What would happen if you lost your life? I don’t mean if you actually died – I mean if you were to lose everything that represented your life. This used to mean a burglary or a house fire in which all your documents, photographs and vinyl or CDs were destroyed. In these digital times that means losing your data, or even just access to it.
That is the nightmare I experienced this week – and it ranks alongside divorce, major illness and pharmacy inspector visits as one of the most stressful life events.
It started when my email provider updated the system that synchronises my email, contacts and calendar to my various computers, smartphones and tablets.
At first, the upgrade seemed to have all gone smoothly. But, then, my email program began asking me to re-enter the password again. And then again. Then I was locked out of my account.
I wasn’t particularly concerned, I just assumed that I had fat fingers. After a quick call to the helpdesk, I got my password reset. All was well until I tried to call a contact on my smartphone – and found I was locked out again.
After this occurred a few times and I was on first-name terms with the helpful lady on the helpdesk, she made a suggestion.
“Uninstall your email on all your devices, reset the password, and reinstall it,” she advised – as if this was as simple as flicking a light switch off and on again.
Of course, several of those devices were at other locations, which meant a delay of 48 hours with no email, the digital equivalent of being struck deaf and dumb. Two days of people repeatedly asking me when some future event was occurring, or wanting to book a meeting with me.
Instead of my life unfolding in an organised and planned way, I felt as if I was staring into an abyss. My own event horizon without a Dr Who or a Star Trek captain to get me through it. Every time I thought it was fixed, I’d open an email program only to see the fateful words “credentials not recognised” and have to start all over again.
However, by the third time this had happened on the same day, I had overcome the initial withdrawal symptoms of my online addiction and accepted that I needed to buy a Filofax and some carrier pigeons. I know the users of Cegedim’s PMR system would have happily given up email to be able to access their prescriptions the other week, and now I recognise their pain.
It seems we are all just one flood or power cut away from having no online banking to pay bills and staff wages, no electronic communication, and no EPS. No business and no life – all at the flick of a switch.