As I discussed in a previous blog I work in computer support for my day job. Here’s another post regarding computer issues that writers often face.
The Dreaded Backup Question
A problem with a computer or lost data from accidental deletion is a fact of life. Many small businesses and home users do little to back up their data on a regular basis. That is, until data is lost and the lesson is learned the hard way. I think people avoid it because they don’t want to think negatively or they are just too busy. But bad things happen to data regularly so planning and taking a little time can save you from a major headache. This is another question that I field from some people who have the concern so I’ll address this today.
What to Understand about Backups
The old saying is, “You’re only as good as your last backup.” This is very true for several reasons, the obvious being that you have something to go back to in case you lose data. But the important point is that you perform backups regularly to insure you have new data captured as well as revised data from a recent date. If you did your backup months ago then that’s the point in time you have and nothing newer. You should perform a backup ASAP and then plan to backup more often than you have been.
Also understand that a backup is not usually live so data you just changed isn’t captured automatically if you are running a traditional backup. However synchronizing data via software to the cloud keeps your active data rather safe though this is not entirely the case. I’ve had issues with Word not auto-saving as often as it should so I click the save icon often to make sure new data is save for the synchronization.
To What Should Data Be Backed Up?
Again, this is another great question. I like having several options for redundancy. For my daily needs I use Dropbox to synchronize working data to the cloud, meaning internet (no endorsement intended, there are several such products that work well). Most services allow you to purchase extra space for backup, however, in the case of writers most text files are very small so your needs may not be huge. No matter what word processing you use make sure to save often to avoid issues with the software. It can be the difference between hours of work lost versus a few minutes worth of missing data. How such software works is by synchronizing data in a special folder to the cloud on the internet. Most of these services allow you to even access this data from a webpage or smartphone. The main advantages to this type of backup is that your data is off-site on the cloud and the synchronization is frequent depending on the number of saved changes to files – just make sure you’re data is in the correct folder for the software to access and check that it is working properly.
Next I backup to another location using an external drive. Again, I have software that defines what I back up and where. My external hard drive is a good location for this type of redundancy but I only use it about once a week since I sync to the cloud daily. You can also use a thumb drive just as easily. The pros to this kind of drive is that it is small and easy to carry. However the size is also a con in that it can be easily lost. Some backup software also allows you to buy space on a provided cloud so that you remove the aspect of hardware failure with your backups. Remember that this type of cloud space is not necessarily like synchronization so you may have to manage your space by deleting old backups whereas something like Dropbox is syncing changes from a specific folder. Using backup software means you must define what is backed up unlike synchronization software where you must save to a specific folder so understand the differences between the two types of software.
Summary and Closing
To be clear, I recommend backing up data using more than one type for the sake of redundancy. You can do this by using a service like Dropbox for syncing services over the internet to the cloud. You can also backup to hardware simply by copying data you want to protect it or by using specific software. I like to keep a backup of some sort on hardware I can reach in case I’m unable to reach cloud-based services. Whatever you use be consistent and diligent to backup your data so you won’t sweat data loss when something goes wrong.
Do you have a backup plan for your writing data? What type of backup do you use? Please share your strategy and ask questions in the comments section below this post. Also, check out my latest posts and my announcements on the News page. I’m planning a month-long sale of “The Black Bag” for Halloween but you can download it for free from Smashwords by signing up to follow this blog via email for the coupon. Thanks for reading!