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When Technology Fails

at 2011.01.05
I always say, usually jokingly, that technology is great right up until the point when it isn’t. We, along with millions of others had the joy of experiencing this first hand two weeks ago on the 22nd of December when Skype experienced a series of prolonged down-times. We have been using Skype in the office for quite a while: it’s an amazing tool if used right, and saves us the trouble of running office to office with USB drives flailing wildly in our hands, and keeps us from scaring way customers by screaming down the hallways whenever we want to get a colleagues attention.

So we have come to rely on this piece of innovation, and it has served us incredibly well. Until that Wednesday. It was right before Christmas, and we were already on edge trying to push out a last minute Christmas newsletter, something that by it’s very nature requires a lot of file-sharing and goingWhat happens when an essential piece of tech goes down?back and forth on graphics, running things past multiple people, etc. In short, everything we normally use Skype for, except 10 times more so. Pandemonium ruled. We had gotten so reliant on that one piece of technology that it seemed we had forgotten how to function without it. I still wonder how a marketing department managed to get anything done before the invention of the Internet, and this confirmed my suspicion that either the field as a whole didn’t exist pre-1990 or else everyone on a project sat huddled together in one cubicle around a comically small table and passed scraps of paper back and forth. Luckily, despite some delays on their optimistic projections, the techs at Skype figured out what was going on in time for us to get our work done, but it was a close call.

So what’s the point here? Am I telling you to forgo valuable tools in order to safeguard against potential outages? Of course not. You could pry my Skype out of my cold, dead fingers. What I AM telling you is have a backup plan. Know what you’re going to do in case a piece of high-tech gadgetry you count on suddenly goes out. If you run a business, train your employees how to work in a world without email. If you’re a student, try hard and remember what a pen and notebook looks like. If you’ve given up your land-line and rely on Skype or a Cell phone, know your options, or at least carry some quarters on you at all times. And at the very least, have the number of a good computer repair shop on hand (or two!), so you can let us take care of the dirty work while you get on with business.