by Steve Laube
The question is not if your hard drive will fail, it is a question of when. At least twice a year I have a client who has lost their hard drive to equipment failure. There was a recent story of an editor at Wired magazine who got hacked via a security hole in his Amazon and Apple accounts. He not only lost data, he lost all the digital pictures of his baby girl. He wrote the article as a cautionary tale. As the editor admits, he knew better, but did not follow his own advice. So my question to you is, “Do you have a backup plan?”
Hit the Save Button Regularly
Many think that just hitting the “save” button is enough. Sorry. That only saves the file to your local computer. And if that computer fails, you are toast. While hitting the save button helps with immediate things it isn’t a long term solution. What if someone steals your laptop while you turned your back to refresh your drink at the coffee shop?
Save to an External or Portable Backup Device or E-mail Service
Keeping your files on an external drive or a USB thumb drive is okay. But what if you lose the thumb drive (they are so small!)? Or what if you forget to take the external drive with you…and your computer is stolen from your office, along with the external drive?
Remember, if your program allows, to not to back up the programs, just the data. That way if a program is corrupted and stops working you are not backing up the problem program.
E-mailing it to yourself or to a separate email account can work. Hard to manage if you have dozens of files to mess with, but it is a solution I’ve seen used. For example, create a Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo Mail account just for back up purposes. But make sure it is separate from your regular email service. Keeps things in different places in case of something going down.
Use Your Agent, Family member, or a Friend
Believe it or not I have a few authors who send me their manuscript as a backup (via email). At least a dozen times I’ve been able to find an old proposal or manuscript in my archives because the author’s computer failed. It does mean trusting a third party with your material. Thus only do this with selected material and only with those you trust.
Save the File to the Cloud
This is becoming an ever more popular option. And has many benefits. The cloud is a “computer in the sky” which is easily accessed by you at any time.
One option is Dropbox – acts like a briefcase that you can access from any computer anywhere. You drop your file in the box and it is “safe.” But you have to remember to manually drop new versions of the file into Dropbox. Or you must keep the original in the Dropbox and access it that way every time. But what if you can’t get Internet access? or what if Dropbox is unavailable for some reason?
I prefer one of two alternatives. SugarSync or Cubby. Each of these are Cloud services and both give you up to 5GB of free storage to start with. The difference from Dropbox is that your original file sits on your computer and a copy is synced to the Cloud. I use the Cubby program. I like the idea that I can simply have it sync an entire folder and all its contents. Anytime a file is changed it is synced within minutes. Anytime a file is added to that folder it is synced. Thus I can have access to any of the critical files on my office computer from any device (phone, iPad, etc.) or Internet browser.
Backup Everything to the Cloud
I highly recommend you use this fail-safe backup plan. This is where you back up all the data on your computer off-site…all the time, automatically, while you are connected to the Internet. The two most popular programs are Mozy and Carbonite. I use Carbonite at the office. There is a cost for these services (Mozy costs $60 a year for 50GB of storage or $120 for 150GB. Carbonite is only $60 a year for unlimited storage).
With Carbonite I have backed up all my music files and all my digital pictures in addition to all the office documents and data. The advantage with this method is that you are being backed up every time you are not working on your computer, automatically. You don’t have to think about backing up, it is done for you. If you have a complete hard drive failure or buy a new computer you can reload all your data from your back up. Or, as happened to me, a particular file got corrupted for some reason. I went to Carbonite and downloaded the saved version of that file and within minutes was up and running again.
I like a combination of Cubby and Carbonite. The one syncs my key folders to the cloud but keeps the originals under my control in the office. Carbonite is a fail-safe of everything. I know that my family photos are safe as well as other important things. (Just make sure you use a really good password! You don’t want someone stealing everything because you used an easily guessed password, like “password.”)
There are many other options available. What do you use as your back up plan?