster than you could say “I’d like a half-calf mocha soy latte with an espresso shot – extra Turbinado”.

“No problem”, I assured her in my most non-freaked out voice (at least I thought so, anyway. Apparently this is open to interpretation). Stuff happens. Besides, it’s probably time for a new computer anyway. (Well, not really, but I was trying not to freak out).

“You’ve got everything backed up, right?”

“Well, see, that’s the thing”, she tells me.

It was backed up using Carbonite, a cloud-based backup. “Was” as in in the past. Way, way in the past. So far in the past, in fact, that when she contacted Carbonite to verify her backup, she learned that her Carbonite subscription had expired in the past. Way, way in the past.

“But we have an external hard drive, you’ve been backing up to that right?”

“Well, see, that’s the other thing”.

Mark Fawcett saves the day.

I use Apple computers at home, and even Apple computers sometimes have problems.

A few years ago, I was having some trouble with my Mac and a photographer that I know, Jen Kelly, from KeliComm Headshots, said she uses Mark Fawcett of Mac Men for all her Apple IT issues.

Mark has been my Apple guy ever since. In fact, he’s now on my short list of “favorites” for my iPhone.

We called Mark and he was able to recover most of the data from our hard drive. We lost some photos and music, but nothing that we were concerned about. Mark said later, “Coffee destroys the electronic connections in your computer, but generally the hard drive itself is often OK.”

“Whew”. Finally, things were going in our direction.

Learn from our folly.

Computers get dropped, lost, stolen and destroyed all the time. You think it wont happen to you, but it will. You think you have your info backed up, but you probably don’t. Or, as in our case, you did in the past, but now you don’t.

This post isn’t a “How-To” on computer backups, but there are some things you can learn from our mistakes.

  • First, Sign up for a good online cloud-based backup and make sure you stay current on your subscription. It sounds obvious, but we get so many emails from so many vendors that an email notifying you that your computer hasn’t been backed up or that your subscription is about to expire can get missed very easily. In our case, I not only signed up for Carbonite again, but I confirmed that all our other computers are backed up as well. My recommendation is to go online at least once a month and confirm that your on-line cloud back up is active. I would also recommend setting up a reminder (maybe on your iCalendar) notifying you when your subscription expires.
  • Second, at least once in a while, backup to an external hard drive. That way you only lose your most recent info. The more you back up the safer your data will be. If you want to be really careful, and keep another backup “offsite”.
  • Third, consider using Dropbox, Google Docs or other similar services to save and store your most important or most urgent documents. For example, I often recommend that clients save their healthcare directive, power of attorney, even their will and trust documents on Dropbox or Google Docs. That way if others need to access your info, they can do so from anywhere without having to go through your computer or personal papers to find them.
  • Fourth, don’t stop with your computer. My wife lost the info on her laptop. But we also have info on our phones, our FaceBook accounts, LinkedIn and other places that aren’t necessarily connected to our system at home. You probably do too. These may need to be backed up as well. Oh, and while you are at it, you might want to double check your spouse’s computer and any others in your house. Just because you have backed up your system, doesn’t mean they have backed up theirs. If you want more info about how to backup your digital life, check out this great article at PC Magazine .
  • Fifth, always have a guy like Mark Fawcett in your pocket. Mark specializes in Apple products. If you are a PC person, I can give you a referral there as well. Check out Mark’s website.

By the time I tallied up the bill from the Apple Store and Mark’s time, the total came to over $2,000. Plus, $3.65 for the cost of the lost latte. Let’s not forget that.

In the end, however, a computer is just stuff and money is just another form of stuff and most stuff can be replaced. What really matters is that the information your computer holds, the photos, videos and other important information is saved.

That stuff can’t be replaced.

Oh, and don’t freak out.