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Buying a USB adapter: Pennies. Knowing where to stick it: Priceless

Back up your data, it's later than you think

On Call It's a tale from before the times of Bitlocker and TPM in On Call today as a Register reader demonstrates the importance of knowing one's true worth.

Our hero, whom we shall call "Cliff", was on the phone to a friend whose brother-in-law has recently deceased. As is so often the case, the individual concerned had left for the hereafter without thinking to hand over his credentials to his nearest and dearest.

Facebook and email was one thing, but critical data in an Excel spreadsheet was quite another. It was a spreadsheet that happened to be on a password-protected laptop. A spreadsheet for which nobody had made a backup.

Sadly, password guessing had not had the desired effect, and a data recovery company was contacted. The quote for retrieval came to an eye-watering £1,000 ($1,300). More prodding and poking of the laptop ensued before the call to Cliff was made.

"Could I assist?"


Cliff went through a few basics. The laptop was relatively new, but not too new. The battery seemed OK and it booted up without error. A glance at the model, and he knew what he needed to do: "I told him I would come to his office and do the job for £50 ($65)."

Trusty toolkit in hand, Cliff swiftly removed the hard drive (only held in by a pair of screws), plugged it into a USB SATA adapter, attached the enclosure to a PC and hey presto! A new E: drive popped up.

A few clicks and mouse movements more, and Cliff found the Documents folder and copied the required data down to a handy removable device. All told, he'd put in 15 minutes of effort.

The friend was overjoyed. And then queried the value. After all, £50 for 15 minutes of IT wizardry? That worked out at £200 ($261) per hour. A ridiculous sum of money, right?

We like to think Cliff's finger hovered angrily over the delete button, but the day was saved by a secretary calling out: "For heaven's sake, he just saved you a bomb of money, pay the man!"

Is $261 per hour that much in the IT world? We remember some contractors being paid very handsomely back in the day, and they weren't even recovering a dearly departed man's data.

Ever had the value of your skills and experience questioned? Or do you begrudge the plumber who charges a three-figure sum to change a washer worth pennies? Tell all with an email to On Call. ®

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