“Plan for the worst, hope for the best:” what’s your backup plan?

Jason Briner, UB Geology faculty, participates in a Zoom meeting with a potential grad student.

No matter your major or focus, technology is a critical part of the student experience at UB. Photo by Douglas Levere

Published July 22, 2021

Imagine it: you’re writing a paper, and your deadline is looming. Or, you’re about to join a remote class over Zoom. You open your laptop and… nothing. The screen is black. You hit the power button and wait. It won’t power on. You plug it in, but it won’t charge. What’s going through your head?


This very thing happened to me (on the first day of the semester, no less) not too long ago. Oddly enough, the first thing I thought about was astronauts. 

Earlier in my career, I worked with rocket scientists at the University of Tennessee, who explained to me that NASA follows a simple philosophy to avoid catastrophic failures when planning dangerous space missions: have a backup plan. It’s a principle we in IT have adopted too: redundancy is key. If there is a “single point of failure,” eventually, it will fail. Plan on it.

So, as a UB student: what’s your technology backup plan? Where are your “single points of failure,” and how can you adapt when (not if) they fail? 

When it comes to technology, UBIT is here to help UB students with resources they can use to develop a backup plan.

  • Don’t wait… call the Tech Squad before a catastrophe. If your computer’s running slow, or just acting funny, you might not think it’s worth booking an appointment with the UB Tech Squad. But diagnosing problems before they become catastrophic is one important free service the Tech Squad offers. Take advantage of it!
  • Know your backup options. Did you know the Silverman Library has over 115 computers, Windows and iMacs, available 24 hours a day? These computers have everything you need for your classwork. Also, install any apps you use for school, like Zoom, on your smartphone as another backup option. 
  • Use cloud storage. A single copy of a critical assignment saved on your desktop is exactly the kind of “single point of failure” that can be catastrophic. If you save your work to your free OneDrive cloud storage, you’ll automatically be backed up and able to open, edit and submit classwork from anywhere.
  • Don’t forget about student discounts on new laptops. When you’re ready to buy, check out the UBIT website for deals on affordable, high-quality laptops for UB students. We’ve worked with campus partners to make sure there are laptops for UB students under $500, many with three-year warranties for repairs.

A broken laptop may not be as bad as a failure on a space shuttle—but it can be catastrophic if it gets in the way of your success as a student. So, what’s your backup plan? Having a backup plan, when it comes to technology or any other aspect of your life and success, is a life skill that brings peace of mind and the power to succeed on your own terms.

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