This was originally posted at Authors Incognito, but has been updated to reflect the changes in technology.
This could be the most important advice I ever give you. Heeding it will, one day, save you countless hours–or even years–of rework. You can thank me when it saves your butt some day.
I have an intense paranoia of losing data. Few things are more frustrating than losing a document due to a power outage or any number of computer failures. Hitting Ctrl-S to save my work at every opportunity has become a habit due to losing several homework assignments in high school. If you haven’t formed this habit yet, it isn’t too late. Start now!
Sometimes, more catastrophic circumstances can ruin more than a few hours of typing. A hard drive crash can literally destroy years of hard work. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s not pretty. Companies are willing to pay outrageous fees in order to recover data from a dead drive. In fact, most businesses fail following a total data loss. And aren’t we, as writers, a business?
I spend a lot of time fretting over whether or not my backup solution is sound. It isn’t just power outages. It’s drives dying. It’s house fires. It’s flooding. It’s the zombie apocalypse. You have to consider and plan for the worst case scenario. Seriously, it kept me up late at night. Well, that and my video game addiction, but that is another story.
My mental attitude is that all data needs to be duplicated and in separate locations. Also, all backup plans need to be tested. I’ve seen people who assume they have a good backup plan lose data and then realize they couldn’t recover their backups. I know, it sounds silly, but it is true.
Thank goodness for online backups! There are several services available that will back up your data to the Internet, all in the background requiring no extra effort or much technical knowledge on your part. If something catastrophic occurs, you are only a few mouse clicks away from retrieving your documents.
For instance, one day I was cleaning up my hard drive and deleted the wrong folder. Ooops, suddenly over 100GB of photos were gone!! Decades of memories were wiped out in less than a second! There are programs I could download to hopefully recover them, but they don’t always work. I just shrugged, opened my backup program, and told it to recover all my pictures. It took a few hours to download them from the Internet, but I didn’t lose a single one.
If you are interested in such a service, search for the term “Online Backup Services” and find the one that best fits your situation. Some are completely free if you don’t have much to back up. Pricing scales up depending on the amount of data you have.
Personally, I pay about $60 a month for CrashPlan, which backs up an unlimited amount of data as soon as it detects a file changes. However, I recommend that you do your homework and pick up what works best for you, your budget, and your circumstances.
On my Mac, I back up to another drive (called a Time Machine), but that doesn’t quite cut it for me. While the data is duplicated, I would lose everything if my house caught on fire or flooded, so I have that data reduplicated to the web. Remember, duplicate but separate.
You can also use a service like Dropbox, but you have to copy it in there manually every chance you get. Believe me, it never happens as often as you promise yourself it will. If you work directly out of Dropbox, other problems can occur. A lot of writers use Scrivener, which has a proprietary format, and working directly out of Dropbox can lead to file corruption.
While I do have this free option available, I don’t use it because I prefer a system I don’t have to think about… until I have to think about it. Even still, I get a weekly Email informing me that all of my files are backed up. I breath a sigh of relief every time I receive it.
Online backup prices are cheap considering it costs magnitudes more to recover information if a hard drive dies on you, and even then there is no guarantee. Also, who can put a price on peace of mind and a good night’s sleep?