How often do I back up my work?
It’s like the game.
And you just lost the game.
If you don’t know the game, do yourself a favor and don’t start. But if you must:
If you think about the game, you lost the game.
If you are thinking about doing a back up of your work, do it.
So I got startled awake this morning. It was nothing. But the first thought I had was not about my own safety. It was that my laptop was in the front room. I don’t care if a burglar runs off with my TV or whatever other valuables they can find in the front room, but don’t dare take my stories!
Remember the writer who ran back into his burning house to rescue his laptop. I think we can all relate.
So make a back up.
New to back ups?
There are are many options for both where to make your back up, what to back up and how.
There are three common places to store your back up:
The old school solution is a hard copy. That means printed on paper for the younger writers. I know, it seems so antiquated. And in ways, it is.
Where you store your back ups say a lot about what you fear happening to your precious writing. If you worry about theft or hacking, hard copies are safest. No thief is carrying off reams of paper from your house and hackers can’t get to it.
If you are worried about a fire or some other disaster, you hard copies will be as vulnerable.
If you are paranoid, do a hard copy and then another version.
Personal devices can range from a simple thumb drive to your own personal cloud device. They can range in price from a few bucks to a couple hundred dollars for a top of the line external hard drive.
Again it depends a lot on what your biggest fears are. An electronic device is easily put in an out of way place, and won’t likely be sought out by a thief. But it won’t survive a house fire or similar disaster.
They can be invaluable in the event of a catastrophic computer failure, though. Unlike hard copies, which require you to retype thousands of words, you can plug the thumb drive into a new computer and copy all the files with the click of a mouse.
How far you want to go depends on how paranoid you are, and believe me I won’t judge. About once a year I back up everything to a thumb drive and put it in my lock box at the bank. But that’s my low grade paranoia at work and probably excessive.
Heck you might even want to shove an extra thumb drive in your bug out bag in case you are forced on the run by the zombie apocalypse. The survivors, trapped in some bunker somewhere, will make great beta readers! 😉
And I’m only half joking. My paranoia for back ups does include thinking about a major disaster. I don’t think the zombie apocalypse will happen, but a natural disaster or war could turn you into a refugee. Be prepared.
Many of my writer friends, being luddites, fear the cloud. They shouldn’t. It’s the best, easiest way to ensure the safety of your work. “The Cloud” is really just a fancy way to say storing stuff on the internet. Or at an even more basic level, storing stuff on someone else’s computer.
“The Cloud” includes many options, including some household names. Google Drive and Dropbox are both cloud services. Amazon offers a similar service.
The cloud is about the easiest, safest way to back up your work. Big companies spend a huge amount of money and effort on back ups and protections. The odds that Google or Amazon’s data farm crashes and takes your writing with it is infinitesimal compared with the odds of your laptop doing the same. If and when you laptop or home computer crashes, it’s as easy as signing into Google Drive or Dropbox and syncing your files to get them back. If you should have a house fire or similar disaster, you don’t have to go hunting through the wreckage for your thumb drive either.
What about hackers? Hackers are an ever present threat on the internet. But I think the average writer has an overblown sense of caution about this.
People don’t steal writers ideas, or their writing. Unless your name is J. K. Rowling, no hacker is interested in your new novel.
(If your name is J. K. Rowling — Oh my god, I can’t believe you are reading my blog! I am such a huge fan!)
The rest of you should get your head out of the clouds, and your writing into it. An unpublished novel takes so much work to publish and market that no hacker is interested in it. If you already have a successful career, they will be interested in your bank account, not your writing.
That said you should take reasonable precautions, things like strong passwords and two factor authentication. But beyond that I don’t think writers need to take special precautions around their writing. And the benefits of having it safe outweigh the slight risks.
There are literally hundreds of possible formats you could use to save your work and build an archive. I will recommend one and dis one. You can research other options if you are not satisfied with my opinion.
I have an archive folder on Dropbox, in Google Drive and on my Amazon cloud. (I’m not really that paranoid. I happen to have an Amazon cloud, so it’s easy. I use the other two regularly.) I compile my writing out of scrivener as an rtf file.
Why rtf? Because I am old and I am cheap.
I don’t use word docs for my archive because I am old. I have a pile of floppy disks from last century in a drawer somewhere. I don’t have a floppy disk reader. Who does these days? And they are very old doc formats.
Which is the real problem with doc formats. Word changes its format every few years and they have little backwards compatibility. Which means that even if I had means to access those old files, I doubt Word would read them anyway.
Rtf is an older but far more stable formate. There isn’t a word processor, text program or writing program that can’t read rtf. So I stick to it.
Besides I’m cheap. Rtf is so stable because it strips the majority of the formatting and extraneous code from the file, leaving just the words. Because of that, rtf files tend to be small files, even if there are a lot of words in it. For example I have a hundred and some thousand word novel that is a mere 626 kb rtf file. The scrivener file is several megabytes.
That might not seem like much, but as your writing grows it adds up. How much does it add up? My documents folder is just over one gigabyte. My archive is closer to 65 mb. That’s a pretty big difference. Using rtf I can comfortably stick to free options on most sites even with other files (like pictures) in them. (One of the reasons I use multiple sites, they are all free. So I can have extra back ups at no cost.)
So that’s it. When you think of the game, you lose the game.
When you think of back ups, check them. It’s an relatively easy process to set up a dropbox folder and check it regularly to make sure everything is there. If you use scrivener it’s a matter of minutes to compile an rtf. And if something should happen to your computer or your home it will one less worry.