You get up on Tuesday morning, ready to write. You can barely wait to brew a cup of joe, grab a bagel, fire up the computer and start. The last words you wrote the night before are still fresh in your mind. What’s more, you know exactly what the next words are and they’re fabulous!
But when you launch your word processor, there’s no sign of last night’s work. It. Simply. Does. Not. Exist.
Horror of horrors, you can’t even find the document from last week.
Or Let’s Say…
You’ve spent the morning hammering out the solution to a difficult scene that’s thwarted your creative efforts for most of the week. The solution may or may not be great, but at least it’s on electronic paper and you can move on.
You get up to take a break and stretch your mind and muscles and when you sit back down a few minutes later….
…the desktop is showing and there’s one of those nasty little dialogue boxes that says, “Your application has crashed unexpectedly.” (I ask you, can software ever crash expectedly?)
“What if” may be your favorite question, but it can also be your worst nightmare.
With the proliferation of digital devices that allow us to gather, assemble, and create information, it’s easy to forget the most important part of the process.
Saving your work.
And I don’t mean the standard procedure of saving electronic documents every few minutes, whenever you take a break, or when you conclude work for the day.
Even if you’re not particularly computer savvy, creating a backup to your hard drive isn’t difficult.
Here are a few options:
- External hard drive (a personal favorite)
- Thumb/flash drives (another favorite)
- Second computer
- CDs (excellent for monthly backups)
But you also need to be backing up your computer on a regular basis. Changes in software and other documents need to be saved somewhere other than your computer. After all, if you’re treating your writing like a business—and all of us at Indie Plot Twist hope you are—then there are tax documents, research files, and who knows what else lurking among the bits of your hard drive. If you’re anything like me, you’ve looked up things and written things that aren’t pertinent to the current work in progress, but that might be useful sometime in the near (or not so near) future. Losing those things wouldn’t impact you immediately, but it will impact you.
So what do you do to safeguard all that material?
For most people these days, the answer is a cloud-based storage system like Carbonite or Mozy. When you store data “on the cloud”, it’s saved away from your computer, away from your house, away up in the air somewhere, you need not know where.
What is the Cloud?
Cloud storage is a model of data storage in which the digital data is stored in logical pools, the physical storage spans multiple servers (and often locations,) and the physical environment is typically owned and managed by a hosting company. These cloud storage providers are responsible for keeping the data available and accessible, and the physical environment protected and running. People and organizations buy or lease storage capacity from the providers to store user, organization, or application data. Wikipedia
In short, “the cloud” is a vast collection of computers all over the world. Computers that are used for nothing but storage—also known as servers.
Servers are dedicated to storage.
All of this data is said to be encrypted and password protected. Only the account holder has access to it. Sort of like credit card information or medical records….
A lot of these programs also run in the background. That means they’re constantly updating your work. If you type three words, then leave your computer for twenty minutes, those three words will be stored somewhere in the cloud without your having to do a thing.
If you lose your hard drive or if your computer is stolen, damaged, or held for ransom (it does happen, trust me,) all you have to do is download all of your information to a new computer.
Convenient, isn’t it?
If You Don’t Trust the Cloud
If you don’t trust the cloud or just don’t like having all your information out there somewhere in cyber space, there are other ways to back up your computer.
I have a handy little gadget called an external hard drive. Mine is manufactured by Free Agent. It’s a 75 gigabyte external hard drive that connects to my desktop. I can put anything I want on it. I can back up the entire computer to it if I want to. Documents. Pictures. Software.
The external hard drive can be attached to any of the computers I have that have the appropriate ports. I can also remove it and keep it somewhere else. Like a safe deposit box at the bank.
Flash drives (also known as thumb drives) are also a wonderful way to backup almost everything on your computer. The beautiful thing about flash drives is that you can now get them large enough to back up software and documents.
You can also backup files, photos, and most other things to CDs. You probably won’t be able to backup software, but everything else is good.
If you have a really old computer—as one of mine is—3-1/2 diskettess are also good for backing up documents. Even the high density diskettes are very limited in capacity so if you have many documents, be prepared to store a stack of diskettes somewhere.
And if you’re just one of those computer geek types—or are married to one—you can always use a spare computer as a storage device.
All of these storage methods are as utilitarian as the cloud and just as secure for the most part. But they come with a major draw back.
There’s nothing automatic about it.
You also have to have at least one backup that’s somewhere other than your writing desk. In a different room is good. Out of the house is better.
The Choice is Yours
You can back up or not.
You can use the cloud or not.
But you should back up your files on a regular basis.
At the very least, keep a printed copy of the current work in progress so you can scan it to text or retype it should the unthinkable happen.
And it will happen.
Sooner or later.
Have you ever lost work because of a computer failure or software crash? Did you have back ups?