We’ve all been there at some point or another. We work hard on something on our computer, then some random anomaly happens and *poof*, it’s gone. And then we want to scream and cry and stomp our feet. Right? Right.
I am paranoid about backing up my work. I used to test all kinds of software for a living, did it for almost ten years, so I know exactly how glitchy it can be. I don’t exactly have the greatest confidence in the tool that I use every single day: my computer. Most of the time, the code behind the software works the way it’s supposed to, but sometimes it goes off and does really weird things. Even really solid, high quality code can go all ADHD every now and then. Software programmers know this better than anyone, and I know one who backs up his personal computer every single week. It’s practically a professional setup, with a huge storage device that can hold an image of his entire hard drive. Needless to say, if something happens to his computer, he’s set.
The rest of us? Not so much. We don’t have the time, money, or knowhow to set up something like that. It’s too much hassle. But, there are things we can do to safeguard the really important things, like our manuscripts.
The best thing you can do is keep at least three copies of your files, all in different places—the key here is to choose the right place. If you keep a copy on your computer and then two different thumb drives, they’re all still in the same location, so to speak: your home. If your computer gets a virus, all three documents could still get infected. Also, if there’s a fire, or if someone breaks into your home and steals your electronics, you’ll still lose everything.
I actually have copies in four different places. Two in my home—one on my computer, and one on a thumb drive—and two offsite. There are some excellent offsite storage options available today. Google Documents is one place. It’s easy to use and you have a good amount of storage available for free. This also allows you to work on various computers without the need to carry around a thumb drive, and no worrying about losing it. You can also share your documents with specific people, in case you’re collaborating with someone or want him to read your work for feedback.
Another place is Dropbox. You do need to install it on whatever computer(s) you’re using, but once you do then you have access to Dropbox’s offsite storage. They also have a handy ‘version’ feature, where they will store the various versions of your documents for up to a month. If something goes wrong with the version you’re using, you can retrieve the previous one and not lose all of your work. Also, if you find you need more storage space, you can buy more for not too much money.
Yahoo Groups is another option. This is meant for multiple people to use together, and you can even create a group email that will send messages to all members. A couple of trusted writer friends and I use this to store our work, and when we’re ready we’ll ask the others to read and give us feedback. Yahoo Groups has a huge amount of storage so multiple people should be able to use this space easily.
These are just three offsite storage options, but there are probably more. Do you know of any? If so, please share!