Monday, April 02, 2012

Whoa, Back Up There…

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!


Unpublished Life said...

The thought of losing my work fills me with such dread sometimes. I am quite anal about backing up my work. I had an incident in my final year of uni where I lost 4 days worth of work in one go. I nearly collapsed. It was awful.

Ever since then I have been so anal with my creative work. It's on a flash drive, saved in a number of places on my PC and also in my emails.

I have been wondering about how one goes about backing up a blog ... any ideas?

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing this. I do save my work on my computer, a thumbdrive, and my computer at work. But my company is closing in about two years and bye bye to the computer there, so I'll need to use one of those offsite savers. I knew about dropbox but not Google docs. At least as a place to save things. Thanks.

Kelly Hashway said...

Oh, this has happened to me just this year. I know keep 3 copies on me at all times. I hate losing something after I spent all that time on it. I've found the easiest way to ensure I don't lose anything is to email it to myself.

Unknown said...

My daughter ate one of my thumb drives last month and I panicked. Luckily I had copies of everything on my computer. Now I'm using Google docs and I feel so much better. :)

Unknown said...

I use a thumb drive for saving all my work. Every few days I back up the thumb drive to my PC.

At one point, I had over 6 different thumb drives. Now I'm down to the one and try to keep it well organized.

Tabitha said...

Unpublished Life - if you use blogger, there's an option to export your blog if you go to Settings, Other, and then Blog Tools. I do this regularly and keep a couple copies in different locations. It's probably overkill, but there you go. :)

Natalie - I love Dropbox! My husband and I use it to pass photos back and forth, plus Dropbox has an iPhone/iPad app that makes it easy to put documents on my phone and iPad.

Kelly - oh no!! I hope you didn't lose everything. And emailing docs to yourself is another great way to keep an extra copy. I used to do that, then couldn't keep it organized so I started using Dropbox and Yahoo Groups.

Sarah - kids!! Who would have ever thought such cuteness could accompany the most destructive force on the planet? :) Glad you've found an alternative that works for you. :)

Diane - my mom did that, too, and then her thumb drive got corrupted. Now she emails stuff to herself so she always has a copy.

angel011 said...

It happened to me last year when my computer died, now I use a thumb drive (which can also be used as a pretty necklace).

Carol said...

Thanks for the excellent reminder Tabitha. I keep all my graphics files backed up on Dropbox, but my box is now full and I have to pay if I want more space. I am going to check out Google documents for my other files.