On my Facebook feed, I’ve seen writers get frustrated with losing their work, or if they’re forward thinking, worrying in advance about how to cope in the worst case scenario. I used to work in IT and while I’ve tried to shift my focus more to writing and not get distracted by the technology, I’ve still maintained an interest. Having a 17 year old studying ITC as a BTEC helps as well. So, this is my take on what I do to keep my work safe.
There are many cloud solutions – this just means that your’e storing your data on a remote computer owned and backed up by someone else. I personally use Dropbox but I know that there’s Microsoft’s One Drive and Apple’s iCloud available as wellas others. They all have the same basic structure, they appear to be a regular directory on your computer, but they keep updated with a central server as long as there’s internet.
For me this is invaluable as I switch between different machines and it provides a seamless way to share documents with my wife and send photos from my mobile to my laptop. Last time I got a new laptop I hardly copied any files across as most of what I needed was on Dropbox. But an IT specialist friend of mine pointed out, quite rightly, that it’s not a backup.
If you get a virus that locks out or encrypts your hard disk, then it will infect the remote cloud directory as well. And very likely, the next time you switch on another device connected to that cloud service and the internet, then the infection could spread to the other computer. Unless you do complicated things like switching off the internet and booting up a machine that had previously used the cloud service, you will have lost your data. Even this solution is unreliable as that machine will only have data up to the last point it synchronised.
What I do
In the industry, the best standard is an off-site backup. That way, if there’s an earthquake or fire or zombie apocalypse, you can go to a secure site, recover your data, and rebuild your company. Being just me, I work on a slightly smaller scale. Memory sticks are stupidly cheap at the moment. Under £10 on eBay gets you 32GB, which considering that my Dropbox is 2GB and nearly full, is plenty of storage. You could also look at an SD card – they have similar sizes and prices.
I must admit that my solution is very low tech. Every week I simply copy my cloud folder, Dropbox, straight over to the memory stick. Then, I put the stick back where it lives in my wallet. You don’t have to use your wallet, just pick something that always leaves the house with you. Phone, car keys, house keys, change purse, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s convenient for the memory stick or card and you usually have it with you when you’re out and about.
This is the key part. If any disaster happens when I’m away from home, then my wallet will be me. If the house starts burning down, then most likely I’ll grab my coat on the way out the door. If the computer gets a virus, then my memory stick (unless I’m super-unlucky) won’t be plugged in. It is my off-site backup.
I looked at Microsoft Window’s Backup tool and to be honest I couldn’t get on with it. It seemed to expect that the backup device is always plugged in, or that you’d remember to plug it in once a week when it was scheduled torun. Similarly I looked at the commercially available options and they all seemed overly complicated. As long as you get into a weekly routine, my system involves right-click copy, right-click paste and wait ten minutes.
I know there are drawbacks – my wallet could get stolen for example. If you’re particularly sensitive, it’s quite easy to encrypt your memory stick with a password. The odds on losing both wallet and computer in one day are an acceptable risk in my book.
What do you do?
What do the other writers (and other people) out there do about their data? Or have you not thought about it?