"Our cameras are gone!" I wanted to cry, and I wanted to kill somebody. I was in New York City for a week performing a round of interviews for my national teen career show, Streaming Futures, and as our crew was getting ready to depart for an interview with the CEO of JetBlue, everything fell apart: $20,000 worth of video equipment was missing from our production van.
It's a sad story, but it has an excellent parallel to this column's technology theme and a powerful moral. So let me tell you what happened.
I had just finished an engaging interview with Atoosa Rubenstein, the editor-in-chief of Seventeen Magazine and was standing outside the building with our cameras, tripods, lights, monitor, cables, etc. As a co-worker and I waited for our van to pull up, a man approached us and, in broken English, asked how much longer we would be there, as if we were in his way. Replying that we'd be only a few more minutes, he disappeared across the street.
Five minutes later, our van pulled up and we loaded the equipment, ready to drive off. Just then another man approached our driver and, as if to distract him, asked where he could find a Blockbuster. At the same time, a second man crouched down in front of our van, blocking us from driving off, while a third man stood on the right-hand side of the vehicle. We were surrounded but didn't feel threatened because the assailants couldn't speak English so we had no idea they intended to rob us.
After a confusing exchange of words, the man in front of our van pulled a cell phone out from under the vehicle and moved aside. We figured he'd dropped his phone, and now that he had it, all was well. But the man standing on the driver's side of the van didn't seem satisfied and tried to keep us engaged in dialog, telling me there was a bomb under our van. I still didn't understand that we were being hustled and brushed him off, saying that it was only a cell phone and his buddy had grabbed it already. We got in the van and drove off.
But our troubles were far from over. The hustlers apparently jumped into a vehicle of their own and followed us across town to our hotel. Once we checked into the garage and entered our hotel, two of the thieves entered the garage and convinced the attendant they worked for us and needed to "get something for the boss out of the van." Unbelievably, the attendant believed the intruders and our equipment found a new home.
The point of this story, in addition to providing an outlet for my exasperation, is that at any time, you could lose your computer equipment, whether it's a laptop that gets stolen or a desktop that's lost in a house fire. So be prepared: Back up your data weekly-or even daily. I own a 200GB portable hard drive (cost: between $300 and $350) that connects directly to my laptop via firewire, and with the press of a button, it backs up my entire computer. If my laptop had been stolen out of the van, I would have only been faced with the nuisance of collecting insurance-instead, the loss of data from our camera theft is irreplaceable.
I also own a DVD-writer (cost: between $150 and $250) and perform monthly backups of very important files, such as documents and addresses, to a DVD-RW (which holds 4.7GB) for storage in a fire-proof lock-box, just in case a house fire does occur.
You might also think about online data storage using a service such as Xdrive, which charges $9.95 per month to host 500MB and acts just like a local hard drive (although uploading 500MB will take quite a bit of time).
As I concluded in my last article: It's better to be safe than sorry. So back up your data religiously, even if you think you're invincible-I certainly didn't think I was going to be robbed in New York.
Joel Holland, 18, has been starting and running businesses since he was 12. He's currently the Chief Marketing Officer for Nortel Networks Kidz Online, as well as the producer of Streaming Futures, a national teen career show dedicated to helping teens choose the right career path. Holland is ranked in the top 10 nationwide for his marketing skills through DECA, a national organization with more than 300,000 teen members, and was named Business Student of the Year by the McLean, Virginia, Chamber of Commerce last year.