Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Backing up is (not) hard to do

harddrive-crash

Computer crashes and lost data are all the rage these days. So many people are beholden to their computers and other electronic devices, backing up your data at regular intervals is more important than ever. Of course, and unfortunately, it's a process too many people fail to integrate into their daily process.

As writers, we all know the consequences of not doing regular back-up's can be catastrophic. We labor for weeks, months, even years on a story or feature, only to lose it in a nanosecond because of a hard drive failure.

Not good.

There are many options available for making backup copies of our work:

  1. Make a new copy of the file in question at regular intervals. For my current work-in-progress, I like to prepend the date to the document filename each and every day. This way not only do I have more than one copy (in the case of file corruption) but it also gives me a sort of poor man's version control.
  2. If your application supports a "make backup copy" feature (like Microsoft Word), use it.
  3. Periodically copy your data files to a secondary hard drive or, if possible, another computer. Other options might include an external hard drive, USB key, or CD or DVD. They all work, and mostly just come down to convenience as to the choice. An alternative to copying the files is to use a backup solution. I just started using Windows Backup. It comes with most versions of Windows and, so far at least, seems to work.
  4. Make backups to removable media, like a DVD, and take that media to an off-site location. This might be a bank safe deposit box or your workplace. Just make sure it's secure if you're storing sensitive data. Having multiple copies on different mediums inside your house or apartment is great, but what if there's a fire?
  5. Use cloud storage. Amazon S3 is a relatively inexpensive option. If you use Firefox, there's even an add-on available that eases its use. (see Amazon S3 Simple Storage Service - Everything You Wanted to Know for more information on S3 and the utilities that make it a breeze to use)

The above is more or less my backup strategy, minus #4 which I have not yet utilized.You can take it even further if you so desire.

Perhaps I'm a bit paranoid, but I've not lost a file in longer than I can remember. I know one thing: I'd rather jump through hoops making sure my precious data is safe than take the chance I lose years of work.



Comments (3) -

  • Melissa Donovan

    7/16/2008 12:31:05 PM | Reply

    And don't learn all this the hard way! Thanks for the link, Scott ;) I would add one thing... figure out how frequently you really need to backup. Of course, daily would be wonderful but that's not realistic for most of us. I used to do annual backups but now that I have my own business, I really need to step it up. I will probably go with monthly for now. Thanks again!

  • scottmarlowe

    7/16/2008 3:17:27 PM | Reply

    Good point about the interval thing. Daily, while ideal, is obviously too much of a hassle. An automated solution would be great in this case, but how many of us actually have the resources or inclination to implement this? I try for monthly, though it probably works out more to once every two months or perhaps a little longer.

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