On Fridays, Write Publish Sell features guest posts from the members of the Write Publish Sell group. Please join us for tons of great advice and information!
Today, we’re pleased to have Julie Bestry sharing her advice on how to keep your writing safe from computer crashes and viruses.
9 Ways To Keep Your Writing Safe by Julie Bestry
Your writing is precious. You know that you need to back it up, just as you know you need floss your teeth and change your oil. But knowing is not doing. The complexities of work and life get in the way of ongoing maintenance, but you really don’t want to do the “Wow-I-Coulda-Had-A-V8” head-slap, wishing for a post-disaster do-over. Backup is your digital insurance policy that you will never have to recreate your works of staggering genius from scratch.
Automate – The key to digital security is backing up regularly and frequently. If you use only manual, non-automated backups, you’re dependent upon prospective memory (in other words, you have to remember to remember). Scheduling backups is well intentioned, but automating the backup process means you can safely set it and (mostly) forget it.
Use the belt-and-suspenders approach – Hard drives crash. Computers get stolen or infected with viruses. Third-party providers go out of business or eliminate services. There is no single 100%-secure way to protect your writing, research, or other data from every possible problem. Unlike with general organizing, where redundancy means clutter, backup redundancy is what you need to secure your babies and help you sleep at night. Develop a plan for using multiple backup methods simultaneously. There are two main ways to back up – on the ground or in the cloud – and I recommend you use both!
Grab some tangible backup – Weighed against the value it provides, tangible data storage is cheap. For individual chapters or stories, just plug in a flash drive for quick and easy backup wherever you are. However, to back up practically everything, including your operating system, software, preferences, passwords, email, contacts, and the million other elements that keep you from feeling like you’re working in 1957, get an external hard drive. Purchase one at least double the size of your computer’s hard drive so you will have room to expand.
Decide if you want to use your operating system’s automated default backup software like Time Machine on the Mac or Backup and Restore on Windows. Or, do you want to purchase a third-party program from a company like Acronis or Paragon, or use freeware like EaseUS or Comodo?
Because data can be backed up in many ways, investigate which option provides the best combination of features to fit your needs. For example, “full disk image” solutions back up your entire hard drive so you can boot up your system from the backup in the event of a fatal hard drive crash. Some solutions back up every file each time, while others only update files that have changed since the last backup. Not all programs easily or automatically back up certain file types (like particular applications, Outlook .PST files, or accounting software data). Robust, full-coverage alternatives for making “bootable backups” include SuperDuper for Mac and EaseUS for PCs.
Of course, any environmental disaster like a fire or flood that affects your computer will endanger backups kept on-site, so it’s extra-smart to use two interchangeable external drives. Keep the one you’re using on-site in a fireproof safe when you’re going to be away from home for an extended time, and the other in your safe deposit box at the bank or some other off-site, secure location. Diligently switch them out on a scheduled basis linked to a recurring event, like paying your mortgage or rent. (Think you’ll never get around to that? That’s where the next section comes in.)
Fly to the cloud – Cloud storage lets you use the Internet to upload copies of your work to distant, secure servers. Plus, the cloud lets you access your files from any web-enabled location, sync data across devices, and even collaborate with far-flung contacts (like your writing coach or fellow collaborators).
For backing up specific files, solutions range from storage-only options (like Amazon’s Cloud Drive and S3), to more robust alternatives (like iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, SugarSync, and Box) which allow files to securely sync across devices and exist simultaneously in the cloud and locally.
To keep your entire system backed up, invest in a service that gives you regular, automated backups to secure servers and provides strong technical support and customer service. I use Backblaze, but CrashPlan For Small Business and Carbonite are also great options.
Most cloud solutions offer multiple service plans at varying price points, depending on how much you need to back up. If you have any doubt as to affordability, consider the financial and operational costs of losing, and then trying to reconstruct, all of your writing and your systems (bookmarks, preferences, etc.) from scratch.
Wary of the cloud? Sure, it means trusting a third party to safeguard your valuable content in a space you can’t literally touch. But you also put your money in a bank, where they won’t let you in to hand-count your Benjamins. Remember that you’re weighing the likelihood of a failure of a data security company against relying solely on your amateur backup skills and a prayer that your pet or child won’t flood the imaginary world you’ve created with the remains of a milkshake.
Seek expert help to design the best system for your needs – Whether you talk to a professional IT person or your tech-minded BFF, ask:
- How do I install the software?
- How do I schedule backups? How frequently should I run them?
- If a file is corrupted or accidentally deleted, how do I restore the backup copy?
- Should I encrypt sensitive files before backing them up? How?
- If my whole computer crashes, can I boot it up using the backup? If so, how?
- For a cloud service, how long will my backed-up files be stored?
- Will the system store multiple versions of files (one from each backup), or only the most recent copy?
Test your backups – Even with multiple backups in the cloud and on local platforms, user errors and system failures can happen. You don’t want any surprises if or when you have to recover data. Commit to scheduling a periodic test-restore of a backed-up file to make sure that data is being saved correctly. Put it on your calendar and consider it a mild annoyance (like getting your teeth cleaned). It ensures your characters will only end up in the graveyard if it’s a plot point and not a computer crash.
Don’t forget your tablet and smart phones – You don’t write only at your desk, so you need your work available wherever you are. Some apps automatically sync to all your devices, but it’s not universal. Regularly backing up your gadgets reduces downtime if you need to restore vital data after damage, theft, or even an upgrade. Consult your manual for how to set automated backup. If it isn’t helpful, roll your eyes and check Google or YouTube for “back up my [device name]” for more user-friendly instructions.
Back up your website and blog – Every web host and blog platform operates differently. Investigate which methods, settings, and plugins are available to ensure that you always have an updated, zipped copy of your entire blog database, as well as a backup of your uploaded files (like photos, PDFs, and videos). There are also free independent solutions, like BackWPUp and phpMyAdmin, and paid options, like VaultPress and Backup Buddy.
Back up your social media – You spend significant time building your social media content and audience, so be sure to defend against the threat of hackers or social-platform failures. Many social media platforms have built-in backups, like Twitter’s Request Archive option. However, for a more robust local archive of your content, contacts, interactions, photos, and other social history, check out Backupify and Frostbox.
Julie Bestry is a Certified Professional Organizer, speaker and author who helps individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress, and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems. For information on how Julie can turn your chaos into serenity, visit her at Best Results Organizing.
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