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Back It Up

If you haven’t yet finalized your New Year’s resolutions, I have one for you. Back up your computer data! Certainly we all know to do this, but the question is how many of us really do it regularly? Recently a friend went into a panic because her computer crashed and she nearly lost everything—everything she’d ever written, everything she was writing, all of her photos, music, and personal financial information. These days backing up a computer is more than just putting a few files on a disk, it’s keeping our lives on track and in order.

So if you aren’t regularly backing up your computer, your entire computer, I would suggest that in this new decade you make it mandatory. You can buy and use an external hard drive or register at an online storage service. Whatever you do, make sure you do it today.


Category: Blog


  1. I just use a flashdrive to backup my WIP, after doing my final save, I save it there too.

    Is this adequate? Someone else was telling me I should save it on a writeable CD because they're safer??

  2. I totally agree with Sheila, I nearly lost all of my digital copies in a hard drive crash and then I started using an online backup service. There are several available for just about every operating system than you can think of and many provide a few gigs for free, which is plenty for saving text documents.

  3. Anonymous, I had a friend who stored all her work on a flash drive only to find out when she needed it that the drive was corrupted. The other problem with backing up to something that's in your house–should a disaster like a fire strike, you lose the back ups. I always email myself my manuscript at the end of the day before I shut off the computer–or during the day if I've gotten a lot done (I once had a laptop just up and die while it was running).

    Losing my writing is my nightmare, because once it's lost, it's gone forever–I can't reconstruct it.

  4. If you have an old hard drive lying around (or ask a teenager/geek if they have one), get a HDD enclosure from Amazon and make your own external drive. It's a lot cheaper.

    I have two old hard drives like that…but then I'm a geek.

  5. The best thing is to have multiple backups. I am backed up online, on an external hard drive, and periodically I back up to CDs which I put in my new fire safe.

    Having hard copies of things like manuscripts is also a good idea.

  6. How safe and secure is online backup? Is it any easier for hackers to get all your stuff from an online backup than it is from your actual computer?

    I've done the email thing but that only covers WIP…not everything else on the computer. I could back up to an external HD, but again…the fire scenario is right. So what's the safest way…and most secure?

  7. I know an author who started a closed Yahoogroup with herself as the only member. She uploaded her wips to the files section. I'm wondering how safe that would be. Opinions? Anyone else do this?

  8. Which online storage companies are best to use?

    Which ones do you use, Sheila?

    I just recently saw them advertised on TV and had never heard anything about them. It's a little scary putting all that work into someone else's hand.

  9. As a Mac user, I use the Time Machine utility that comes standard with the latest operating system. My entire hard drive is backed up every hour to an external 1 gig hard drive. I've been glad to have that security on more than one occasion.
    Mac also let's users store data online on an iDisk via their Mobile Me utility. I take advantage of this as well.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  10. Webroot antiviral software comes with an online backup option. I haven't used it yet because I'm not sure how safe it is to put the contents of my entire system online. Any feedback?

    word verific: prefire

    no kidding…and yes, it's good to have a backup before a fire!

  11. Great comments and suggestions. I back up my system using Time Machine as well. I back up my writing on Time Machine, another hard drive, two USB drives, and CD.

    I started the practice while writing my first book. I gave so much to that book that I would lose sleep at night at the thought of loosing my progress. I haven't needed the backups yet, but I'm sleeping better!

  12. Devon, tell your friend to read the Yahoogroups TOS. In the version I read several years ago, Yahoogroups can claim ownership to the content, though I don't think they've ever done that.

    Yahoogroups can also be hacked.

    Anyone concerned with a flash drive should use the same repair utilities on their flash drive that they use on their computer to check it.

    I keep a flash drive copy of all my manuscripts and important things in my bank security box. So far, I've not had any damage to any of my flash drives from the security and lock system of the vault.

    Preparing for disaster is more than just keeping a copy of your manuscripts elsewhere if your computer dies. It's preparing for outside disaster –your house burning, hurricanes, tornadoes, mass evacuations, etc.

    I wrote a blog on the subject if anyone is interested.

  13. At the end of each day, I send an e-mail of WIP to three different e-mail accounts, and then file them. After that, I have this little thing that's no bigger than a bic lighter, that's supposed to save everything as back up.

    But after reading some of the other comments here, now I want more back up.

  14. Time machine for mac is great, but it's also worthwhile to get a .mac account which isn't too expensive ($100 or a year I think).

    The time machine can also backup the .mac account so you can have everything in three places and .mac will also backup automatically.

  15. I have a fetish about backup. I use Carbonite, an online service, which automatically and continuously backs up my laptop. I also backup to an external hard drive at least once a day. If you use a desktop computer, you can leave the external hard drive plugged in all the day and have it back up automatically at set periods.

  16. My laptop crashed two weeks ago and thank goodness, as part of our New Year organization, my husband and I had just backed up both of our computers on our external hard drive. Thank goodness, too, because I'd just finished up some revisions that hadn't been saved to my flash drive yet . (not to mention photos and video of our son)

    That being said, I do also e-mail to a gmail account so that I have an extra backup, because I write on more than one computer and sometimes I think I have the right version and I don't. Highly recommend it.

  17. I recommend Mozy. It has plans ranging from free to cheap and it automatically backs up my data every night while I sleep. I hear they are working on a system that will allow you to edit documents, listen to music on location too, right from the web. Best bang for your buck!

  18. These are really helpful suggestions! Some things are too precious to risk losing.

    Like others, I e-mail myself anything that I want to be confident about. But, like Ryan, I'm wondering if I need to do more….

  19. Oh really, try Dropbox. It syncs files between your computers, backs them up online, and they're always available online, too. So, in essence, if you have two computers, you end up having it backed up in three places. It also syncs between Mac and Windows.

    Also, it has a feature where it saves an archive copy of every single session you have with a document. So if I wanted, I could go back three months ago and see what my WIP looked like then.

    The first 2 or 4 GB are free, I forget. More than ample if you're just saving documents.

    It's all seamless and easy and in the background. You never have to do anything or think about it.

    PS: Although you can recover stuff you've accidentally deleted, it is a SYNCING and backup service. So if you delete it from YOUR computer, it will automatically delete on the backup and your other computers. (Although, again, you can restore anything you've accidentally deleted.)

    Just adding that because I knew someone who got confused about that.

  20. One word: Dropbox. It's an free online back-up and does it automatically each time you save. I've almost lost everything twice and did lose a bunch of writing once. One time my computer crashed and it cost quite a bit to get everything off. The one time I actually lost things was when my flash drive corrupt. Do NOT trust a flash drive as your only back-up.

    Emailing it to yourself works too, but it's kind of a pain.

  21. Here's the gospel on backups:

    If it's a machine, it's not a matter of if it will stop working, but WHEN?

    You must utilize Multiple sources, at least one of which is in a different physical location from your residence.

    Never rely on only 1 source. Online storage services can fail too, or just go out of business 1 day. Flash drives get lost or stop working.

    Ideally you have not 1 but 2 external hard drives. 1 you keep next to your desktop for routine daily or weekly backups. The second you keep in a safe deposit box in case of fire or flood. Back this one up once per year or every time you finish a new book.

    Gmail accounts are good for backing up manuscripts because they have no time limit on how long they will keep your mails, and have a 2GB limit.

    I roll with 1 external HDD, 2 flash drives and my gmail account.

    I've had about 6 computers in my life, about 5 years each. every single one of them has had an issuse at 1 point or another. If not the computer itself, then a bad windows update. You never know.

    remember: it's like a game of musical chairs. the data must always be on a working disk or it dies. therefore, anytime it is only on 1 disk–it is about to die! It must have a seat to go to when the music stops.

    Good luck, techno-newbs!

  22. "Like others, I e-mail myself anything that I want to be confident about. But, like Ryan, I'm wondering if I need to do more…."

    If you rely on email as a backup, make sure that your email service doesn't auto-delete after a certian period of time! Most do!

    also, a word to the wise:

    Using online services to backup manuscripts is fine, but I would be extremely carfeul about who you give access to your financial documents. For example, if I had a file with passwords to my various bank aocunt totaling over 1 million bucks, no way in hell would I trust that to any online service. It goes on an external HDD which is kept in my safe deposit box.

    TRUST NO ONE! It's your stuff, not some compan that you never see and who don't give a rat's ass about you. Beware of having your head in the CLOUD!

    If it's important, you must excercise 100% control of over the chain of custody of your data for its entire lifespan. Giving it to someone else can easily break that chain.

    Cloud storage is for newbs.

  23. Oh my goodness! I am so sorry for your friend. We learned our lesson a few years ago when our omputer crashed. We found a place that could recover most of the information, but not all of it. We now have an external drive that we keep in the bank and back up a couple times a year. I keep my writing on my laptop and a stick. I know I need to back up more often…I will…

  24. For those of you that only backup in an email, make sure it is one that is independent from your family service. No one likes to think about divorce, but I will never be able to use my first two MSS because my ex-husband now claims to have written them- and has the proof since all my writing was sent to the family email as backup. Those of you who write will understand that it's the principle; they were my creation, though not of a publishable quality, they were still mine.

  25. Seconding (or, really, thirding) Dropbox. My computers used to crash all the time. Now, I don't care if it crashes because I know all my writing is backed up on Dropbox. It takes the heart attack out of computer failure.

  26. Good luck with all those external hard drives.

    I tried that and it crashed. I found out that the company makes 5x the profit recovering data from crashed drives than they do from the selling the drive (big manufacturer–one of top two).

    Anything mechanical can break.

    I would go cloud and external hard drive

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