Back it Up. Way Up.
So I was noodling around this week looking for topics to write about, and came across a video, of all things.
Shared by a friend, taking place very near where I used to live, it may at first seem to have nothing to do with writing. However, as I was watching that and contemplating what that homeowner has just lost, I was reminded that I have not yet talked about the backup systems I put in place earlier this year.
You should, of course, have some kind of backup drive on your computer. I have a nifty little one that isn’t much bigger than a deck of cards, but packs two terabytes of memory. The one that goes with my laptop I even got a carry case for, so it could travel with me and I wouldn’t risk losing a word. I’ve been talking with friends about building a second hard drive into my laptop that is essentially a replicate of the one I run, so in case of failure I could simply switch over. Given that the First Reader’s desktop is currently in the shop with what we thought was a dead motherboard or CPU, but which replacing those two things didn’t revive it… and that computer is only two years old. These things happen.
To round out the physical backups I also have a 4TB home cloud – a storage tower which can be wirelessly networked to the home computers and allows everyone access to commonly used files. I also use it for backup for my photography and art files, since they can get very bulky in terms of digital memory size. It’s a cool thing, a little time-consuming to set up, but with kids and my husband all able to access photos or music at will (we don’t own a lot of movies, but that’s supposed to be a big feature if you do that kind of thing) it’s far more convenient than me having to email stuff whenever they want it.
However, all of that is vulnerable if something happens at the house. Like being washed off the foundations… or a house fire, or a burglary, or whatever disaster can befall. So while these are the first line of my backups, I have two more, for a three-deep defense against loss of files and data. If you only ever write long-hand in notebooks, they are gone when the house is.
I took some time in considering how I would set up off-site backups. I use Dropbox for transferring files to clients – very large print-ready PDF files do not fit through email servers! – but after looking at what it would cost annually to use it as a backup for most of my files I opted to go in another direction. There is a cost with using cloud storage, unless your backup is small, and mine is not, but that’s just part of doing business and I’m happy to pay for a reliable service I don’t need to worry about suddenly disappearing and losing access to my stuff. I wound up going with two different things: Google for backing up documents, and Amazon Prime for backing up photos since they offer unlimited space for images. Google backup works fairly seamlessly: You set up the Backup and Sync app on your desktop, and tell it which folders it should back up. For $1.99 a month (and I think there’s a yearly rate, if you prefer to pay that way) you get 100 GB which is what I’m using since this isn’t a full backup for me, just my documents folder.
However, this is great if you want to be able to access your files when you are traveling, which I do. Being able to grab whatever manuscript I want (or, as I have needed to do, legal documents) when I was not at home is so very nice. If I didn’t remember to grab a file and put it on my laptop, as long as I have internet, I have that file. It’s so cool to live in the science fiction present!
My final line of defense is a full system image backup in the cloud. I’m using Backblaze, which is $50 a year, and should my hard drive fail, I’d just have to set up a new machine, and suck down the disk image from the web and voila! Back to the old set-up and all my data intact. Now, mind you, this protects one computer, and I suspect it would take ages to do that download. However, given how much data I have on this computer it’s essential to have it backed up: documents, images, artwork, client artwork and files, and so on and on.
But what if you don’t hit save? you might be asking. Actually, that is a concern, although I have myself fairly well trained to save anytime I look away from a file. However, I’m also doing most if not all of my rough drafts in Google Docs, because I can access them from anywhere, they save automatically, and I can share with my first readers (I do have more than one) and get real-time help on sticky spots. I then take the text into Word and format it the way I want it when it’s all said and done. Over the last year this has become a necessity as I’m rarely writing at home – lots of lunch time composition and so forth.
Three lines of defense. Because if you don’t have a plan for failure, you’re planning to fail, and there’s no point in setting up a defense unless it’s a defense in depth.