Monday, 5 December 2011

Back Up ... Back Up ... Back Up ...

Of the many nightmares a writer can have, losing all of our work must be one of the most frightening. Especially if it is a big project, like a novel, non-fiction book, or a series of articles.

But there are some online services which can prove useful to writers in several ways too. Dropbox (www.dropbox.com) offers registered users 2 gigabytes of storage, online, for free. It is possible to increase this to 8Gb for free, although further space is available for a fee. I find the free 2Gb is perfectly adequate for how I use it.

Dropbox installs a folder on your computer. (It works with all operating systems). Whatever you save in that folder is automatically saved and copied to an identical folder online. So, should your hard drive suddenly decide to go up in smoke (which has happened to me in the past) all is not lost. You simply switch on another computer and connect to your online Dropbox account, and you are up and running again.

Dropbox also allows you to work on the same project on different computers. When you have a Dropbox account, any computer you work on, can be linked to this. I have a desktop computer and a laptop, and so I have my Dropbox folder on both. If I'm working on a project on my desktop computer, when I save it, the updated copy is uploaded to my online Dropbox folder. Then, when I next switch on my laptop, one of the first things my laptop does is update the copy of the file from the online folder. This means that whichever computer I happen to be using, I can work with the current copy of the text. And should the worst happen, there's always a recent copy on my online folder.

I don't save everything to Dropbox. I save any current 'big' projects to my Dropbox folder, such as novels and non-fiction books. (They're the ones I would be most devastated about, if my computer were to suffer a catastrophe!)

There's also another online service called SugarSync. (www.sugarsync.com) It, too, enables you to use free online storage space (about 5Gb for free - more storage space can be acquired for a fee) as a back up to your work. Unlike Dropbox where you have to put the files you want backed up into one specific folder on your computer, SugarSync works differently - you tell it which of your existing folders you want it to back up. So by using a combination of the two free services can provide you with a more than adequate amount of back up space for your text.

Don't just rely on these online services though. Always take extra back up precautions. I save a complete copy of my work once a week, on two different hard drives, which means that the important files on Dropbox are backed up every time I save them (several times a day) and then again, when everything else is backed up weekly.

So, don't have nightmares - back up frequently!

Good luck.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for this, Simon. I investigated Dropbox after seeing your letter in Writers' Forum and it appears to be a very useful tool. However, I did notice the Ts & Cs specifically do not guarantee the safety of any data - so, as you say, it's wise to do your own backup as well.

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  2. Hi Sally,

    Yes, the Ts and Cs do give the companies a get-out clause - which is understandable for a free service - but you're right, you cannot rely on them as guaranteed services. Having said that - I've been using them for a year or so now and have not had any problems. But you're right ... you can never have too many backups!

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  3. When I'm in the middle of editing a chunky book, I often email myself a copy as I go along.

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  4. Hi Julia,

    Yes, I've heard of some writers setting up a Gmail address specifically for backups. Then you email to your backup address a copy of your text and it's stored away from your house, yet is accessible from anywhere, online!

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