Backup Guide for Writers
Surprises Are Inconvenient
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:
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
Cool Flash Drive
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?
Online data storage sites
- Online Backup, Data Backup & Remote Backup Solutions from Mozy.com - Welcome
Mozy is my choice for data backup and storage.
- Carbonite Cloud Backup Services - Online Backup
Carbonite online backup is automatic, accessible and affordable. Easily back up your files to the cloud from your PC or Mac. Download a free trial.
- Boxstr File Storage
This is a free or premium file hosting and backup file storage service. Folders can be set to "private" so your writing will be safe here.
An Intro to Mozy - Which I Subscribe To
I Love This External Hard Drive
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
Fire Safe Storage
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!