A friend of mine recently suffered a career crisis. No, she wasn’t laid off. The hard drive of her computer crashed. My friend is a writer, and her writing is her main source of income. That hard drive stored over a years’ worth of digital files. Thankfully, she was able to recover the majority of the files, but her newest files were lost.
Any computer user should back-up their important files, but for writers, it’s particularly important: a crashed hard drive can mean a loss of income or even a missed deadline, if you lose a project just before it’s due to a client. So how do you backup your files? Redundancy is the key.
Make Copies of All Files
If your computer has more than one hard-drive, store a copies of your writing files on each hard drive. If one fails, you’ll still have the other. Don’t worry about hard-drive space: the entire novel of War and Peace is only about one megabyte of data.
Store Files Online
Since I post the majority of my writing online, there’s a copy of my writing on my blog. The pieces I don’t publish on my blog get copied into a password-protected folder on the server that stores my site. If something happens to my hard-drive, I’ve still got a copy online that I can rely on.
Store Files on Portable Media
Most modern computers these days have the ability to burn files to a CD, but that can be a bit of a hassle. A better option is to get a password-protected, encrypted thumb-drive. You can store all your files on a single thumb-drive (remember what I said about file sizes being small? You can fit a ton of text on even a 1GB thumbdrive.)
Print Hard Copies
Let’s face it. Technology is unreliable. Your computer will fail, your web server will crash, your CDs and thumb-drives will get damaged. Print a copy of everything you write, and store it somewhere safe. Of course, if you write a lot of content like I do, this can get pricey: to save money, you can print at a small font size, draft quality, and try to fit as many pieces of writing onto a single page as you can. The goal isn’t to print pieces that are publicly presentable. You’re just trying to have a copy that you can use to type your pieces back into the computer should you need to.
Store Paper Copies Elsewhere
It’s good to have paper copies stored at your home, but what happens if you have a house fire or a flood? Not only could these catastrophes ruin your computer, but they could damage your paper copies too. There’s a few ways you can plan for these events: you could buy a fireproof and waterproof container to store your files in, but these can be very expensive. A cheaper alternative might be to rent a safety deposit box at your local post office or bank.
You might even go so far as to store copies at your workplace or at a friend’s house, but make sure it’s someone you trust.
Isn’t This a Little Overboard?
Maybe. But consider this: if you don’t make backups, you run the risk of losing your life’s work. Making backups doesn’t take long, and it can save you a lot of hassle if the unforeseen were to happen.