Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Importance of Backing Up.

I'm pretty irritated at myself today because I have misplaced my flash drive on which I keep my manuscript and pretty much all my other writing, short stories, letters, blog posts, guest blog posts, critiques and so on.

It's not as tragic as it sounds because I WILL FIND IT but also because I have most of those files backed up. The backups are not 100% current and I will lose a few pages of the re-write of my manuscript but I'm pretty confident I'll remember what I wrote even if I can't find the drive. The old blog posts aren't a big deal because they're on the blog, of course, but it would be nice to have the originals for posterity. Critiqued chapters aren't a big deal because we email them back and forth so much they are on Gmail, which brings me to my next point.

Please make sure to back up your work. Especially if you are an artist or creative person. I know that Access/Outlook report for 2009 quarter four sales figures is important to your company, that's why they have automatic backup services if they are worth a damn.

As creative people we pour our heart and soul into our pages (or drawings, or tracks) and it would truly be a shame to lose those creations for ever. Please make sure you back up your work.

Here are some options you have: first what I do is simply to keep a USB flash drive. Then I sync its contents with my desktop at work and my laptop at home periodically (the current problem is that I got lazy and hadn't synced for a few days, and then now misplaced the drive). You also have to make sure you are aware which version of a file is most current so that you don't overwrite the wrong version. Both Windows and OSX have detailed file/folder views which show the last date/time that a file was updated - you could also include the date in your file naming convention if you so choose.

I also email my manuscript to myself every other day or so. Gmail has nearly endless storage and this is a good option for a sort of last line of defense. It's not perfect because you end up with a bunch of old versions and sometimes they're a little hard to find but it is WAY better than losing everything.

There are also hardware options, like an external hard drive that has a one touch backup function; I believe that Western Digital and Seagate both have options.

Software is also an option, either run locally on your own system or backed up to online servers. I don't recommend this kind of thing because it generally isn't worth the money unless you have large amounts of important data to backup but here are some links if you want to research it for yourselves:

HP Upline reviewed by PC Magazine.

SOS Online Backup (beta) reviewed by PC Magazine.

Wuala (beta) reviewed by PC Magazine.

That's all I have for now. Don't forget to come back tomorrow for Faith E. Hough's guest blog post!


Vicki Rocho said...

I have an old computer hiding in the corner of my bedroom so I can extract the data off my hard drive. Seems the motherboard died on me so it won't powerup anymore. Mostly I'd like the pictures that are on there, but who knows what other files are on there?

Backups are your friend, people!

Will Burke said...

Great reminder -- I atear-up a little when I hear of a writer losing their work.

Unknown said...

My last computer was attacked by a virus (hubby didn't want to put anti-viral projection on it because it slowed the computer). Fortunately most of my important files had been backed up, except for some of the photos from our summer vacation.

I back up frequently. Everytime I finish using on a document (even if I'm coming back to it later in the day), I save it on the flash stick and email it to myself. The latter is important 'cause you never know what's going to happen to your house. Fires happen. Tornados hit.

JE said...

Dropbox!! You should get the dropbox!

The external back-up thing works too, I've got one of those on my computer. Mine's no-touch though, and backups everything everytime I turn on the computer. Lifesaver.

Hope you find the flashdrive soon, Matt!


Angela McCallister said...

I find syncing a big pain in the rear. I got tired of constantly emailing updated mss and getting mixed up with which version was the most current. Finally I started using a file-sharing program.

My crit group uses Dropbox, and I love it! We have a file set to share with each other, but I also have my own personal file. I've downloaded the program to each computer I use, so when I save changes to the files, it saves the changes to all of the computers. When I'm at work (where I can't download and install the program), I can log in to Dropbox and upload the file, which will then update all of my computers. Then if, by some crazy chance, all of my computers crap out, I still have the most current version on the Dropbox servers.

Christina Lee said...

Oh yeah- we bought an external hard-drive just b/c of this. and I do the email thing too. Thx for the reminder! fingers crossed for finding it!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I always carry my thumb drive around with me in case my house catches on fire or something and destroys my computer. And I have my stories on a CD that I keep on me as well. Losing stories could be absolutely devatating. I do the email thing as well, because even if everything I own is destroyed, the internet lives on! :D

Hannah said...

Yeah I have a flash drive, external, and hard copies. I also email works to myself and my work computer. I'm a little obsessive. I once lost 10 pages from a random Word malfunction. Damn Word. I was not happy.

Hannah said...


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Preaching to the converted here! I back up often.

Lindsay said...

I am the obsessional princess of backing up. This is demonstrated by two flash drives, hard drive, external hard drive and email.
My fear is loosing one of them, so I save it to lots in case. Lol.
I'm sure you'll find it:)

Josin L. McQuein said...

I have yet to decipher the whole "synching' thing, and I can't seem to remember to wander over to Dropbox.

Email back-ups for every new day of writing help a ton (so long as they're clearly labeled.

Learned my lesson when my MS file decided to corrupt on my thumb drive and spontaneously disappear elsewhere. If I hadn't just emailed it to someone you'd have heard the scream.

Hilary Wagner said...

I'm in camp email! I email EVERYTHING to myself, even if I just make a few changes. It has saved me a couple of times! That way I have every single version of a MS I've ever written and if I delete an entire scene, I can easily add it back. Luckily, word docs don't take up too much email space!

The one time I did back up my work on a flash drive, the whole thing got corrupted and destroyed everything on it--ALL of my manuscripts. I didn't care, went straight to my email and there they were!

Great post, Matt!

xoxo -- Hilary

Old Kitty said...

I hope hope hope you find you usb stick.

Thanks for the tips on backing up files and for the links.

I've already lost a 67,000 word MS because I cannot crack the passworded document (I've tried various free and paid software to unlock my password but that's failed so far). So yes it is very very very very important to back up files and keep passwords safe and somewhere you know you can find later! :-)

Take care

Stephanie Lorée said...

I use Google Docs and have my writing stored in the cloud. I also export that to my USB stick and use SyncBack (an excellent sync program) to back up my hardrive & USB stick.

I really recommend having a hard drive copy AND a cloud copy. works great for sync-ing as well.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

I am doing a post on this next week, Matt. I think I'll link mine to yours, if that's okay. I won't tell you what recently happened to me. I'll let you read it next week. Yikes.

Jaydee Morgan said...

I'm a back-up fanatic - mainly because I learned my lesson a few years ago in a monstrous computer crash.

j.leigh.bailey said...

Twice now I've lost my thumb drive and had panic attacks. Luckily I've found it both times, but it's made me paranoid. However, my paranoia has not yet overcome my laziness. I don't back up my stuff nearly enough. Thanks for outlining some of these other methods for backing up.

Creepy Query Girl said...

all great tips for safe guarding our 'precious'. I wouldn't miss tomorrow's interview!

Laura S. said...

I'm pretty obsessive when it comes to backing up my work! When I was in college, my hard drive crashed and that feeling of losing everything was AWFUL! Like someone had died. Luckily, my computer wizard brother was able to save all my super important stuff and transfer it to my dad's computer. (I don't know how he did. Magic. It had to be magic.) Then my hard drive crashed AGAIN later. WTF??? But of course I had everything saved on CDs (and it was still on my Dad's 'puter, too). After that, my mom and dad bought me two flashdrives, lol.

In addition to the 2 flashdrives, I also have an external hard drive and I email myself everything. It's better to be obsessive about saving your stuff than crying your eyeballs out with regret!!!

Good luck finding your flashdrive!

Renae said...

I used to be horrible at backing things up until my flashdrive crapped out on me and I just about lost everything! Luckily I had just sent the MS to one of my betas and was able to recover it. Lesson learned. Now I have flash drives everywhere, plus my hard drive and I email myself too. I'm a little OCD about it now.

Zoe C. Courtman said...

I have Dropbox but never use it. I tend to save every few lines and then when I'm done with the MS for the day, the last thing I do is ye olde Gmail - I send every day's work to myself. (Poor inbox!!) How's Fatty?

Kathryn Rose said...

I've had a few "lack of backup" tragedies with my writing. Thankfully, hubby bought me an external portable hard drive for Christmas (best gift EVER!!) and it's all been easy breezy ever since, as long as I'm consistent with my backing up.

PLEASE back up, everyone! I lost my first novel when I was 17!!!

*nervous twitch, quiet sobbing, Ben & Jerry's, memories return...*

Talli Roland said...

Thanks for the reminder, Matthew. I always try to email a copy of my draft to myself when I close it down for the day. Sometimes I forget, though.

Matthew MacNish said...

Me too Talli, hence my current problem.

Anyway, thanks for all the feedback peeps. I had never heard of dropbox but I am now going to have to look into it.

If it looks good I'll add it this post for future reference.

Sarah Ahiers said...

i used to use flash drives and emailed copies. but i tend to lose flash drives.

AND i knew an author who's work got corrupted on his hard drive and throughout all his email programs. he had backed it up plenty, but it didn't matter.

THE BEST solution i found is DropBox.

It's a free program you can downloand on your computer. Not only does it automatically back your stuff up online, it also saves previous versions.
You can download dropbox on more than one PC and then when you make a change on a doc on one PC, it is updated on all the others! (this is what really works for me and my multi PC usage)

for reals, check it out. i haven't emailed myself a back up copy since i downloaded dropbox

Sarah Ahiers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MBW aka Olleymae said...

so true!! I get lazy too and forget to back things up. I've learned that emailing my work to myself is the easiest way, but I have a USB drive, too.

Jemi Fraser said...

My computer refused to even turn on a few months back. Nothing. I was lucky - I didn't lose the data when they fixed it.

Now I use and an external hard drive and the email thing. I'm much more careful!

Arlee Bird said...

This is a good reminder for all of us. I try to stay current in backing up. I don't have an external hard drive and have the intent of eventually getting one.

Tossing It Out

Arlee Bird said...

Please read this message from Arlee Bird:

There is a blogger out there who needs your support more than most others do. He is a prison inmate who is attempting to have a voice. He has been writing for several years and would like someone to read what he has to say. He does not have internet access and his submissions must be posted by his sister, who in turn sends him comments for him to respond to. I hope you will at least take a look at his blog and then if you moved to do so, leave a comment for him and follow his blog and tell others about it.

The Saga of the Concrete Jungle


Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I use the external hard drive option and it works well because it's out of my hands - if it was up to me to remember to back things up, I'd be crying a lot more frequently. :)