Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Beyond Ctrl + S by Andy Scheer

How do you back up your writing files? And how often? Do you have confidence that if your computer died tonight, your files would be saved? Or if it crashed now, what about the document you currently have open?

I just saved this file (Ctrl + S). But I also just reset the auto save function on my word-processing program so instead of performing an auto save every fifteen minutes; it’s now set for ten. But should it be five?

And when I’ve finished this document, small as it is, I’ll copy it to the flash drive I always carry in my pocket. (At night it sits on my night stand, next to my eyeglasses case.)

Recently I’ve been seeing some full-page magazines for an online data backup service. For something like sixty dollars a year, it backs up everything on your machine.

About a third of the writers I’ve asked use online backup. One, who lives in tornado country, appreciates the security of an offsite backup. “If the unthinkable happens and my home is demolished by fire or tornado,” she says, “my information is still intact.” Another writer friend experienced a more localized disaster, but was rescued by her online backup service. “We were robbed,” she says, “and my PC went with the jewelry. Was I glad to be able to recall everything in its entirety!”

Another third say they use an external hard drive. I’ve been watching the ads in the Sunday newspapers, and those devices sure look tempting. This weekend one big box store advertised a one terrabyte external hard drive for about seventy dollars. And my favorite online computer store beats that deal easily.

A techie writer friend who travels extensively likes the way her external drive, combined with  synchronizing software, not only keeps her data safe, but also enables her to sync files between her desktop and laptop machines. “Whenever I plug the backup drive into the computer,” she says, “the software automatically scans the folders I’ve preset and looks for any changes — either new files, deleted files, or changed/updated files. It synchronizes in the background, but it doesn’t interrupt my work.”

Others tell me that when they finish a document, they email it to themselves as a attached file. The only cost is the time and discipline to do it.

For myself, I think I need to look more deeply into an external hard drive. I’m open to your suggestions.


Rick Barry said...

I bought the external hard drive after a nearby lightning storm fried the life out of a dozen of our appliances and out of our computer. (Note: both the computer and the external drive should be plugged into a surge protector, not into the wall socket. When an actual storm brews, I even unplug the surge protector.)

When I'm working on book-length material, I also use a variation of the free email trick. I simply keep a draft of the document in my gmail account without sending it. Each time the m.s. changes, I attached the new version and delete the old. This is comparable to the flash drive backup, but with the added off-site assurance that not even a tornado can separate me from my story.

Timothy Fish said...

MS Word appears to default to saving to AutoRecover every 10 minutes and I figure that's fine. Ever so often, I save the stuff I've been working on to a CD or DVD. I also have a external hard drive, but I use it mainly to keep video files from taking up so much space on my laptop. I haven't done much to protect against fire.

I've also begun to use Subversion for version control with some of my work. That way, when I make changes, I have the ability to go back and look at previous versions.

Timothy Fish said...

Oh, I meant to mention that e-mailing yourself won't help much if you have your e-mail client set to delete e-mails from the server.

Joanne Sher said...

I use carbonite - have for a month or two. Hubby researched it and was pleased. Haven't had to test it yet (praise God), but I like how it runs in the background all the time. Don't have to remember!

Linda Glaz said...

I keep almost every version I write, just so I can go back if I choose and compare. Ext hard drives, copies on computer, and disks that are in a safety dep box all help me if I ever have to recreate. Plus Terry gets each new updated version, and my crit partners normally have the newest version, so I'm pretty well backed up. If I lost a few days new work, it wouldn't feel like the end of the world.

Terry Burns said...

As Linda said I do have the latest mss on all my clients, but I do just keep the latest to try to avoid sending the wrong one somewhere. Saundra and I have our computers back up each day to Mozy. Have been on there some ten years or so and have to do a full restore once that paid for it. I have thought about just getting an external hard drive as it would be cheaper in the long run, but if we ever had a fire or natural disaster where the house was destroyed it would probably get both the computer and the hard drive both.

Davalyn Spencer said...

Like many who have already commented, I use an external hard drive, a flash drive (kept in my purse) and my email account. I am considering using a web-based backup system, so thanks for the recommendations.

Andy Scheer said...

If anyone is using a "portable" external hard drive, do you find that portability a real advantage? (Is it worth the higher price?)

Timothy Fish said...


For backups, I don't see that portability is a major concern. External hard drives are all relatively portable. Portability becomes a priority when you are using the hard drive for sneaker-net capability.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Thanks for all these helpful comments. Wish I would've had this encouragement a month ago when I was working on an editing job and forgot to back up the three chapters I'd finished--had to re-do them. Sigh. I'll look into the external hd or web backup.

Kathryn Elliott said...

I learned this lesson the hard way; a long story for another day. I use both an external hard drive and my handy-dandy flash drive for smaller, on the go projects. And prayer.

Heather Marsten said...

I need to have my husband get me an external hard drive, but I suspect that it matters where you store it - would want to store it away from your computer, perhaps in the car or a shed. If something happens to the house, and the hard drive is in the house, both computer and hard drive could be lost.

I gmail my MS to myself and I also send it to my other email address and store it on a different computer from my lap top. For extra safekeeping, I send a copy to my church and the secretary stores it at church.

Storage is important. A friend of mine had her lap top stolen and she had to reproduce her MS from a much older copy. So many hours of work and workshops disappeared during the robbery.

Have a blessed day.

Terry Burns said...

Now there's a thought. I have a very nice workshop that is not attached. If I got a wireless external HD I could have it there where it wouldn't be affected in such a case as a fire, but could still access it right from the computers. That's not a bad idea.