The Fiction University Tech Guy
Well, it's that time of year again. With a fresh set of resolutions in hand, we make bold plans, set strong agendas and optimistically get ready for the new year. If you are anything like us, that level of motivation will last about 10 days, maybe two weeks, then it's back to business as usual. So my goal today is to capitalize on the heady “I can do it” feeling that is coursing through our veins and help you make a solid positive step for your new year. Something you can accomplish in less time that a Geico commercial promises to save you 15% on your car insurance. This can save you a lot more though. It can save your world.
Pretty dramatic, right?
What I'm talking about is saving your writing, the worlds that you create. I'm talking about backing up your data.
“Data” It sounds so clinical, doesn't it? But you'll feel anything but clinical when your hard drive crashes, or a virus corrupts your files. Suddenly the worlds you have spent days, weeks and months creating will simply be gone. Well ok, maybe you will feel clinical: clinically depressed!
For nearly everyone, learning about backups works something like this: One day your computer is stolen, or your hard drive crashes and you lose all of the files you had not realized you depended on so much. You suddenly realize that there's no way to replace what was lost. Then in a vengeance you set out to buy hardware to do regular backups on, swearing that you'll never make that mistake again. You buy , , extra hard drives and even tape drives. Then over time you slowly forget to regularly maintain that backup regimen, and pretty soon you're right back where you started at.
This syndrome is actually pretty easy to avoid if you use the right tools. In fact, it can be so easy that you can fix it right now and not worry about it ever again. So let's take a few moments and talk about backing up your computer and what you can do to make it surprisingly easy to save the important stuff that matters.
Types of Backups
Backups generally fall into two broad categories: System and Data. A System backup is one where you are recording literally everything on your hard drive. These backups are huge, so most people fall out the habit of of performing backups regularly. Backup systems are only helpful if you actually use them regularly.
That's where Data backups come in. A Data backup is where you just backup the files that are meaningful to you and exist nowhere else: writing files, personal photos, the spreadsheet you track your bills on, a few choice videos or your baby. These are files that can never be replaced if they get lost. You can reinstall Windows, but you can't get back your wedding photos from MicroSoft.
There are a plethora of services available today that can make the task of routine backups of your critical files so simple that you will not even notice it happening. You can set it up once and ignore it from now on, knowing that you can easily shrug off a stolen laptop, or a crashed hard drive, even an accidentally deleted file.
Perhaps the best among these services is DropBox. You can set up a free account and get it up and running in under five minutes (Windows, MAC and Linix compatible). It will create a folder on your computer (or you can pick an existing one) and from now on, everything you put in that folder will have a copy saved on a remote server. The primary goal of DropBox is synching files among several computers. Janice uses it to keep her novel synched between her laptop and her desktop, so she can edit files from anywhere, anytime and never lose revisions or has to worry about working on an old copy. DropBox does this amazingly well. But you don't need multiple computers to take advantage of using DropBox as a .
With the free account, you get up to two GigaBytes of storage. (hint: when it comes to word processing files, that's a lot!) To give you an idea of how much that is, each book in the Healing Wars Trilogy only takes about 600 to 700k. Assuming Janice stored five drafts of each book, she could write over 600 books before she ran out of space on DropBox to store her files. And that's just the free version. You can increase to 50Gb or even 100Gb of storage by paying a monthly fee.
Each time you update a file in your selected folder, DropBox will automatically update the copy on their servers. If you are not online or it did not have enough time to synch up, don't worry. It will synch automatically the next time you are online. All you have to do is be online occasionally and all of your work will be safe and secure.
In the event that you need to recover your files, you just go to any computer and install DropBox and log in. All of your files will be delivered to the folder on the new computer. How easy is that?
As a personal note: I would not recommend using an for storing video and music. Video files tend to be rather large and can take a very long time to synch to the server.
It's easy, and you can set it up in less time than it took to read this post. So quick, while your energy level is high, your New Year's motivations are in full gear and before you have a chance to forget, make sure your backups are taken care of. If you already have your own backup strategy, check it and be sure that it is working correctly. If not, take five minutes and set up DropBox. When something bad happens, you'll be glad that this was the New Years' self improvement step you actually completed!
DropBox is available for Windows, MACs, Linix and even for your smartphone.