Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Backup Your Backup Copies!

By Darvell Hunt

Best-selling writer Dave Wolverton once told me that he lost a year of his work because his laptop computer went missing.

A friend of mine recently lost her data from her cell phone when she upgraded to a newer phone, despite being assured by her cell phone company that they had backed up her data from her old phone.

Whether your loss is as small as your contacts on your cell phone or a year’s worth of best selling material, any data loss can be terribly frustrating, especially if that loss can be prevented.

I guess I'm paranoid about backup up my writing, almost to the point of being obsessive compulsive. I keep at least five copies of all of my writing, sometime more. My primary writing drive is a small 8GB USB drive that I keep in my wallet and carry with me at all times. Whenever I need to write, I can just take it out for easy access to my entire library of material, no matter what computer I have access to at the time (sometimes, it’s not even mine!).

I back up my portable writing USB drive regularly to my desktop computer, my laptop computer, and an external 500GB drive that I can use on any of my computers, and a different USB portable drive. I also occasionally make copies of whatever I’m currently writing on the computer I’m using (if it’s my computer, that is).

A few months ago, my primary writing computer was stolen from work, right off my desk—presumably by the cleaning crew. But, fortunately for me, I had my primary drive in my pocket—but if I hadn’t had that, I still would have had at least three other copies elsewhere. (And, if you place your files within your user document storage area and use a Window password, nobody can access your files without your permission.)

Even with all of this redundant storage, I still don’t feel completely safe. If my house burned down and my laptop and my wallet were in the house, I might lose everything. It’s a good idea to store an extra copy elsewhere, perhaps using an online service or in a safe deposit box or leave a copy with a friend.

Disk space is cheap nowadays. Make copies of everything you have and don’t store them all in the same place. Someday, when you least expect it, you’ll be rewarded for your paranoia, I guarantee it.


Moriah Jovan said...

I have an external hard drive I work from because I wanted something to take with me that I could just grab in case of a house/family emergency. I might not be able to save my other belongings in a flood or fire, but the loss of data would be devastating.

I keep it and its cord accessible. Just in case.

Th. said...


I've lost two nearly complete novels.




Moriah Jovan said...

Oh, Th., that's horrible! :(

Eugene said...

If you have a reasonably fast Internet connection, definitely get Mozy. The first 2 GB are free, and at least for me, everything in My Documents (except for My Music) takes up less space than that.

The first time you run Mozy, it'll keep your hard drive busy for several hours while it images your files. After that, it saves the "delta" (the difference between the image and the files you've changed). It's fast and transparent (it can be instructed to make backups when the computer is idle), and has never given me a lick of trouble. With the "free" plan, you only pay if you have to restore more than one file a month. I think of it as fire insurance.

Another free Internet service is Box. Unlike Mozy, you treat Box like an ordinary external hard drive. The free plan offers 1 GB of storage with a 10 MB individual file limit.

I also image my entire hard drive every six months or so using an external LaCie USB self-powered hard drive (the size of a pack of playing cards), and make critical backups to a couple of USB flash drives.

Darvell Hunt said...

Oh, man, th., that's terrible. I've lost a lot of information before, but not that much.

I remember once when I wrote the same chapter three times in the same day because I somehow kept overwriting the one I just wrote. This was working from a 5.25" floppy disk when I was in college. Very frustrating, but I think the third version, after two practices, was pretty good. LOL.


Darvell Hunt said...

Good suggestions, Eugene. It sounds like that online service is right down my alley. (It's cool having your own alley!)

Eugene said...

In a pinch, you can email files (as attachments) to your Google or Yahoo email account.

Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen said...

It's funny you wrote about this. Just last night I dreamt our house caught on fire and I saw myself breaking the window into the computer room--after we were safely outside (or was I on my way to make sure everyone was out?)--and reaching through the broken glass for my usb drive. The dream was so effective, one of the first things I did this morning was e-mail my current book in progress to myself.