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Back-Up Your Work!

3 July, 2012

You don’t have to frequent writing sites for long to come across someone who’s just lost their latest piece of work in a computer crash. On forums and blogs, Facebook and Twitter, there are plenty of people who’ve lost photos or music, films or ebooks, but when it’s your own work, and potentially something you’ve spent weeks or months on, that loss is even more catastrophic. Where I work, I’ve seen students in tears when they’ve discovered that they’ve saved their dissertation to the wrong folder before logging off, or the file has been corrupted, or they’ve left their USB stick in a computer and someone else has walked off with it.

Now, this is a particularly unglamorous side of the creative life, but just think about it for a minute. Imagine you’ve just lost a whole morning’s writing. Imagine you’ve lost the entire first draft of your novel. Imagine, even, that you’ve lost every single piece of writing you’ve saved on your computer, perhaps stretching back years. If, as a writer, that doesn’t make your blood run cold, then it’s likely nothing will.

It is, thankfully, incredibly easy to make sure these losses don’t happen, with just a little foresight and potentially a little money. You can save your work to a USB stick, to multiple computers, to external hard drives, to your email account. My personal favourite method, though, has been to sign up to not one but two cloud storage facilities, so that I can store my work on someone else’s secure servers, and ensure that even if every single computer, USB stick and hard drive I own is destroyed, I’ll still have access to everything I’ve ever written.

My first choice was Dropbox. Every piece of writing I create is saved into the Dropbox folder on my computer, and synced to their servers almost instantaneously. I’m using Dropbox’s free service, but have still found I’ve only used about 20% of that storage space with all my writing files. (As an aside, Scrivener recommends you don’t save its working files into Dropbox, so I instead create Scrivener back-ups twice a day or so, which are synced to Dropbox.)

I’m also currently using Crashplan. There a number of similar services available (Mozy and Carbonite seem to be two of the most popular) but Crashplan was my choice for its compatibility with external hard drives – where my huge collection of photos and music is saved – unlimited storage for a single PC and its general ease of use (namely allowing me to choose exactly which important folders I want to back-up, rather than attempting to sync every file and every preference from my computer).

So, there you go. It’s unglamorous, perhaps a little bit boring and might cost you $50 a year, but knowing your writing is backed-up, safe and secure from every possible disaster removes one unnecessary worry from the so many creative people saddle themselves with!


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