Friday, March 26, 2010

Backing up your writing: Is it secret? Is it safe?

Sorry to steal Gandalf's line there, but he does have a good point. Is your Precious safe? No, I don't mean your jewelry. Even if it can destroy the world. I mean your writing! Your writing, your ideas, your work-in-progress. How do you safeguard it?

This past summer my PC laptop suffered a horrible crash but the IT Gods at my workplace managed to recover my files. I was soooooo lucky. If that happened to you, would you be so lucky?

So here's a quick run-down of how you can save your writing. I am NOT a computer whiz, so by all means, if I've missed something, then please comment!

Flash Drive/USB
Pros: They're tiny, convenient, portable, and have no moving parts, so they don't break easily. And buying one that's at least 2GB is pretty cheap and easy.
Cons: They're easily misplaced or stolen, and it 's up to you to remember to use it to back up.

Burn to a disc/CD
Pros and Cons: similar to the USB, but more limitations on storage and size.

External Hard Drive
Pros: Separate from your computer, and you can save a huge amount of material. You can download software so this is done on an automatic schedule. On Mac, this is the Time Capsule/Time machine program.
Cons: Like the USB and CD, you're still susceptible to disasters of the catastrophic kind, like earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, theft, small children throwing stuff out the window... And hard drives can be pricey.

Use email.
Pros: it's remote, and password protected.
Cons: You're limited to how many files you can save at a time. And it's user dependent. If you forget, you forget. I used this all the time for day to day saves, until I got lazy one day and then my PC crashed...

Online/Remote Backup
There are a slew of companies that offer online backup at these mega-gargantuan servers. Mozy, IDrive, Carbonite, SOS to name just a few. I am using IDrive, which isn't perfect, but it does the job every night when I'm asleep.
Pros:You can automatically update whenever on any kind of schedule (daily, weekly) without lifting a finger after you download the program. Some have free (but limited) storage programs.
Cons: Many of the downloads are slow going and can have complicated interfaces but they aren't supposed to interfere with the functionality of your computer. If the company goes bust, what happens to your data?

I've included a bunch of reviews on online backup companies for you to peruse.
PC Mag review
Computer World review

And more specifically for Mac there's a review here MacWorld Review which got a bit too complicated for me but there was a nice comparison chart that made things clearer.

So what do you use? Anything I missed?

Addendum circa 2011: Right now, I use Dropbox and iDrive. So far so good!


Jaydee Morgan said...

I don't even want to imagine losing my work in a computer crash. I use flash drive, disc and email to back up my work - although I should probably do it more often than I do. Thanks for the reminder.

lbdiamond said...

Nice summary! I use the e-mail method...I did lose everything in December (hardrive crashed), but had old e-mails with most of my important stuff. Phew!!!! ;)

Elana Johnson said...

I've had the same thing happen! It was devastating, but the IT guys worked a miracle and I got everything back. After that, I used iDrive on my Mac and Mozy on my PC. And I do email my stuff to myself. Great post -- and a good reminder.

Kate Hart said...

Dropbox has saved me a few times.

Tahereh said...


eeeeee thank goodness for backups!!

great post! great reminder!!

Lydia Kang said...

Dropbox, that's a good one too.

Jana Hutcheson said...

I've been through two computer crashes so I save everything to a flash drive.

Sandy Shin said...

Great post! I think I haven't learned my lesson yet because I haven't had that happen to me before, but it's certainly one of my worst nightmares! I backed up some of my more important writings using Dropbox, and will have to send the files as emails to myself now...

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Excellent post. As soon as I read it I did an extra back up just to be safe :) I never realised there were so many ways to back up your wip. At the moment I use two different USB drives. I'm so looking into the other ways now.

Kirsten Lesko said...

Great round-up - thanks! I use a combination of emailing my Yahoo & saving to an external hard drive once per week.

Never heard of Dropbox as mentioned in the comments - I'll take a look.

Deb Salisbury said...

Oh-oh. Good points. I don't back up nearly as often as I should. (run off to look for disc)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Excellent post! This is an important reminder for all of us. :-)

Bee said...

I hand-write first so atleast the rough draft's safe, but great post.

I did lose a couple of poems thogh after my PC crashed, and I've never been able to produce them again :(

Kirk said...

Lets see....
I have back ups on two jump drives (incase I loose one), a flash card, my local harddrive, an external harddrive, another computer, through email, oh and I use

The online Office location is where I work from with each completed chapter being backed up among my various locations.

Yeah I'm paranoid.

Lydia Kang said...

I now use Dropbox, and I Drive. You completely outshine me in safety, Kirk. Awesome.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

When I was writing my novel, I emailed myself the updated version each day. I never back up my short stories. I think that's a mistake. Thanks for the reminder.

Kim_Office_Team said...

@Kirk -- Awesome that you're using Office Live Workspace to back up your work. I'm sure the community would love to hear about your experience at the Office Live page on Facebook. Join them at

@Lydia Such a great post! Really liked your recommendation to back up, back up, back up. Office Live Workspace is a great solution. If you or your readers want to learn more (it's free, too!) you can check out

Microsoft Office Live Outreach

The Words Crafter said...

I have lost things before and I CANNOT replicate my writing. Sometimes, I'll have a few sentences in my head that are pretty great, but by the time I get them written down, I've forgotten some of it. Sigh...

I use three flash drives. And I keep them all in the same place. I thought about an external drive....

Ruby said...

We can never be assured of what might happen to our computer, no matter how much we take care of it. If not internally, external forces like fire and water damage might crash it. Finding a reliable online backup system to store your file is your responsibility. Ask for suggestions, do your research, and make informed decision. Always prioritize the safety of your documents.

-Ruby Badcoe @ WilliamsDataManagement

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