Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Why You Should Backup Your Work - 3 times!

How much is your writing worth to you? Some of it, I bet, is priceless. Poems you wrote just for yourself, family stories you'll never hear again, journal writing that got you through a bad time. Photos. And that novel which is not published yet, and is in its fifth draft, but you're getting close. The poetry collection you're going to publish that you've spent two weeks solid putting together. The blog post you're really proud of, ready to post tomorrow.
Phfffft! All gone. Forever. Because you didn't back up recently.

Most writers do back up. It only takes losing things a couple of times before you get to grips with the need to back up copies of your work on a regular basis. But the word regular is the one that gets most of us. For a long time, I had a back-up program on my computer that did it for me every day, to an external hard drive. When my computer hard drive died, I had nearly everything backed up, and was I relieved! But now I have a new computer and guess what - I can't get the program to work on this one. It's my number 1 job for today. Find another program.

But why do I say - back up three times? Because things do fail twice. If, for example, my computer had died because of a huge power surge, the external drive would very likely have died, too, because it's permanently connected. And other backup options do the same. USB drives (flash drives) have a higher failure rate than you realise, plus they are easily lost. And I hope you're not one of those who keeps their USB on their key ring, along with a dozen metal keys.

Another option being promoted everywhere is saving in the cloud, i.e. up there in cyberspace. Now this is useful, as your third option, but be careful. Cloud storage can fail, too. Even paid cloud storage. Just look at what happened to those who had paid storage accounts with Megauploads. Recently, the IT guy in the Age Green Guide had problems with stuff he had stored in the Apple cloud. If you don't have a heap of stuff to store "up there", try opening a special Gmail account and emailing important files to yourself instead.

Another option is to burn your photos and files onto CDs and store them with friends. That way, if your house burns down, that kind of backup is safe. What is not such a good idea is storing your backups at your workplace in your work computer or on their system. What if you leave and forget to retrieve it or delete it first? Or if your work computers (or even your home one) get infected with a nasty virus or trojan?

Now, if you think I'm sounding paranoid here, I have good reasons! I added up all the storage failures in my computers over the past two years and this is what I got:
* two computers at home had hard drive failures - one total, one that made dying sounds so I could back up before its final demise
* one USB that kept overheating and then died
* one computer at my workplace that, three days after a power blackout, died suddenly and included dramatic smoke effects
* one external hard drive (on spouse's computer) that stopped talking to any computer
* one small external hard drive that developed a faulty connection and only works now if you hold the cord a certain way.

Despite what we think, technology is by no means infallible. Hard copy is useful but takes up a lot of room in your office. I have boxes of it. But I still don't want to lose what's on my computer, so I'm going to keep backing up my important stuff - three times!


Meredith Costain said...

I've been saving drafts of novels in a Dropbox folder recently, so that if something nasty happens to my main computer, I can still retrieve the draft from one of my other devices (laptop or iPad). And any change you make on one file automatically saves to the others - no matter which device you're working on at the time.

So an 'extra' kind of backup that works for me!

Sherryl said...

I've heard of Dropbox but never used it - is it like Google documents? You have a password and can log in anywhere, or give it to collaborators?

Christie Wright Wild said...

I've heard of Dropbox. Perhaps I should start using it AND do a backup on USB as well. Wait a minute, that's only 2 times! CD for pictures? External hard drive? You mean I have to go BUY something!?

Sherryl said...

Might be worth it! I got the feeling from the article in today's Green Guide that Dropbox is a Mac thing. Both columnists today said iCloud has a lot of problems.