Backup! Backup!

I recently had a reader get in touch with me, about one of my older stories. This person told me the site was removing some stories, and I should back mine up to another source, if I hadn’t done so already. I know the intent was conscientious and concerned…but I was a little offended by that, at first.

I haven’t come so far as a writer, not to know to back my s–t up! That was one of the earliest (hard) lessons I ever learned: losing a story I’d been working on because I had only one copy, and that copy was gone forever when the binder in which it resided was stolen. (Actually, my whole bag was stolen, along with a $125 textbook…but it was the loss of that story I mourned the most.)

Since that time, I’ve always kept backups of my work. In fact, these days, I keep two, three, sometimes even four working backups!

I work mostly on computer (when I do work in longhand, I transcribe during my downtime). I’ve got two of them: one that sits at my writing place at home, and one that’s used mostly for my day job, but that I write with during my commute. Every morning, the working draft (and scrap documents) get uploaded to my server from my home machine. Those are downloaded to my work machine, for the work day. When I’m about to leave work, I upload the latest documents to the server again; if I work on the story during the commute home, the documents simply get uploaded again. Then, once I’m home, I download those documents to my home computer, where I’ll work some more. In between this schedule, I backup all of my documents – both the working ones and the support ones (research, interviews, character sketches, floorplans, clothes pictures, et alia) – to my flash drive about every week or two. And, if that’s not enough, I do regular backups of several of my folders to another large portable hard drive that sits on my desk.

I can’t 100% guarantee I’ll always be able to have the latest version of my ms at my fingertips…but I won’t risk losing days’ or weeks’ or even months’ worth of progress. Not on something so important to me.

What is your backup routine? (And don’t dare tell me you don’t have one! Backups are cheap!)

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11 thoughts on “Backup! Backup!

  1. I zip up my work and email the file as an attachment to my hotmail account. That way, even if the house catches fire, I should be able to recover them from their server. Not sure its totally secure and – who knows – hotmail may suddnly lose all their data. But I have an incling that they might have it backed-up too.

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    • That’s a nice (and inexpensive!) way to do it, Andy. Mail servers do have regular backups. There’s a *small* possibility of a massive failure, of course, as there is with anything, but it’s good to know you’ve always got a plan. :)

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  2. This is one that keeps me awake at night! I do back up, but not to anywhere outside the house – so if the house burns down I lose it all anyway. Maybe I should copy Andy’s example and email it to myself…

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    • Email is a very quick and easy (not to mention cheap) way to back up, Sally-Jayne. Something like Google Docs works, too.

      I’d hate to see any of that precious writing lost!

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  3. My novels are always saved on Dropbox. I update them there in real time, this way I know the latest version is always backed up. As for my other non-writing files, I store them on my external HD (the important ones that I can’t bear to lose anyway).

    Recently my computer crashed and I hadn’t yet backed up a few things. The feeling of panic was overwhelming!

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    • Oh, no, Zen! I know that feeling of panic well. Even when I do have a recent backup, it often pains me to know I’ve lost the product of a good session.

      I use Dropbox, too, but I often forget about it. The icon sits there looking lonely in my apps tray…maybe I should put it to good use, as you do!

      Thanks for dropping by with the good idea. :)

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  4. In all honestly, even if I do write my stuff on the computer or my notebook, I know that it’s all stuck in my head. A lot of my stuff isn’t really set in stone, so I don’t mind having to rewrite them. I tend to revise over and over and over in my head, anyway.

    But, so that you don’t slap me for not having a real back-up plan, I do have a flash drive that I keep the important stuff on. I have copies on my laptop, and I have copies on the flash. I would like to get an external hard drive so I can store a lot, but I guess a simple flash drive with a few GBs should be fine.

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    • I used to trust my head, but I just don’t, any more. There’s too much other nonsense bouncing around in there! :D

      A flash drive is a good start, no doubt. Ideally, you’d want at least one more backup location, though, even if it’s just another flash drive. They do go bad, on occasion, or get lost.

      Check out http://www.newegg.com for pretty good deals on portable external hard drives. They usually have solid gear for good prices.

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  5. I use a flash drive because I can take it with me when I leave the house. One of my fears is the house will burn down, and really the only thing worth saving besides pets and children, is my work. So, I take my work with me when I go places. I have 2 flash drives actually, one I keep in my wallet. The other one I keep at my mom’s house.

    I also use an external hard drive, but that seemed to have died recently. I guess I need to get another one.

    I lost my whole computer due to dog drool one day. Yes, dog drool. So I know your pain–losing all that work is enough to make you want to walk straight off a cliff. Not really, but pretty damn close.

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    • The flash drive has certainly been a God-send for many of us, Kate. :) I’m impressed you carry yours around with you all the time. I have access to a computer most hours of the day, but I’ve had bad luck with carrying my drive around with me (lost 3 that way). I do like your pen-and-pad approach, too.

      NewEgg.com usually has good deals on portable external hard drives. Even if you don’t need the “portable” bit, a good-sized, reliable one only runs about $100 US.

      I want to hear more about this dog drool incident, too! Sounds a bit like doggie sabotage, to me. ;)

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