Weekend Project: Avert a Catastrophe by Restoring a File from Backup

If you don’t already have backup, you should probably set up a backup system and figure out your disaster recovery plan before you attempt this.

Here’s the Scenario

You’ve been working on a will/contract/memorandum for one client all morning. Then, after lunch, you’ve had enough and you decide to start on a similar one for another client. Since they are similar, you open up the morning client’s document and start making changes.

An hour later you get pulled into a client phone call, and when you come back to the document you realize you’ve been saving over the work you did during the morning. Frantic, you realize you’ve lost all that work.

Or have you?

Your Homework

Recover the document the way it was after you stopped working on it for the first client, but before you saved over it with the second client’s changes.

Here’s how to set up the test:

  1. Create a Word document that contains the number 1. Make it big.
  2. Save the document and close Word.
  3. Wait five minutes.
  4. Open the document again. Change the number to 2.
  5. Save the document and close Word.
  6. Now, recover version 1 of the document (without losing version 2).

There are a bunch of different ways to do this. You could be using document management software with automatic versioning. Or you could be using Dropbox with Pack Rat. Or Crashplan. Or some combination of the above. The point is you should be able to get that version of your document back.

And if it ever does happen to you for real (as it does for me pretty regularly), from now on you will be able to trust your backup system.

Evaluate Your Backup System

Did it work the way you expected? Were you able to recover version 1 of the file? If not, you’d better figure out a better backup system.

It used to be enough to back up your files once a day. And while that’s still better than nothing, there’s really no reason why you wouldn’t back up your files constantly.


  1. Avatar TimothyAWiseman says:

    I cannot agree with this enough or emphasize it enough. Prior to becoming a lawyer, I was a programmer and database administrator. Being able to restore a database or programming project to almost any arbitrary point was vital, both as part of disaster recovery and to be able to establish a history for the document. Version control, or document management, is a highly useful tool.

    Similarly, you should not rely on a backup system until you have tested it and continue to perform tests on a regular basis.

  2. Avatar Nancy says:

    I was wondering if Sam or anyone else has thoughts about the Crashplan transition to a more costly business-only service that is in the offing. Is Crashplan still recommended, or is there another service we small firm types should be considering?

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