Back, Back, Back it up: Protect Your Work From Catastrophic Loss

If you sat my husband down and said, “Hey, what’s with your wife and her Dracula paper?”, he’d probably roll his eyes and tell you a sad story about the time I accidentally deleted one of my thesis papers in college.  My Dracula paper is infamous in my immediate circle — not just because I still have an obsession with that novel, but because I also spent an inordinate amount of time writing it.  I checked out probably forty books from the library and printed a metric ton of online material.  I drafted and rewrote it and spent over a month perfecting my thesis…only to lose the damn thing when I pulled my USB drive out of the computer too soon.

I tried everything I could think of to get it back and even enlisted a computer programmer friend, but, for whatever reason, the data was gone.  Since it was the night before the last day of the semester, I had to convince my professor to give me an extension (God bless you Dr. Davis) and then spent the first few days of Christmas vacation rewriting it from scratch.  My husband (then fiance) was my complaint soundboard.  Needless to say, he wasn’t happy.

Moral of the story?  BACK UP YOUR WORK.

Right now.  Do it.  Don’t hesitate another minute.  A good rule of thumb is to think 3-2-1:

Make 3 copies of your work, in two different formats, with at least one offsite copy.  All these backups should be independent of one another.

Your work is precious and irreplaceable, so don’t lose it.  Especially when technology makes it super easy to makes copies of everything.

Here’s a list of recommendations:

  1.  Flash drive.  Portable, cheap, universal.  You can put them on keychains, bracelets, necklaces, and store them pretty much anywhere.
  2. Cloud storage.  My personal favorite is DropBox because it’s free, everything syncs automatically when your computer is online, it’s easy to use, and it’s offsite, so I can access my work from anywhere (a boon when my laptop died and I had to borrow one so I could keep writing).  Other options for cloud storage are Apple iCloud, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Box, and Amazon Cloud.  You can find plenty of options with a quick online search, both free and paid.
  3. Email.  This one is simple: email yourself (or a trusted associate) a copy of your work.  Most email programs have folders for storage and allow fairly large file sizes through.
  4. External hard drive.  This is like a flash drive on steroids.  Where those tend to stay under 100 GB, external drives often have several terabytes’ worth of space.  These are a good option if you need to store large files like videos and photos in addition to your writing.
  5. DVD/CD.  Like USB-based systems, disks are cheap, portable, and universal.
  6. Print.  It can get pricey to print copies of your work, but when your computer crashes, you’ll be glad for that 3-ring binder of all your latest masterpieces.

So back it up.  All of it.  Check on your backups regularly to make sure that they’re in good working order and updated.  You don’t want a year-old version of your novel hanging around if something happens to the current version.

While working on this post, my darling toddler came up and tapped my off button…if I hadn’t set my WordPress editor to autosave periodically, I’d have lost my work.  Not much, but still.  Make sure whatever programs you use also automatically save and sync your work.

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