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Backup Guide for Writers

Updated on September 23, 2014

Surprises Are Inconvenient

"Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable." -- Jane Austen
"Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable." -- Jane Austen | Source

Reasons You Might Want a Backup of Your Writing

There are many disastrous things that could happen to make us lose what we've written. We should get in the habit of frequently hitting the Control+S keys while we're writing - every 100 to 500 words or so (whenever we think of it) and that will save our most recent words.

While we're editing, we might edit out more than we really wanted to. Having a backup of earlier versions would be very helpful, would it not?

There are many other reasons why anyone (not just writers) would want backups of the contents of their hard drive:

  1. The number one reason most people think of needing a backup has to be data loss from a hard drive crash. As scary as that sounds, in the twenty-plus years I've been using a computer for various writing tasks, it has never happened to me. Knock on wood.
  2. Accidental deletion. Well, this usually happens from a slip of the thumb while writing email, or from some mysterious slip-up that causes things to go away when least expected (and in my experience the causes go unexplained forever.)
  3. It is possible - remotely possible - that someday you could wake up and try to turn on your computer just to find out it isn't working at all whatsoever. I'm sure this doesn't happen very often but in case it does, you might have to get a new computer and restore your backed up files so you can use them again.
  4. Viruses and malware invasions. Now, here's something that actually has happened to me, and on more than one occasion. It even happened on my newer model Dell laptop - once. It also happened to me this very morning, in a dream. (True story.) This is a disturbing and distressful thing to go through, as I'm sure you noticed if it ever happened to you. Having a backup of your most precious documents definitely brings a certain level of peace of mind.
  5. You could accidentally leave your computer at Starbucks, only to find out it is gone when you get back there to try to retrieve it. Alternatively (and even more disturbing) your home could be robbed and your computer taken by thieves. Scary thoughts! You need backups!
  6. Hackers. You never know what they might do. If you read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo you know that hackers are real and capable of almost anything. Maybe they'll hack your computer and shut it down, or delete your hard work.
  7. Fires. This too has never happened to me, but it seems like one of the more likely things that could happen. Not too long ago (September 15, 2014) half the town of Weed, California, was incinerated by a fast-moving wind-driven fire. The people who lost their homes had almost no warning and I'm sure many computers were burnt to a crisp, and then the ashes were blown away in the wind, leaving the homesites looking like a war zone gone bad.
  8. Floods. I've been in a flood. Scary! It was in the Klamath River Valley, and I was stuck on a remote highway between flooded sections of highway for two days. Others had flood waters come into their homes. It happens. In case we live through it, we want to be able to recover all the data on our computers.
  9. Power surges. Hopefully you have a surge protector and it is working right. This is an unpredictable way to lose computers and data. Be prepared.
  10. Lightning strikes. This is something I actually do worry about a lot. I'm living in a northern state (Idaho) where weather is crazy and often violent. Lightning strikes can come unexpectedly, like, when the weather website says there's no chance of rain... but then there is rain, and lightning, and even hail. Lots of it. I live in a three story apartment house and have even had the experience of lightning hitting my building and putting out the lights.

Do These Bad Things Ever Actually Happen?

Have you ever lost all your computer data due to an unexpected event such as those described above?

See results

Cool Flash Drive

Patriot 64GB Supersonic Rage Series USB 3.0 Flash Drive With Up To 180MB/sec- PEF64GSRUSB
Patriot 64GB Supersonic Rage Series USB 3.0 Flash Drive With Up To 180MB/sec- PEF64GSRUSB

Look at this! Lots of storage! Unless you've been writing a whole lot more than me, this little flash drive is plenty big enough to hold all your digital manuscripts.

 

Best Practices for Data Backup for Writers

Here are the best places to backup your writing:

1. An external hard drive. You can make it a habit to set your computer to copy all files in the main Documents directory to your external hard drive every evening. External hard drives are so small these days they're easily portable, and they hold plenty of data. Definitely a great way to maintain peace of mind about what's on your computer.

2. A flash drive. Depending on how much you have to back up, a flash drive might be perfect for your needs. My brother just sent me one with more than 60Gb data space on it. Imagine that... on a tiny flash drive! Pros: A flash drive is a great way to store small files and is very easily portable. Cons: Flash drives can get lost easily because they're so tiny, so have a system for keeping yours in a safe place. A keyring flash drive could a good idea if you're using a computer in a public place, as you can't drive away with your flash drive stuck in someone else's computer if your car key is on the same keyring.

3. The cloud. Well, the cloud is technically just someone else's big server. There are services on the internet that will do this backup automatically for you daily, if you pay them. Personally I think it is a great idea because if there's a house fire you still will have your precious manuscripts... whereas you might not have time to grab the computer, hard drive or flash drive.

What is Your Choice for Data Backup?

Which of these solutions do you rely on most?

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An Intro to Mozy - Which I Subscribe To

Remember Diskettes?

Remember diskettes? We've come a long way, baby! Digital storage solutions are so much cooler now.
Remember diskettes? We've come a long way, baby! Digital storage solutions are so much cooler now. | Source

I Love This External Hard Drive

Transcend 1 TB StoreJet M3 Military Drop Tested USB 3.0 External Hard Drive (TS1TSJ25M3)
Transcend 1 TB StoreJet M3 Military Drop Tested USB 3.0 External Hard Drive (TS1TSJ25M3)

This is my choice for an external hard drive. It holds one terabyte (that's huge!) and meets "military drop test standards." it has a cool rubberized coating around it. My data feels very safe in there.

 

My Writerly Data Backup Solutions

Here are the backup solutions that have worked for me over the years.

1. I've always stored copies of my manuscripts in two places. First, even while I'm working on a book, I'll send copies of it to my Gmail account. There's lots of storage space in Gmail, and I have it set to be automatically transferred to a folder for storage. Indeed, I have referred to these old copies of my novels from time to time. This practice gives me peace of mind and provides safe long-term storage.

2. I also placed copies of my books in Google Docs, which has been renamed to Google Drive. I love that site, and use it all the time for a variety of projects. I also have my record of submissions there, in a spreadsheet. My novels each have their own folder and are stored in chapter segments.

3. Mozy.Com is my choice for cloud storage. I pay less than six dollars monthly and get everything in my main Documents folder backed up daily. Some people don't love this idea because they worry about hackers, but I don't have anything all that sensitive in my folders, so don't worry much about hacking. I need cloud storage because if anything happened to my computer and external hard drive, I'd have an easy way to restore data to my new computer, and it would all be current up to the date of whatever dreadful occurrence took my data away from me.

4. External Hard Drive. Backing up to a hard drive every evening is a great way to protect data. Unfortunately I sometimes forget so the Mozy service helps a lot to keep my backups up to date.

5. My Journals ... what a huge pile of writing that is! I'm reading them into Dragon Naturally Speaking and the digital copies will eventually be made into limited-distribution books. In the mean time, the best place to keep them is in a box next to the back door so if there's an emergency I can grab them and run.


A Few of My Old Journals

A few of my journals. This is the writing I worry about most... but I'm working on digitizing all the journals... for posterity. My kids will enjoy reading about their childhoods.
A few of my journals. This is the writing I worry about most... but I'm working on digitizing all the journals... for posterity. My kids will enjoy reading about their childhoods. | Source

Fire Safe Storage

SentrySafe H4300 Fire-Safe Waterproof Security File, 0.7 Cubic Feet, Silver Gray
SentrySafe H4300 Fire-Safe Waterproof Security File, 0.7 Cubic Feet, Silver Gray

I need about five of these to store all my journals and other writing on paper. I hope I get that digitization project done soon so I can use other safety solutions for my writing!

 

Your comments are welcome...

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    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 7 years ago from USA

      excellent!

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      Great (and important) lens! I also e-mail everything I write to my gmail account! Lensrolling to Rachel writing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      This is great information, Linda. I do some of it, but need to do more.

    • profile image

      bdkz 7 years ago

      Great lens!

    • roamingrosie profile image

      roamingrosie 7 years ago

      Great advice, and great choice of quotes, too!

    • profile image

      kimmanleyort 7 years ago

      Love the quotes and pictures. Very valuable!

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 7 years ago from La Verne, CA

      This opens an idea for Senior Squids. Should we back up our lens some how?

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 7 years ago from Templeton, CA

      A good reminder. I hadn't thought of the g-mail backup. So much of what I wrote was before I had a computer or on an obsolete computer. I'm just now playing with my OCR software. I used it to get that long Sarah poem back from a print-out I did on an early PC. It was so faint I had to do a lot of fixing. There is so much still there to mine. I loved the posters you chose for your illustrations.

    • profile image

      grannysage 7 years ago

      Wow, you gave me a lot to think about. I also have years worth of writing stored in a storage box. The old newspaper clippings are getting yellow and fragile. I need to scan them into the computer, but hadn’t thought farther than that. And yep, I have those diskettes too that are no longer readable. Excellent ideas.

    • profile image

      ulla_hennig 7 years ago

      Great lens! I very much like the quotations of the various writers. I think they are very motivating and inspiring. thanks for sharing!

    • Yourshowman LM profile image

      Yourshowman LM 6 years ago

      Useful and Helpful Lens. Thumbs Up. great Stuff

    • yayas profile image

      yayas 5 years ago

      My whole life, I've been a writer... in mind an' spirit. I've never had an organizational mindset, though, so I never really knew how to organize my files. Thank you so very much for spelling it out in such plain English. This is extremely helpful. Thanks VERY much.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      After having a computer crash several years ago, I immediately learned to back up my pictures I store for my Etsy Shop on a SanDisk Cruzer flash drive I wasn't 'computer savvy, enough before that to understand what I could (and did) lose. Just this week I learned about Google Docs. Preserving and protecting your writing collections or photo collections is important. Thanks for the reminder.

    • bbudoyono lm profile image

      bbudoyono lm 5 years ago

      Very inspiring.

    • daphnedangerlov1 profile image

      daphnedangerlov1 5 years ago

      I highly recommend using a service like Syncplicity (which syncs up data across all your computers) or a dropbox like service. Syncplicity has saved me many times!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      This is an extremely useful lens. I've just finished backing up a batch of a friend's manuscripts onto Dropbox, as one more way to keep them safe in addition to copies on several external storage devices and printed copies in several different locations. Sure, that can seem like overkill to some, but when you think of all the hours of "blood, sweat and tears" brainwork that those pieces of writing represent... redundant backup just makes very good sense. Thumbs up to you for this one!

    • Zodiacimmortal profile image

      Kim 5 years ago from Yonkers, NY

      OMG! I'm so happy to hear I'm not the only one that Multi (O.C.) backs up everything. I have my finger flash, external & a really tiny (coin size) flash drive that I have my poems on as well as the stories I have currently started. Plus I also have my binder with the finished poems in it & a smal pocket journal I have them printed & pasted in (as some are in different fonts) I've included this lens on my Epic Ballad of Poetry lens (its in the Book Repair & creative writing featured lens section) With the stories I usually write them on paper, then wait a day or 2 later to type it up. (this way I also correct & revise as well) Poems I sort of do the same. FOr some reason I cannot 'write' on a computer! lol

    • Tom Maybrier profile image

      Tom Maybrier 5 years ago

      Love this lens! I use Dropbox to back up my writing. A plus is it's always available to me anywhere there's a computer. The app for iPhone is great as well!

    • anupma lm profile image

      anupma lm 5 years ago

      Awesome Lense and the best quotes. . . I love Tolstoy's quote. Thanks for sharing.

    • anupma lm profile image

      anupma lm 5 years ago

      Awesome Lense and the best quotes. . . I love Tolstoy's quote. Thanks for sharing.

    • HealthNuts LM profile image

      HealthNuts LM 4 years ago

      good tips

    • Linda BookLady profile image
      Author

      Linda Jo Martin 4 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      @HealthNuts LM: Thanks, HealthNuts... I am nuts about writing!

    • ryokomayuka profile image

      ryokomayuka 4 years ago from USA

      I don't do it very often but I do like to print out my stories to see how long they are. I have even printed them out and formatted them like a book. I do keep them on Icloud and in Dropbox. They seem to work out the best.

    • profile image

      RebeccaE 4 years ago

      this is great, and I totally agree with teh Google docs they are a lifesaver....

    • profile image

      nicolane 4 years ago

      Make sure that you also store to CD or DVD - hard drives can fail! If you are especially careful - keep a backup CD or DVD with a friend.

    • profile image

      mouse1996 lm 4 years ago

      I really need to start storing my writing again. I got lazy since I got lazy with writing. Time to change that since a lot of my work is on a computer that likes to crash on me a lot. I just realized how foolish I am being with my writing. Great article.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Emailing your work. That is very clever. Thanks.

    • victoriahaneveer profile image

      victoriahaneveer 4 years ago

      I wish I still had everything I have ever written. I think backing up and protecting your work is very smart.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Let's see -- one external drive, two or three flash drives. The external drive backs up automatically, thanks to the Mac's Time Machine. The others have to rely on me, and I'm not too reliable. But I do try.

    • Linda BookLady profile image
      Author

      Linda Jo Martin 4 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      @anonymous: Recently I started using Mozy.Com as a backup. So far it looks reliable... but I've never had to restore my information yet.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      I did lose all my info twice during computer crashes. So we bought a back up drive. Now I back up regularly.

    • Linda BookLady profile image
      Author

      Linda Jo Martin 2 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      That's pretty scary, to lose all your information. I lost all my emails a couple of times. Now I just use Gmail which I think is a lot safer than most email clients I've used.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 2 years ago from USA

      I have lost several manuscripts, totally gone, because the back-up failed and my written work was trashed by someone. Never thought to send anything to an email account. Now I make sure to put things in several places.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 2 years ago from Canada

      My last computer literally died as I watched it try to save itself from destruction. No hope. Everything in it went with it other than the few files I managed to send into my mail box before the final whimper and everything went black. Another important aspect of working online as well is to insure that all your passwords and websites are placed in a will so that someone is able to take over your work in case you should pass on. It is your legacy and articles should be made an essential part of your estate.

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