Barbara Jungwirth of reliable translations llc writes about language and the business of translation.

How to Guard Against Equipment Failure

The last few months have brought a series of weather-related infrastructure problems to the Northeastern US – first Hurricane Sandy severely damaged houses and apartments in New York City, and the snowstorm last weekend left many people in Connecticut and Massachusetts without power or heat. As a result, preparing for equipment or service outages, has become an important topic for many freelancers and small businesses.

The current issue of the American Translator Association’s Chronicle includes an article by Matthew Hayworth about IT for freelancers (“Information Technology for Freelancers: Redundancy Is Key”). He advocates duplicating every piece of technology that a freelance translator uses in his or her business. A second computer with the software a translator uses to complete projects (such as a computer-assisted translation tool, Microsoft Office, etc.) is certainly necessary to safeguard against potential computer problems. Other items, such as internet service, can be relatively easily accessed elsewhere in a city (cafe with WiFi) and some I can do without for a few days – a printer, for example.

A page on my website, How I Safeguard My Work and Prepare for Disasters (based on an April 2010 post on my old blog Backup Procedures & Disaster Preparedness) details my backup procedures and the equipment I have set up to deal with potential power outages, internet connection failures, and the like. Here is the short version:

  • Primary computer: Most software is duplicated on my smaller “travel” laptop (exception: financial software).
  • Printer/fax/scanner: I usually keep hard copies of purchase orders or e-mails that assign specific projects, but I can do without such printouts, at least for a little while. If a printout is really indispensable and my printer stops to work at all, I can have the document printed at a FedEx office.
  • Internet connection: There are several cafes with free WiFi are within easy travel distance, including one that just opened down the block from my house. My smartphone can double as a WiFi hotspot.
  • Telephone: forward landline number to my cell phone; transfer cell phone number to my old phone if my current smartphone breaks/is lost, then get replacement phone through the insurance plan I have for my smartphone
  • Electricity: both my primary computer and the travel computer are laptops, so they can run for several hours each without external power. My phone line and internet connection (cable modem, router) are connected to an uninterruptible power supply that permits orderly shutdown in case of a power failure.


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