Friday, December 5, 2008

Back Up Your Backup

Watching the fires in California recently made me think about how it would feel to come home and find my house in ashes. All I could think about was how devastating it would be to lose my electronic files. Not the computer itself, the lifetime of creative work. All the other things—clothes, books, appliances—are replaceable. The insurance check would buy more stuff. But if my files are ever lost, I’ll be lost too.

This is not the first time I’ve had this thought. In fact, I once had a hard drive (in a PC) catch fire, and I lost the e-file of a great novel that I spent years on. I had made a backup disk, but it mysteriously disappeared. (Teenage computer geek son grabbing floppy disks without thinking!) That was a devastating moment, saved only by the reassurance that I had a printed version. Eventually, I paid a transcriptionist to retype the paper copy into a Word file.

So I developed a healthy sense of paranoia and thorough backup system. And as anal as it makes me sound, I’m sharing it so other writers will remember to back up their files and store them in several safe places.

  • I have an external hard drive and software (LaCie) that I back up the whole drive with—files, e-mails, bookmarks—once or twice a week. But it’s sitting right next to my computer, so if my house burns, it’s toast too.

  • I also carry a flash drive in my purse that contains all my creative files—novels, scripts, promotional material, etc. I carry this with me mostly for convenience and peace of mind.

  • Once every couple of months, I burn a CD or two of all files (Word, Excel, InDesign, PDFs, etc.) and take it to my car. (Flash drives are unreliable, and if you tell a techie that’s what you’re using, he will roll his eyes.)

  • Every time I complete a new novel, I burn it to a CD and take it to my mother’s. The car could go up in a fire too. Or get stolen. Or wrecked.
I started all this before there were online backup services available, so I’ve never used one. Maybe it’s time. Are you backed up?

12 comments:

Helen Ginger said...

LJ, I totally agree. Back up, back up, back up. This year alone I've lost two hard drives. Everything gone, kaput. They disappeared as the hard drive passed away in a high pitched screech. I use an external hard drive to back up too. The hard part is remembering to do the back up. I have it on my calendar as a weekly reminder.

Bill Cameron said...

Just a note about backing up to CD. They have a finite life time, which can be as little as just a couple of years. Just recently I needed some files off a backup CD I'd made in 2005 and it's unreadable. With some work, I can probably recover at least some of the data, but in terms of quick restoration, I'm sunk.

Something else to consider is online backup. Usually there is some cost involved in this, though depending on the service it can be minimal or, under the right circumstances, free!

One to look at is CrashPlan.

Paula Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paula Hardin said...

I am behind you on this thought whole heartily. When I first started on my book I lost a whole chapter I just wrote while working on a pc. I dreamed of this scene and work up and rewrote a whole chapter. Later when I couldn't find it I almost died a thousand deaths. AND you know trying to recapture a scene the way you do it the first time. It's never the same. So back it up ladies and gents. My hubby is a computer nerd, grinning and so now my story is everywhere. Grant it it's my first novel, but it's just as important as many.

Paula Hardin said...

I am behind you on this thought whole heartily. When I first started on my book I lost a whole chapter I just wrote while working on a pc. I dreamed of this scene and work up and rewrote a whole chapter. Later when I couldn't find it I almost died a thousand deaths. AND you know trying to recapture a scene the way you do it the first time. It's never the same. So back it up ladies and gents. My hubby is a computer nerd, grinning and so now my story is everywhere. Grant it it's my first novel, but it's just as important as many.

Paula Hardin said...

I am behind you on this thought whole heartily. When I first started on my book I lost a whole chapter I just wrote while working on a pc. I dreamed of this scene and work up and rewrote a whole chapter. Later when I couldn't find it I almost died a thousand deaths. AND you know trying to recapture a scene the way you do it the first time. It's never the same. So back it up ladies and gents. My hubby is a computer nerd, grinning and so now my story is everywhere. Grant it it's my first novel, but it's just as important as many.

everybodysagenius said...

Great Post LJ,

Yeah, agreed. It really doesn't matter how many backups you have if they are all stored in the same building. When I backup my backup, I use an online file storage tool. There are tons of them and they are very cheap. I would recommend checking out DocLanding, http://www.doclanding.com. They have some really nice security and sharing tools. They also offer a free account.

Keep up the great posts,
Will

Terrie said...

Good tips .. I agreed with everything. That why I used back up files if anything happens to my computer like crashed. it will lose all files and everything. I will have in backup file all set in.

you gave me another tip for flash drive. .I will have to get me one day .

Dana Fredsti said...

I"m not nearly as backed up as you are, LJ (that really sounded bad, sorry!), but I do have stuff on a Flashdrive. I need to do the CDs and get an external harddrive and all that.

NL Gassert said...

I’ve lost plenty of sleep over lost data. Now I back-up a lot. I have files on disks, on flashdrives and on two different computers. I e-mail important files to myself and then archive them that way (I have a lot of storage and religiously delete read e-mails).

But this week I realized that we live in a tornado prone area and I need to be far more diligent when it comes to backing up a day’s work, just in case I have to run at a moment’s notice.

I like e-mailing, because it's quick and painless.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Every writer's nightmare is to lose an entire manuscript that hasn't been backed-up, or all the files on your computer. It happened to me during the 1980s and I now use several types of backup systems.

Jean Henry Mead said...

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