One Day

 Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, fsa 8a42222

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, fsa 8a42222

The second of May saw 13 inches of heavy wet snow descend on my little part of the prairie – a noteworthy event even by Minnesota bachelor  farmer standards (a group that is notoriously parsimonious with praise). Like all good storms worth of the title “the great ______ of [insert reference year]”  (e.g.: the great wind of ’36, the great frost of ’09, etc.) this one left a bit of havoc in its wake. One particularly inconvenient bit of havoc left me without power for 14 hours.

For those of you who might brush this aside as a minor inconvenience, here is what no electricity means for my neighbors and me. No power means no water (we’re all on private water, aka wells, out here), no heat (takes electricity to power blowers, pumps and thermostats), no internet (those DSL routers don’t run on peanuts) and no computers (well at least nothing that’s not battery-powered). And, given that I had already changed the oil in my truck and tractors from the light weight winter oil to the heavier weights diesel engines prefer during the summer months, no power means that my snow removal equipment is not going to start (under 32 degrees, these summer time lubricants take on the same fluidity as wet concrete and need a bit of coddling and a bit of electrically generated heat before they are willing to flow) leaving me sitting on the waiting list for the local snowplow – at a quarter-mile long, my driveway is not one that lends itself to being shoveled by hand.

So, here’s the question – is your practice – that digital masterpiece of paperless perfection – robust enough to go 1 working day without power? Having just completed a review the hard way, the best I can say is that mine can, but things could be better.

Here’s what worked:

  • A quick call to my virtual receptionist service insured that any calls I might get that day would be redirected to my home phone (that POTS may be old school, but it is reliable and underground). Normally, my cell is my fallback phone number, but given the nature of rural cellular communication, if I’m at home there are only a few places where I can get a signal reliably and none of them are inside; well there are a few choice locations on top of the hay in the barn, but clambering over hay bales just to answer a call tends to have a negative impact on my manners.
  • Having copies of my active files on an encrypted USB drive meant that I was able to continue to work even though I didn’t have a connection to my server.
  • Having an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) that can interface with my server meant that when the power went off, the important hardware (server and it’s disks) went down smoothly and cleanly rather than abruptly. The UPS also worked to ensure that the hardware stayed down until power was completely restored; no bouncing up and down as the power came on, went off, and came back on again.

What could have gone better:

  • It would have been nice to have a fully charged laptop when this whole mess started or at least a secondary independent power source for it. Though there is definite increase in focus and the use of Ctrl-S when working under the pressure of a rapidly diminishing battery charge. Having a portable solar laptop charger or perhaps backup generator would have greatly reduced the stress.
  • I need a better system for syncing files between my portable drive and my primary storage. While my practice management software will automatically sync about 90% of the stuff, there is that 10% that requires me to remember to do it. If there is one thing I’ve learned from experience its that this type of thing is better left to automation than to my computationally limited wetware.

All in all, the day wasn’t a total loss. I may not have been as productive as I would have liked, but no data was lost, all the magic smoke stayed in my hardware, and the little law office on the prairie keeps chugging along.