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Backups and the skinny earlobe

November 28th, 2010

A lot of creative types spend every waking moment (and some sleeping ones) creating, well stuff. And that’s really the point. Being a writer, I hook onto anything that can keep up with my slightly skewed brain (Okay, maybe ‘slightly’ is not strong enough). I chew through notebooks like I’m a starved goat, but at the end of the day, I transcribe most of my writing into electronic form.

There lies the risk. If you’re a computer user that has never lost files on a hard drive, floppy drive (shudder at the ancient history), or even a CD-Rom to a glitch or a crash, then you have an electronic angel watching over you. The sad truth is that you will lose something valuable to your creative heart at some point.

Okay. Come out of the dark closet. That cluttered corner won’t protect your stories and poems and novels. But you do perform regularly, automated backups, don’t you? No? Well, don’t feel bad. You are in the majority.

There are a number of free or inexpensive online backup solutions that can cut some of that chill that just swept up your spine. For example,  Carbonite averages less than $5 a month and works great. I personally like Mozy which has a free service (2GB total) that is simple to use and an upgrade to unlimited use is only $4.95 per month. There are more expensive solutions online that I won’t go into here, but a quick search engine trip will turn up dozens of paid (and additional free) services.

You might not need an automated service and there are other free ideas that will cover you in a crash, but aren’t automated. So, if you forget to backup your files, you’re toast (Orange Marmalade is extra). I’ve heard of writers emailing their documents to an online email service (like Gmail or Yahoo Mail). Of course, you can burn files to a CD-R(W) or copy them to a thumb drive or external hard drive (MS SyncToy is a great tool for scheduling a synchronization of your internal document folders to an external hard drive).

The final detail for you to iron out is how often you should backup your files and how many copies to make. I’m a little paranoid (alright, alright, more than a little). Since Word documents are relatively small, I use SyncToy to synchronize my writing folders from my internal hard drive to an inexpensive USB drive daily. Some standards-setting gurus will say that you need to keep three separate copies of your critical data to prevent double failures (again, paranoid). I use Mozy to automatically backup changed files (my third copy). And then my real paranoia kicks in. I burn a CD-R once a week and hide it in the back yard far away from the Yard Gnome party pit. Those guys will burn anything to keep their fire going.

You want to funnel your worry into something creative and fun and not wonder if that best-selling novel you’ve been working on for that past XX years is being eaten by hungry hard drive marmots dead set on seeing your career disappear with your files. A backup is nearly as important as your drunk muse. So, backup your files and leave out a shot of Tito’s Vodka for the muse.

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