Backup plan

The calamity of a fellow writer’s hard drive crash saw us discussing backups during the SuperNOVA critiquing session yesterday. It’s always a huge wake-up call for me when this happens, because no matter how diligent and disciplined I am with backing up, there’s always a corner I’ve cut somewhere that could catch me out.

The most likely reason a backup file would be required is hard drive failure. I’m extremely fortunate this has never happened to me, because until about six months ago, my backups were sporadic and shamefully occasional. Moreover, I’d only backup the absolutely essential files. Every so often (frequently after several months) I’d email a copy of my most recent file to work and/or store on a USB drive. Lazy.

More recently, I purchased an external hard drive which automatically backs up every change to every file as it happens. Plus it retains incremental copies of all the files, should a recent one become corrupted or accidentally deleted. Fabulous peace of mind, but . . . it makes my computer run so s  l  o  w  l  y. At the time of yesterday’s discussion, I knew that the hard drive was unplugged due to my frustration with this and had been for about a week. (Squirms of guilt and mild panic ensued.) It’s plugged in now, so all is well again, except for the periodic slow patches when it creates a recovery point or backs up the entire hard disk. I can’t figure out how to stop it from doing this.

But . . . while brilliant insurance against hard drive failure, the external drive is not going to help against fire or — as was pointed out to me yesterday — theft. I admit I naively convinced myself that only the most cruel house thief would steal both the laptop and the external hard drive (doh!) and how likely is fire anyway?

Not really good enough. So how does the average person implement a regular offsite backup? There’s ‘the cloud’ perhaps, but a) how safe is it from hackers (and is this a serious issue anyway)? and b) is it possible to implement something automatic (for only automatic backups will be really effective)? Something for me to investigate.

Otherwise I can only see manual methods that are limited in either volume or regularity (as impacted by afore-mentioned diligence and discipline) — such as save to USB drive and keep in one’s handbag (not always practical), burn to CD and leave with a friend or family member, or email selected files to same. None of these are entirely satisfactory, but I guess they’d be better than losing everything.

I’m interested in people’s thoughts and approaches to offsite backups.

3 comments

  1. I have started using Dropbox and I must say, it is a godsend. I am currently working on a proposal that is at the moment >20 pages long and would you know, my work computer wouldn’t allow me to access any files today! However, I had the foresight to upload the latest version to Dropbox, and could therefore access it from any other computer. If you make any changes to a file, Dropbox automatically syncs to the website and any computer where you have the Dropbox folder (as long as the working document is in this folder). I would be happy to send you a referral (which also gives me more storage space ;P)

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  2. Hi Ellen,

    HAve you had a look at Dropbox? It creates a folde ron your machine (which is where I save writing stuff to, and set Scrivener to back up to) and it syncs it to the cloud. If you have it setup on multiple computers it syncs it across them all.

    The free version gives you about 2gig I think.

    I am not really concerned about the security issues, or being hacked. I terms of data loss, I assume they have lots of backup servers and I still do my own backups when I remember as an extra layer of security.

    As much as I would love to be that famous, I can’t see anyone making a huge effort to still anyo of my writing either!

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  3. That’s two votes for Dropbox, which sounds exactly what I need, particularly since I’m often working off two computers (one at home, one out and about) and keep getting all tangled with versions and stuff.

    Hayley – please send referral so you can get your extra storage space!

    Thanks so much, guys.

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