While I don't spend time worrying about all the things that could happen to disrupt our world, I've always tried to be a prepared person. Maybe it was Girl Scout training or maybe it was just the way I was raised. I try to be prepared for any situation and not be caught off guard.
I am often teased by family members by the things I keep in a car. I have basic tools, a first aid kit, blanket to be used either for hauling something that needs protection or to be used if stranded in a snow storm. My glovebox is an array of objects such as straws, mints, plastic spoons and such that I always say may be handy "if stranded in a snow storm". I used to keep a sleeping bag and change of clothes in my car in years past.
I try to keep plenty of stock at home and fill bottles of water that I keep in the basement and freezer. Even if it is not distilled drinking water, you need water to flush toilets, wash dishes, bathe, and more. I generally stock up on items on sale or with coupons. Things like toothpaste and band-aids don't go bad (that I know of) and it will be used at some point.
O.K., so I'm a packrat! Now you know my number one flaw. What does this have to do with CAD? Plenty...trust me.
How prepared are you? You're working along fine today at this moment in time. I can almost guarantee that this won't last. I've seen it too many times.
What happens if...
- You get a computer virus?
- You have some computer RAM that is starting to fail?
- Your CD Drive goes out?
- Your hard drive fails?
- You upgrade to a newer version of AutoCAD?
- Your IT Department decides to rename all network drive letters?
- Your office sprinkler system turns on and soaks your computer?
- Your office is struck by lightening and (a) burns down or (b) fries everything electronic?
- You have an employee leave who uninstalls AutoCAD and deletes all drawings on his last day?
- You have a server that fails?
- You lose all your email?
- You get a new plotter?
You get the idea? I could go on for pages, believe me. The point is, how prepared are you?
Do you have backups, virus protection, written procedures, screen captures, documentation, and the knowledge to handle anything that can be thrown at you?
The first mistake people make is that they depend on "Benny", whom they believe knows everything and can fix anything. Not to be gruesome, but what happens if "Benny" gets hit by a runaway gorilla on a stolen moped? How will you survive without "Benny"?
The second mistake that I see is that people get too comfortable in their environment. You know AutoCAD 2000 inside and out and use your favorite commands found on your toolbars in your exact spot like you have been for the past five years. Now management brings in a new computer with AutoCAD 2006 and doesn't migrate any of your settings. What do you do?
After you are done complaining, sulking, and looking for a pitty party see how prepared you are. Here are some tips.
- Use Profiles. I've written about profiles in the past. Be sure that you or your company has a profile saved somewhere other than the local machine. If you are a company with several users, create a standard profile as a starting point for everyone. For small offices or where allowed, set your workspace the way you like and export it to a safe location other than the local machine. That way when you get a new computer or new version of AutoCAD, you can quickly get up to speed with the way you work.
- Document what you do with screen captures. If you were not sitting at your workstation, could you successfully choose the right plot style or set up a new template? Often when you've done the same thing for years you "think" you know how to do it, but actually you have trouble remembering if you are sitting in front of a brand new machine. Create screen captures either with a screen capture program such as SnagIt or by holding down the Ctrl button and pressing your Prnt Scrn button. This sends whatever is on your screen to the clipboard. You can then paste in a Word document to save what dialog boxes should look like.
- Spread your mind and try other ways of doing the same thing. Just because you always have typed "C" for the Copy command doesn't mean that it's going to work elsewhere. Maybe this system was customized and now the same "C" starts the Circle command. How do you get the Copy command? "Oh, No, Mr. Bill!"
- Surround yourself with resources. You can't be an expert about everything. The President of the U.S. has a Cabinet of experts and you can too. Have people that can offer you positive help. You don't need the type of person that is always using every problem as a means to blame Bill Gates, Microsoft, exported support to other countries or society as a whole for the problem. You need people that can give you information and support. This could be co-workers, your reseller, a user group, or even your dog if she's an AutoCAD expert. Look for topics in discussion groups and have some favorite blogs listed to reference. Remember that if your resources are electronic, you should print out reference list on a monthly (or at least quarterly) basis. Print out a list of your shortcuts and your email contacts. You could also use a variety of online sources to store contacts such as Plaxo and I have recently seen a service to store bookmarks or links online as well.
There are volumes more that I could tell you to be prepared. Right now I have my own crisis to deal with as I broke my glasses while cleaning them this morning.
I hope this blog entry will at least start you to thinking and documenting as much as possible. Another reference when things go wrong is this previous post on troublehooting.