Back Up or Suffer the Consequences

Being a techie guy, sometimes I assume things I do are things everyone does. In my time working in the IT field, it’s been made very clear to me that even in this digital age people do not take basic precautions to ensure their data is safe. Us nerds all shout from the mountaintop but until it happens to you, you’ll continue to ignore the warning: Back up your data.

I think about data backup every once in a while but it was an event that took place on Saturday that drove a point home to one writer’s social circle. My friend Melanie posted on Facebook that she was on the home stretch of her edits and she was showing the last 80 pages of her WIP who’s boss. We cheered and encouraged her to make it to the end. Shortly thereafter a post came up that would strike fear in the hearts of any writer:

I’ve edited 80 pages… and FINISHED this draft, then… my anti-virus software deleted my files.

A collective “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” was heard across the interwebs as we all experienced something no one should go through: the loss of data into the ether of nothingness. Now Melanie’s a smart cookie because she backs up her files but those were gone too. She also syncs to Dropbox where the files were gone as well. What’s a writer to do? Luckily Dropbox is awesome and THEY also back up files. Using their handy dandy website, Melanie was able to recover a very-recent version of her manuscript and get almost everything back. An insurmountable 80-page loss turned into a completely doable 17-page recreation. With the edits fresh in her mind, 30-minutes was all she needed to reach the end again.

What’s the moral of the story? You guessed it: Back up your data. This is something I’ve been obsessed with for years and ever since I began writing a few years ago, I’ve become more diligent to ensure I lose nothing. When I write in Scrivener, it auto-saves every 3 seconds of idle time after any change has been made to my WIP. It also has a built-in ‘Snapshots’ feature that keeps versions of each part of the document. I try to take a snapshot every few writing sessions. Once I’m done for the day, my Mac has Time Machine running to take care of the rest. In less than 60-minutes, it’s hourly backup runs and copies the file to my spare drive. That’s not enough for me though. I also use OS X’s Backup program to back up my entire ‘Writing’ folder daily at 1AM. Finally, every once in a while I will also completely duplicate my WIP file into a backup file in case the master version is ever corrupted beyond repair.

Between all these methods, it would take a catastrophic failure of epic proportions (or someone really messing with me) to cause my WIP to be lost forever. Luckily for me Time Machine also backs up my entire Mac so my music, movies and irreplaceable photos are also safe. Remember we live in a digital world where data is erased forever as easily as it’s created. If you do ANYTHING creative backing up is not an option. It’s required.

UPDATE: November, 2011

I’ve recently added CrashPlan as yet another backup solution. This is off-site, automated backup that will take the place of Apple’s Backup service that is going away in the middle of next year. It’s cheap ($3 a month for unlimited storage) and works without thinking. The fact that I have massive amounts of huge SLR photos on my hard drive means I need a rock-solid solution. Off-site backup is the best way to go, but I’ve not abandoned my other methods because redundant backups is the best solution.

PS- Help Melanie out!! Dropbox is a fantastic and FREE service and gives you extra space if your friends sign up. Since I don’t even use half of my space, the Dropbox link in paragraph 3 is Melanie’s referral. Sign up through that link to toss her some extra space while you get 2Gb!

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