Back It Up!

January 14th, 2010 • Kate

backblazeI’m in the middle of the horrifyingly worrisome process of backing up all my essential electronic files for the installation of a new hard drive for my laptop. I’ve had an external hard drive that I keep all my music on for a few years, and I also used it to backup my work documents, past attempts at writing of my own, and my photographs. Well, yesterday, while trying to do a more thorough back-up, I filled it up. One trip to my favorite electronics store later (I love you, MicroCenter!) , I had a shiny new cayenne-colored hard drive that was more than twice the size of my old one. Now, I *think* I got all the important files backed up and copies over, and I moved all my music files, and pointed iTunes at their new location, but I’m still nervous. What if I missed something?

As writers, I imagine this thought is even more paralyzing. The fear of losing something you’ve labored over for hours and days and weeks and months… well, it’s terrifying.

So, I’m curious: how do you handle it? Do you back your work up in multiple places? How do you do it? Besides my external hard drive and my manual attempts to back it up, I also use Backblaze and DropBox. Plus, all my email goes through Gmail, which keeps copies of everything, and I’ve got all my photos backed up on Flickr.

If your computer crashed or your house was on fire, what’s the one file or group of files that you would want saved?

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26 Responses to “Back It Up!”

  1. Lisa Gibson Says:

    I've had to totally wipe my HD and it's not fun. I still shudder at the memory. I now put everything on a skydrive and still save copies of it in other places (can you say obsessive compulsive). I know someone who lost their thumb drive. My nightmare would be to see my book on the shelves with someone other author's name. Not likely, I know but nightmarish, just the same.

  2. Joel Says:

    As a professional geek, I have to say you are on the right track. Photos are generally the files folks miss the most with a computer crash (trust me, I have had them eagerly looking over my shoulder during attempted recoveries on numerous occasions). The trick is to have reliable backups that are preferably kept offsite. It does no good to have a backup of all your files next to your PC when your house catches fire.

    GMail is a good place for your mail, they have a good track record, though I do sincerely question whether Google is capable of backing up all that mail themselves. Microsoft/T-Mobile/Danger/Sidekick had a recent data loss. For a while they were telling customers that recovery of their data was unlikely, but they did come through in the end. It is a fair warning to not trust your important data to only have one copy, even if it is someone as reliable as Google.

    It sounds like you have taken prudent and reasonable precautions prior to the replacement of the drive. You should be fine. What I would suggest, is that you ask whomever is doing the drive replacement, to not only allow you to keep the previous drive (which if they are respectable they should without question), but that you would also like them to mount the drive into an external drive enclosure just in case you need to access it for files. An external enclosure is usually around $25, and will make it so you can always just plug it into your laptop using USB. That should help you alleviate any concerns about your backups missing something(as adequate as they probably are) and provide you with a nice portable drive for future use.

  3. Shannon Says:

    My husband is very techy. We have a computer that is used purely for networking and saving backups. I am not techy, so that's about as much as I know. If I ever get nervous, I backup with a flash drive.

  4. Rissa Watkins Says:

    My stomach did a flip when I read this because I haven't backed up since many revisions ago. eep!

    I have a thumb drive for the book but as a back up I also email it to myself.

    Pictures are backed up on thumb drive and when I remember shutterfly.

    Of course after reading Lisa's post I am going to have nightmares of losing my flash drive now.

    Maybe I will invest in a back-up hard drive and store it at my IT neighbor's house.

  5. Rebecca (Fie Eoin) Says:

    I've lost a couple books (whole books!) to computer crashes when I first started writing, and while I just recently found one of them on a cd in case such a thing happened (rejoice!), I'm not going to let that happen again. I've now got every piece of writing saved to my website server (in a secure area that no one can get to, of course), emailed to myself on gmail, and on memory sticks. I also use locked LJ posts to put up a lot of my writing, and I hand-write most of it, so even if I lose ALL of the electronic copies I can always re-type it up (which is a PAIN, but which I am doing with one book that I lost part of in that crash mentioned above).

    So maybe I'm a little paranoid about it now, but loosing that much work in one stroke will do that to you 😉

  6. Margaret Says:

    When I get a new computer or laptop, it always has a bigger drive, so the first thing I do is copy over the whole hard drive from the old one. That way, I can delete the useless stuff, but I don't chance losing something I wanted but didn't think about…like my favorites.

    As far as backups, I sent an incremental nightly to my gmail account as a zip file and do all the critical areas to DVD monthly.

  7. Sam Downing Says:

    Your tweets about backing-up last night actually inspired me to do a back-up (my first in a couple of months, eep), so: thanks!

    But I also have a special Gmail account set up (separate from my day-to-day one). At the end of every writing day, I email the most recently updated document/s to that account for safekeeping. Just in case.

    I've lost work before, and it can be devastating, particularly if you've lost huge amounts (fortunately, I've never lost anything more than a day or two's work). If you're a writer and you've never backed up your hard drive, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE go buy an external hard drive and back-up TODAY. I get nervous just thinking about all that un-backed-up work floating around out there!

  8. Stina Says:

    My old computer died last year and everything was lost on it. Fortunately, all my novel related stuff and the majority of my photos had been backed up on DVDs, email, and flash sticks. The only thing I did lose were some photos from our vacation I hadn't backed up. Unfortunately, I had planned to use some of them for my blog. Oops!

    I had an external hard drive, but it failed ten months after I bought it. My DVDs are stored in a fire proof box since fires don't care how precious your memories might be.

  9. Delilah S. Dawson Says:

    Oh, I'm such a Luddite. I keep photos on KodakGallery, but my writing is saved on a thumb drive and some email trails on Gmail and Yahoo, and that's it. Time to throw the typewriter into the donkey cart and get with the program.

  10. --Deb Says:

    I've been neglectful of backups lately (deadly, I know, but I have THOUSANDS of photos and they don't all fit on my external backup drive). The really important stuff, though? My writing docs? On the computer, on two separate thumb drives, on my laptop, and even on my computer at the day job. You know, just in case.

  11. Derrick Camardo Says:

    I just email it to myself in a couple places. Unless all the email providers fail at once or internet as we know it blows up, I think I'm good.

    (Okay, I also have it on a flash drive, and my hard drive, and my parent's hard drive, and sometimes I make hard copies of what I have…)

    I'm not some paranoid writer or something like that.

  12. AudryT Says:

    Actually, the one thing I'd want to save in case of fire is the first story I wrote, of which there is only one copy, hand-written in pencil. ^_^

  13. Amy L. Sonnichsen Says:

    I came really close to losing EVERYTHING this summer when we made a cross-Pacific move. Our Chinese computer didn't work in America for some reason, and I'd been so busy moving I didn't make back-up copies like I should have. It was very stressful, but I'm thankful for the Geek Squad! They were able to retrieve everything from our Chinese computer. Now, as a back-up, I periodically email myself copies of my WIPs. But I know I should also be saving them elsewhere, too. I just need to get in the habit, I guess.

  14. Meghan Ward Says:

    I'm glad you brought this up. I first started backing up on a Zip drive after seeing the Sex in the City episode in which Carrie gets the sad Mac face and loses all her files (and buys a Zip drive). Now I have an external hard drive that I back up to with Time Machine, DropBox for all my documents, SmugMug for all my photos, and I've been meaning for several months to subscribe to a service like DropBox where I can put ALL my data (for less money than DropBox charges for that much data) – and I want a place outside of CA in case we have a huge earthquake! Maybe I'm paranoid, but I've also had two laptops die and lost a fair amount of data on each (despite backing up efforts). Before I used DropBox, I would also e-mail myself my book at the end of each day when I was working on it.

  15. Jenny Says:

    My poor, dear, computer-genius husband lost a school paper he had been working on for weeks right before it was due because his jump drive chose that day to die. It was one of the few times I've actually seen him cry (don't tell him I told you). Since then I email everything to multiple addresses and use a jump drive and a backup jump drive. Sounds paranoid I know, but hey, you don't mess around with grades:)

  16. Fiona Says:

    Microsoft officelive for my word documents (as long as you have an internet connection it's as easy to save to the cloud as it is to your hard drive). Copy on laptop hard drive. Copy on memory stick. New hard copy of changes to WIP at least every week. Google documents as final backup.

    Um – does all that seem a bit paranoid?

  17. Gill Avila Says:

    I'm old-fashioned; I print out a triple-spaced (for editing) hard copy. I'm very tactile–I love whiteout and pencils, not to mention that an original manuscript with the author's own corrections might someday be a collectible (dream!)

  18. Tiffany Schmidt Says:

    I don't even want to think about this — again. I DID have a computer die overnight. I went to bed and it was fine and woke up to a box of chips and wires that wouldn't turn on. And all the king's horses and all the king's men and all the tech guys at four different companies couldn't fix it.

    I now have a Mac and MobileMe syncs my files and backs them up automatically. I also burn my documents folder onto a CD once a month and do weekly e-mail backups.

    I'm so glad to see I'm not the only paranoid one!

  19. B.E. Sanderson Says:

    I'm still in the stoneage. I back each book up to its own floppy as I make changes. When I finish a draft, I email it to my gmail account. About once a month, I burn everything to a CD – including my pictures. During 'The Great Computer Crash of 2006', my harddrive fried and I lost a ton of pictures that I hadn't bothered to transfer to CD. Some of those I recovered because I'd sent them to friends and family, but most are on a defunct piece of equipment in hopes technology will someday save them.

  20. Kathleen Says:

    I use a little free program called SyncBack for backing my stuff up to a second hard drive. It is SO easy, for you set up which folders you want it to backup, and it automatically runs through them and makes sure that you got EVERYTHING. No more worries!

    I highly recommend it.

  21. Abby Stevens Says:

    After nearly having a heart attack when I thought I lost a jump drive with three chapters of my book on it, a friend convinced me to use Dropbox – I LOVE it. So convenient, makes it easy to access my work from other computers, and secure.

  22. Johnnie Says:

    I email my manuscript chapters to another email account.

  23. Kate Says:

    You'll all be pleased to know, I hope, that my re-installation of Win 7 went well. IN the course of things, I reinstalled DropBox, installed SyncBack for automatically scheduled backups of certain files to my external hard drive, and am working on reinstalling BackBlaze (as soon as I can figure out what password I set for it). Yes, I've got a lot of redundancies, but I've got a LOT of stuff!

  24. Shannon Says:

    Funny (not laughing). The evil back up gods struck today. Someone please tell me how you can loose almost 300 pages of written work but still have the file. Yep! (need to really pop the "p") When I click on the file a single empty page apprears. One screaming phone call to my hubby and what does he say???? Hm? HM? "That's why you should back up on a flash drive everyday, Honey." [Insert long string of superlatives] My last flash drive backup was 5 days ago – so I lost a few things. Ugh. Could have been worse.

  25. Joel Says:

    @Shannon, depending on what your computer is running, you may have a more recent copy than you think. If your computer is running Vista or Windows 7, by default it will make shadow copies of your file. Just right click on the file and click properties. If you have a tab that says "Previous Version" you may be in luck. It will let you revert back to a previous version of the file.

    Shadow copies do no good against hardware failure, but they do wonders for corrupt files or user errors.

  26. Shannon Says:

    Joel – Thanks. I checked properties, but I am finding nothing. Couldn't even find something that says "previous version." This #*%^$*# computer is 3 months old – I on Vista which I hate more than a trip to the OB (sorry, a little freaking irritated right now). Superhusband is going to come home and save the day – I hope, I hope, I hope…. Thanks for suggestions.YDM!