Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Public Service Announcement: Back Up Your Work!

So I had this moment a few months ago. I fired up my computer, opened the document for my novel...

...and nothing happened. Blank screen. Absolutely no sign of the 60,000 words I'd written on my current WIP that weren't backed up anywhere.

"Come back," I told the document, as calmly as I could manage.

hammer to computer

And lo and behold, after a minute or two, it did. (Apparently it was just one of those computer hiccups. I've never had that particular problem before or since.)

After my heart restarted, I did what any sensible person would have done months earlier: backed up my work.

There are two main ways to do a data backup: onsite or offsite. Onsite refers to storage devices that you actually have in your person.

A USB drive (also called a memory stick, flash stick, thumb drive, or "that computer stick thingie" if you're my dad) is a common method of onsite storage. They plug into the USB port on your computer, they're easy to find and cheap (you can get basic ones for as low as $5), and it only takes seconds to back up your data.
usb drive
Another common method of onsite storage is an external hard drive. This is a device that usually holds tons and tons of data--in fact, I have a complete backup of everything on my computer on our external hard drive. These are a little more expensive, usually running about $100-$300. They also require more computer expertise to set up.

external hard drive
Onsite backups have some drawbacks. What if there's a fire and all of your backup devices are destroyed? Or what if you keep your USB drive in your laptop bag and the whole thing gets stolen?

For real peace of mind, you can combine onsite backups with offsite ones. While there are non-online backup services for companies, individuals are best served by choosing an online service. Once uploaded, your data will remain online (accessible only by you), and will be there if you need it.

A common method of backing up data offsite is using a service like Google Drive or Dropbox. Both of these websites offer plans that will allow you to back up a certain amount of data for free.

Drive & Dropbox

A lower-tech method of offsite backup is to email your documents to yourself periodically. As long as you can access your email, you'll have a backup of your work.

Twitter and blogs are full of horror stories from writers who didn't bother to back up and then lost tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands!) of words. Don't let it happen to you! No matter what your budget or level of computer expertise, you can always find a method of backing up your writing that will work for you.


  1. Been there done that! I had finished my first and maybe even second draft to my MG with over 50,000 words when my computer crashed. Of course, I hadn't backed up my work. It took my nine months before I was able to get my files back. Sigh! Nine months lost.

  2. It is impossible to properly back up your data if you do not know what you have. Work with your local
    computer consultant or an IT professional to learn what information you have and where it is kept.
    Managed IT Services

  3. I agree with this post because, important or not, files should have backups. Using backup devices and online storage is a good way to go. People should realize that they should have the prerogative to backup their files before something bad happens and data corruption happens.

    Ruby Badcoe @ Williams Data Management

  4. I was about to finish a novel when my computer crashed and lost my file. It's very disappointing! Luckily my friend introduced some cloud storage systems, and I stored some of my work there. Just to be sure, I also copied my work to my flash drives. Hehe! For writers, backups are so important especially when they are beating a deadline.

    Manda Maldanado @