Every writer’s worst nightmare is a dead computer.
Okay, maybe not every writer.
Every writer who writes on a computer.
Every writer who isn’t quite as diligent about backing up their work as they should be.
Every writer who has a slowly-declining laptop and knows the day is coming, but still doesn’t buy a new one because reasons.
Not gonna lie, y’all: I got lucky. When my laptop died last week, it had been about six weeks since I last backed up my writing. I could have lost six weeks’ worth of editing progress. Fortunately, I’m one of those people who builds her own computers and knows her way around the inside of the case. The problem didn’t affect the hard drive, so I removed it from the laptop, turned it into an external hard drive, hooked it up to the man creature’s computer, and held my breath.
Everything was there. Nothing at all was lost. I am one lucky writer.
I’ve since ordered a new laptop—a custom build from a website that specializes in gaming PCs, complete with gaudy LED backlighting on the keyboard and case that teenage MK would have drooled over and adult MK will be slightly embarrassed to be seen with. I’ve also been reconsidering my current backup method, which is basically to dump everything onto a flash drive once per week. Not ideal.
When I was an undergrad in college, my major was Digital Arts: Music, and our unofficial department motto was Save Often and Loudly. We would actually shout “save!” in the middle of the DA Lab every time we saved our work, which would prompt others to save as well. It instilled in me an almost manic need to save every few minutes, and save multiple versions along the way. I’d like to modify that now, though:
Save x3, Often and Loudly
Common wisdom these days is that you should back up your important documents in three different places. There are three primary ways to back up files:
- External physical media: Flash drives, external hard drives, burned CD/DVDs, etc. If you use two external methods, keep them stored in different locations (home and work).
- Cloud storage: Dropbox, Google Drive, one of the endless number of online automatic backup services.
- Physical copies: Printed out on acid-free archival quality paper.
I’m willing to bet very few people go the physical copy route. I certainly don’t. It’s an option, though, and you may want to consider it for your most important documents. I plan to keep up with my flash drive backup, but I’ll also be adding two cloud-based backups to my routine. I already use Google Drive for working on things when I can’t be at my usual computer, so I’ll use that for backing up my writing-related documents on a weekly basis. To give myself total protection for my whole computer (not just my writing) I’ll likely add an online backup service. The benefit is that I won’t have to remember; services like these automatically back up your data on a schedule you designate. Something like that would have saved me in the event that my hard drive had not still been functional after my laptop’s death. I haven’t decided on a particular service yet, but several friends have given me recommendations.
So, the moral of the story is DON’T BE ME. Don’t put off developing a backup plan. Don’t be lazy about your backups; or, if you want to be lazy, sign up for an automated service. Back up your data in multiple ways.
Save x3, Often and Loudly
So, my dear creatures, are you smarter than me? Do you have a backup system you swear by? Tell me in the comments!
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