A journey to the cloud and back

My puffy little cloud of almost 40,000 computer files is located in the netherworld of Carbonite.  Because none of those thousands of files was backed up inside my stolen computer, an actual piece of hardware, they now only live out there in Carbonite’s digital la-la land.  Invisible yet retrievable. The process is known as cloud-computing. And it saved my ass.

After a burglar slit a screen and entered the house through a bedroom window on May 25, I knew only one thing.  I would never see that 15-inch Acer laptop again.  That meant the files were gone too.

Some of those files were invaluable to me.  None more than the 162 text pages of the index to my research notebooks going back to about 1987.

Worse, I was apprehensive. I did not know for sure that I would ever get my files back.  This was the first time I would try to restore them with Carbonite, the Boston-based company to which I pay $60 a year to do the automatic backup.  I type and file.  Carbonite copies, transmits and holds the info on a server — the cloud. And in case of computer crash or theft, it returns that cache of files.  In theory.

Make no mistake.  Restoration is long and tedious.  At least it was for me.

At some point early on, I had to transfer the licenses of my Carbonite account to the new computer.  Ditto Norton Security.  The new computer came with a temporary McAfee security program which I believe is not as good as Norton.  Once the Carbonite license was switched, I suspended backup.  It’s called freezing.  I read you should do this before restoring files.

Another obstacle loomed. The Dell, like many new computers, lacks a DVD drive.  Without the drive I can not use the installation discs.

I reviewed several external drives on the Internet.  I learned how the pricing goes.  If you want to use Blu-Ray expect to pay out the nose for a drive. I had a general idea now of what I wanted.  Something cheap, no  Blu-Ray.  So out I went to Best Buy and picked up a LG Ultra Slim Portable DVD Writer, price $40.   Back home, I hooked it into the new computer and, bingo, everything started to look halfway sunny.

And so I began.

It took 3 1/2 days, DAYS, just to restore my 40,000 files into a large folder on the desktop of my new 15-inch Dell.  But I could not write to or read any of them.  Since Carbonite does not backup program and system files, missing were Microsoft Office, the software that runs text editing, and PhotoShop Elements 12 that tends to my photos.  My restored documents folder showed “empty” files.

I didn’t want to deal with the text files immediately.  I was worried I couldn’t resuscitate them.  So to the back burner Office went.  Less critical were the photo files.  I chose to experiment with them first first.

Task No. 1.  Find the Elements 12 installation disc.  I had only the vaguest idea where it might be located.  I hadn’t seen it in several years.  It wasn’t at the first and most logical place I looked, a carton of installation discs. But then, not yet in a panic, I spied the Elements 12 box on the top shelf of Nebra’s desk in the study.  And to my great glee, the box with the Office installation disc lay right beside it.  The discoveries saved about $300, the cost of acquiring new programs.

I stuck the Elements disc in the external drive, and went through some preliminaries.  Then, oh, no.  To install, the disc required a serial number to verify, I suppose, that I am the software’s owner.  Eventually, I stumbled across the number inside the disc’s container. Hadn’t thought to search the most obvious spot.  Never dreamed I would need it again.  I typed in the 24 numbers. Success.

Believing that the almost four-day Carbonite restore was largely due to the “jpeg” photographs, I hesitated to transfer those 1,835 photos to Elements 12 via Carbonite.  Instead I used the camera’s chip card.  Swish. In about 30 minutes all photos were returned to Elements but, just like the Carbonite resstores, they were unformatted.  None of the cropping and color tweaks I’d made survived.  I’d have to live with that, no other choice could I see.

Believe it or not, I waited a couple of days to install Office.  It would be painful if it didn’t bring the text files to life. I now had the new computer on my desk for six days and had not been able to really use it.  I was feeling antsy.

Cautiously I slipped in the Office installation disc into the external drive, typed in the Product Key of 25 characters. And off we went.  I just sat there in front of the computer watching a green bar slowly make its journey to 100% installed.  At any moment, I expected the install to stop and state it could for some reason no long proceed.  But all went well.  The install took 1 hour, 20 minutes — most of it for updates.

Files and folders were not quite in the places I left them on the old computer.  But, it appeared, I had everything restored.  Appeared, yes.  But me being me, I wonder if all this was for naught, that the new computer world I’ve made will  soon blow up.

New files are being backed up as I write.  Little green circles on the text files tell me so.  Yellow circles for those in wait.

For all practical purposes, I’m in the cloud again.



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