How Not To Lose Your Work: Guidance on Server Timeouts
Submitting short-texts, discussion posts, even essays and dissertations on-line provides many opportunities for easy submission, quick feedback, etc.; however, some technical hurdles can cause frustration if you don’t approach them correctly. This document provides some essential guidance on how you can be sure not to lose your work when writing or submitting materials on-line.
The most important thing to remember, when working with on-line interfaces such as those used by the Institute for its Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), forums, etc., is that servers recognize user logins on a timed basis. That is, once you log in with your username and password, the server ‘recognizes’ and ‘remembers’ you for a period of time, and after this period deliberately ‘forgets’ you and reverts to a not-logged-in mode. This is a deliberate security feature: if you log into the Institute web site from a public computer, for example, and forget to log out when you leave, this system ensures that your account won’t remain logged-in on that computer indefinitely, opening it up to abuse from others.
When you’re logged in and actively perusing the site (e.g. clicking links, moving from page to page), each click assures the server that you are still active, and that it shouldn’t forget you. It is only when you stop clicking links and moving from page to page that the server begins its timeout process.
The point that can be of great frustration, if you don’t remember it, is that when you are typing in a web-based form (e.g. typing a post in a forum, or entering text in an on-line text submission form), the server can’t see that you are typing, and senses no on-line activity (that is, no clicks from one page to the next) — and so begins it timeout routine. This can result in an unfortunate and highly frustrating scenario: If you take 15 minutes or half an hour to craft a very fine post in a forum, or to compose an excellent short-essay answer for an on-line text assignment, the server sees no activity during that period, and may very well log out your account in the background — then, when you then go to click the ‘submit’ button to send your post to the site, you receive an error message saying ‘Your account is not logged in,’ and all your wonderful work is lost.
Needless to say, this can be a profoundly upsetting experience, as most often lost text cannot be retreived. So, avoid the frustration!
In order to ensure that your text is not lost due to server time-out protocols, we highly and emphatically recommend that you always compose responses of more than a few sentences or paragraphs in an off-site editor (such as your word processor or text editor), and then cut-and-paste them into the web-based forms once complete. This assure that there will be no time-out issues, and that your work will not be lost. You can then use the features of the web-based editors to touch up your text or apply formatting for the web site.
Again, we urge all students, in the strongest possible terms, to follow this guidance in order to avoid much unnecessary frustration. Please also note that there is very little (usually, nothing) that can be done from the server/Institute’s side to retrieve lost materials; it is your responsiblity to ensure that you are writing your materials in a manner that precludes loss.
By following this simple guidance, you can save yourself many headaches, and ensure that your full thoughts are submitted as you wish them to be.