Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How Do You Back Up Your Work?


I'm paranoid about losing anything I've written. I would rather step on a rusty nail than rewrite a scene I've already slogged through.

Now that I have OS X Mountain Lion on my Mac I've switched to the Pages app, which saves documents to the cloud (bonus: I can work across my devices without e-mailing them around).

I also have a Time Machine to back up all my files, and when I make significant progress I'll e-mail the document to myself so it's in Gmail's cloud too (just in case something happens with Apple's cloud and my apartment is struck by a meteor).

Paranoid? I say careful!

What about you? What's your method for making sure you don't lose anything?

Art: Woken-Studie by John Constable






81 comments:

Chudney Thomas said...

Dropbox, gmail, USB, external hard drive. Guess I'm paranoid too. :)

Barbara S. Andrews said...

Drop box is free for up to 2 gigs.

Emily said...

Google Drive + Dropbox.

Jeff Seymour said...

Dropbox, which puts my writing in the cloud and syncs it across three computers, leading me to believe that it would require a significant catastrophe indeed in order for it to all be lost at once.

And just in case of that, I periodically back it up on a removable hard drive, too. :-)

M.R. Merrick said...

I'm extremely paranoid about losing my work. Especially after I've made major progress.

I keep it on my computer, occasionally a back up on my external hard drive, and often times I save it to multiple e-mail accounts, just in case.

Richard Gibson said...

Physical CD-ROM, gmail to self, dropbox, flash drive, and (near final) paper printout. Yes, paranoid, at least at some point in the process when I feel that it's really "something".

Daniel Zazitski said...

I use an external USB drive to sync any changes made to my writing files, plus my books are stored on my Skydrive account.

eldonhughes said...

The 3-2-1 rule.
Have THREE copies of important stuff, like works in progress/on submission. Have them in TWO different formats, like on the computer and on a jump drive, burned to a disc, or cloud storage. Have at least ONE copy geographically separate from where the others are. So, copy one is on the laptop. Copy two is on a jump drive. Copy three is in Dropbox, or some other cloud-synced location.

D.G. Hudson said...

I do save my work, but prefer methods I control rather than the e-clouds. (I'm similar to Richard and Daniel.)

Paranoia perhaps, but realistic as well. It's good to be prepared.

Elise Logan said...

Techie husband warns the following re: Mountain Lion/Time Machine (he ran into this problem at work): "If the user's Mac was running Snow Leopard originally, and was upgraded to Lion, Filevault won't upgrade to version 2 by itself./ It'll be stuck on 1./If the user allows the Mac to go to sleep while still logged on, and then a different user signs in, any backups taken using Time Machine will fail to capture anything from that user's folder. Silently."

So... if you upgraded from Snow Leopard to Mount Lion, you need to be aware of this major gotcha.

Coryl said...

Physical copies that are dated, external hard drive, and... Well, that's pretty much it.
Should I be more paranoid than that? Everyone else's paranoia makes me feel like I'm not being careful enough! D:

Rick Pieters said...

Ha, what a bunch of paranoid writers. I save everything in Dropbox, then locally on the laptop, which is backed up on an external HD and by Mozy, for cloud backup. Not paranoid here.

Leah Petersen said...

I use Dropbox. I love it because I use so many different computers in a given day, but my stuff's always there, and no one computer meltdown can ever take my stuff with it. :)

David Brown said...

I'm paranoid in a different way: I don't trust any WIP that hasn't been registered with the Copyright Office to any cloud-based storage solution. You must assume that anything sent out to the 'net will be viewed by someone else. I keep regular Time Machine backups, and keep copies on multiple device, though.

Also, iCloud is a syncing/convenience service, not a backup solution. It really shouldn't be used as such. Dropbox is better for that sort of thing.

Mirka Breen said...

Aside from hourly back-ups, I still retain the habit of printing a hard copy of my work, because cloud, ether, or what have you, I don't believe it's *there*

Paraphrasing Churchill, we are 'paranoid' with much to be paranoid about...

collectonian said...

I use both DropBox (which syncs to both my computers + the iPad), and on-demand live back ups with BackBlaze on my home computer. I also regularly do a hard back up to an external drive kept in my first-proof safe.

Jaimie said...

I use Dropbox. I also backup my computer to a hard-drive occasionally. Sometimes I'll print something or email it to myself.

Steph Sessa said...

I use a flash drive, which is on my keys, so that I can also use it on any computer. Periodically, I'll send myself copies through gmail just in case something happens to my flash drive.

Adelle Yeung said...

Two Hotmail accounts, two Gmail accounts, Box, a flash drive, an external hard drive, and a netbook :D

Bryan Russell said...

Two computers, email, thumb drives, and external hard drive. I'm thinking about a miniature bomb shelter in case of nuclear armageddon or zombie apocalypse.

attackfish said...

Flash drives stashed like a squirrel stashes nuts. It's a pain in the rear to back them all up, but I don't want to set them loose on the internet anywhere, even if password protecting them. If my house catches fire, I'm screwed though.

Pandora Swift said...

Don't put your faith in the cloud, Nathan. I've worked in software and the computer indistry for decades, and the cloud isn't the answer. Every Monday I copy my work files to a USB hard drive (I keep all my work in 3 folders, so it's easy peasy to copy them ). On Fruday,s I do a system backup to a Seagate drive. Again, easy peasy. Hope this helps!

Nanette J. Purcigliotti said...

Good question. I'm in final edits of my novel. I've got Mountain Lion. The Cloud. So backed up to the cloud. I saved one version. Didn't date version. When I opened the cloud I did find my file but got scared.

Now I save to the cloud, to Dropbox. Got new cable to hook Lacie to MacBook Pro. And save there. On top of that I mail my ms to myself. It goes into my iPad and my iPhone.

What did Jack Kerouac do? Didn't he travel with that black and white notebook. Wonder what he'd do now in this tech age.

Richard Mabry said...

An external hard drive connected to Time Machine, a DropBox account which I use at least once a chapter, and a USB drive to which I download my manuscript at least once a day.
Paranoid? Naah. Just experienced.
BTW, I looked at the reviews on Apple about Pages, and they didn't make it very tempting for use in writing.

Rachael said...

Dropbox. It's brought me through a motherboard crash and a laptop transfer. The ability to access my documents from any computer without having to deal with the unreliability of a flash drive is great.

Every time I finish a draft, I email it to myself for extra protection.

Nickie said...

I'm sure someone at Google is crying hot, salty tears, but I do use my gmail account to back up my work. I figure that if Google suffers a catastrophic failure, there's probably not a human population left to read my work anyway.

Anonymous said...

Want to really scare yourself? A Wired magazine writer got hacked this month and lost almost everything.
http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/08/apple-amazon-mat-honan-hacking/

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Yep. My post about two-step e-mail verification is coming soon.

Will Overby said...

Backed up to a second internal hard-drive, then to Carbonite. I'm a belt and suspenders kind of guy.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I'm pretty paranoid after once losing a long document for grad school.

Copy on desktop, copy on external hard drive, copy on flash drive that is always in my purse. Copy of latest completed draft in Gmail. I used to save a copy on my netbook as well, but I don't use it as much anymore, so this is more sporadic. Sometimes I print out a physical copy for my first pass at revisions, which could help in a worst-case scenario, but I'm less consistent on this one.

Bethany Helwig said...

You have every right to be paranoid. I wasn't paying attention when I started my sequel as to backing up my project. I kept all of my stuff on a flashdrive. BIG MISTAKE. It died and so went 85 pages--the entire beginning of my new book. I still haven't been able to recover (mentally and page wise) after that. Now I backup like a maniac.

Matthew MacNish said...

Two computers, dropbox, gmail, thumb drive, network drive at work.

Do be careful about relying on the cloud too much, NB.

Read this: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/08/apple-amazon-mat-honan-hacking/all/

Actually, you probably already saw it, just be careful (sorry, in too much of a hurry to hyperlink for you).

Matthew MacNish said...

Oh lord. I should just read the other comments first. :facepalm:

gesher said...

The cloud is unreliable for backing up. It's fine as one layer among several, but I prefer to depend on external hard drives that I own and control:

1. Time Machine constantly to a partition on an external hard drive in my apartment (all files).

2. Super Duper nightly to a different partition on the same external hard drive in my apartment (clean bootable copy of my hard drive as it appears at that moment).

3. Carbon Copy Cloner ~weekly to a separate external hard drive that I store off-site (clean bootable copy of my hard drive as it appears at that moment).

Wub2Write said...

Dropbox, USB, and physical copies are kept in our nuclear bomb shelter in our backyard. Paranoid. Just a little.

Yolanda Renee said...

We should all be paranoid!
Email, USB, external hard drive.
What else is there?
If the grid goes down, then what? :)

abc said...

Every once in awhile I email my WIP to myself (on gmail) and to my husband. Gmail is my backup! I realize this is so so very sad.

just joanne said...

Looks like quite a few folks use Dropbox. I have my own but I also a shared Dropbox with my husband so that we both have access to it just to play it safe. I had my email hacked once (gmail) so I try to be cautious. I also use a thumbdrive and external drive back-up.

just joanne said...

Looks like a lot of us are using Dropbox. I have my own but I also have a shared Dropbox with my husband so that we both have access. Also use a thumb drive and external drive back up.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft allow you to sync work across machines and with their cloud-based skydrive. I encrypt word docs, so even if someone gets access to the files in the cloud, they can't read them (Office 2007 onwards has strong encryption).
My work is sync'ed across 3 machines at home and backed up to the cloud.
Works wonderfully, is free, and I simply open the files and instantly see changes I've made on another machine.

Voss Foster said...

Flash drive, external hard drive, three separate eMail accounts, and the gracious inboxes of my beta-readers, one of which will inevitably have a recent copy of the file.

Sommer Leigh said...

As far as I'm concerned, you can never be too paranoid when it comes to backups.

I save to a USB, my computer, Dropbox, and every new chapter gets emailed to my husband's gmail account from my yahoo account. You know, just in case Yahoo gets nuked from orbit, one of us has a copy.

That being said, the big losses are never the ones that actually happen to me. It's always - I'm writing a scene and my computer does something funky, freezes and either Word or the whole computer needs to be rebooted, losing everything since the last save.

These little losses make me homicidal.

Donna Hosie said...

I don't understand what half of you are talking about!!

Thumb drive, gmail...that's it. But thanks to this post, now I am paranoid.

London Crockett said...

iCloud (with Pages), DropBox that syncs with another computer, TimeMachine, CreativeCloud and BackBurner.

Karleene Morrow, Author said...

Thumb drive. Back up frequently, even daily. It's no big effort you know. :~)

Nick Lewandowski said...

Dropbox + occasional dumps to an external drive. Works well enough I've never lost a file... or even a wink of sleep for that matter.

Ingrid King said...

Thumb drive, Carbonite remote back up, e-mail to Juno and Hotmail accounts. I prefer to think of it as being careful rather than paranoid.

Jake Richert said...

I feel like my work is stashed everywhere. Dropbox, email, drafts on blog and Tumblr, labeled USBs. All popular. All easy to confuse. But I am paranoid as well.

'ö-Dzin Tridral said...

Paranoia;s not altogether a bad thing. If you spilt coffee on a manuscript you could dab it off and still have something useful. If the electronic coffee gets spilt you can be left with nothing at all.

Different approaches cover you for different types of disaster. I use Spideroak. It's like Dropbox, but encrypted. I synchronise from the laptop to Spideroak, back down to the desktop and thence to the desktop's external drive. Everything should be in four places - three local, one in the cloud.

Spideroak also keeps changed and deleted copies so it's possible to recover old versions.

I've needed it a few times and it hasn't let me down.

Lani Longshore said...

Wow, do I feel like a piker. I send a pdf to a trusted friend and let my husband deal with the rest of the back-up plans. He has the external hard-drive and CDs in the safe deposit box and heaven only knows what else. Of course, if the universe is against you there really is no escaping your fate. A few years back we had a cascading crash of our home network that was supposedly impossible. After offering the geek equivalent of "Bummer, dude," all his techie friends agreed he had done everything possible to prevent the disaster, so he must have offended a new computer god.

don e. nelson said...

. . . I make a copy and hide it under my mattress.

Chris Shaw said...

SkyDrive and external HD. The external HD just out of habit nowadays.

Melanie Marttila said...

Ok. Humbling admission. I *am* paranoid. I have a desktop and a laptop. The important stuff is saved on both. Then I keep a copy of everything on a USB that is on me at all times. I have another USB stashed elsewhere in the house. Each draft, I back up to DVD ... which I save in a fire box in the basement. And if I'm really nervous, my husband has an external hard drive I can use.
With my blog, I save everything as a Word .docx, plus I do a monthly back up. These are also dutifully saved to the USB.
Oh, man. What a weight off my shoulders! Flying my freak flag proudly :)

lynnfc said...

I'm paranoid too...so this is what I do...I am a MAC person so also have Time Machine, but have added an external drive which backs up every hour...not only that I use a flash drive to carry in my purse in case my computer and external drive are demolished by fire or catastrophe or I have to evacuate a plane...because I always carry my laptop in an office bag on the plane and then if my purse isn't...destroyed but my lap top is...I've got it......I'm interested in Pages and will be downloading Mountain Lion soon...I use Scrivener when I am in the initial stages of writing an ms. and then I convert to Word...I also have so many digital photos....that the external hard drive is a major necessity...and if the Cloud disappears...well I still have it...Lacie....

lynnfc said...

Forgot...I also send my file to myself....

Robin Connelly said...

um. Well, I email it to myself, to a few friends, have a free drop box account, keep it on a flash drive and always have a hard copy around. There is also always a file on my computer.

Peter Dudley said...

Early in my career, back when I was a tech writer at a software company that made, among other things, desktop publishing software, I learned to hit the keystroke for "Save" every few sentences. Soon I was doing it after every period, before the two spaces. (I've retrained myself to use just one space now after a period, BTW.) That was back in the day when hard disks came standard at 20 megabytes and the 386 overclocked to 16 megahertz made engineers salivate.

As for backing up documents now... happens naturally because I work on two different machines. I, too, enjoy using Pages and the Cloud, but I also save a copy or email one to myself periodically.

Just in case.

(I still have a couple of stories on some old floppies that are no longer readable... because there's no hardware around that can read them anymore. Fortunately, I also have them on paper. Which also makes a decent backup.)

Taylor Napolsky said...

All I use is Dropbox, but everyone else is making me feel like I'm a little too overconfident.

Ted Cross said...

Every time I work on my manuscript, I email a copy to my hotmail account. Every so often I also back it up to an external hard drive, but the hotmail account allows me to access it from anywhere at an time.

Mira said...

abc, I'm just like you. I e-mail to my hotmail account. That's it.

What are people worried about? I mean aside from the obvious stray meteor?

I guess I figure if hotmail fails, I'll have bigger things to worry about....

I had to move everything once MSN closed their groups down. It was a pain, but they gave us plenty of notice.

Now I'm worried, I should be more worried....

marion said...

Don't back up often enough to thumb drive.
If I've finished a chapter or block, I email it (attachment) from my personal g-mail to my ibischild g-mail.
Was using Mozy back up, but needed it & couldn't remember the stuff I needed to retrieve it. So that didn't work.
Photos saved to flickr.com. Back up, edit, post to blog. Still getting used to it, but it seems great.
Have a print copy of ancient version of WIP. Will have to do another soon.
I'll have to look at Dropbox. Thanks, y'all.

J.C. Martin said...

Dropbox and external hard drive. :)

LQQinSpace said...

I use Dropbox - which also has version control so you can roll back if needed.

Seth

Balinares said...

Everything is committed to a git repository, with the additional perk that I get version control, full history, and commit-by-commit change lists at the tip of my fingers.

The repository is hosted on a remote server, which is itself backed up nightly to another server.

Overall odds of data loss: arbitrarily low. Not that I don't still fret, though. Fretting is something of a way of life at this point.

Anonymous said...

I love Evernote and i store mu work there as I can nicely organize my versions, research, details, etc. to have available anywhere and on the go but I dont consider it back up, its more of my work in progress.. I back up once a month on 4 ext hard drives and i keep them in different locations.

I know it would be horrible to lose anything, but i wonder what writers with pen and paper did for back up :)

John Stanton said...

My desktop computer and laptop share files and sync so I have some level of back up there. Completed works go on flash drives and CDs as well.

Also, I've created a private folder on my webhost which I use as a back up.

Ainsley Shay said...

Thumb drive. And I love the Pages App!

Terin Tashi Miller said...

Nathan: this is funny to me.
How do I back up my work? I tend to write everything out first in long-hand. So I've got the originals, at least, in a notebook--a paper notebook, not a computer--filed away.

I also save edited/rewritten versions on my netbook hard drive, and on a "flash" drive, so I have everything I need in the event of a computer malfunction.

I used to save things on a CD; I have photographer friends who have since warned me even independent hard drives' quality (for images especially) starts to deteriorate after 5 years--they store negatives, or at least printed images, so they can recreate something lost to digital eternity.

I personally (talk about paranoid) do not trust any "cloud" (an off-site server, really, with limited space like anything)with something hopefully preserved for posterity.

Which leads me to wonder outloud, what will biographers/historians have left to sift through when we're all famous and long dead?

Especially if one day, the power goes out--due to an EMP or just running out of fuel?

:)

Mieke Zamora-Mackay said...

Dropbox, External HD, and disc for finished drafts.

Amanda K said...

Mmm I think I'm going to have to backup everything as soon as I get home tonight. Thanks for that.

I do have copies everywhere imaginable, but not of my Scrivener file. Anyone have suggestions about backing up Scrivener? It's so large! I feel like it would be a pain to keep throwing all of its parts into DropBox...

Shelley Schanfield said...

Just suggesting that everyone who commented here read this article:

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/08/apple-amazon-mat-honan-hacking/

Emily Wenstrom said...

So important! I had my computer crash on me halfway through NaNoWriMo a couple years ago, and hadn't backed up my work. I just about died. Now I always keep my notes, outlines, and most recent draft on my memory stick, and I also (less frequently than I should) update my WIP draft that I keep on the cloud via Google docs. Paranoid? Cautious? I call it smart.

Daniel McNeet said...

Nathan,

I backup everyday to my 1T external drive. Every time I stop typing, I save. Good habit. Never can tell when the computer will decides to take its girlfriend on an exotic vacation.

Kastie Pavlik said...

<--Uber paranoid. Copy MS to HDD after every edit. That file folder is backed up onto CD and External HDD every month or so. I periodically email copies of MS to myself, and I print copies after major edits (God forbid a massive solar flare takes out all our electronics and renders all my other methods moot). Oh, and I have copies on flash drives stashed at various locations and try to keep at least one copy somewhere away from all of my backups (I think I may even have a copy on my phone). Of course, since I'm uber paranoid, I don't trust the Cloud...so I don't go there. But other than that--I'm fine, really. ^_-

Henry Hallan said...

I have a thumb drive in my pocket and a USB hard drive in my coat. I also have an SD card (my main working version) in the computer, which I normally carry with me.
I have copies on my laptop in the hotel, spare copies on the two laptops at home, and I never delete the emails I send my editor, so there are copies on my mail server's computers in Canada.
I use CVS rather than git, but I have been writing for a while and git is a recent program.
For extra paranoia I write in text files, not Word files, so I can be confident that my work will survive any requirement to change OS or editor software. My ebooks and manuscripts are generated by bespoke software (by day I am a mild-mannered programmer) and my paperbacks are generated with LaTEX, which is open-source and has been around for decades.
I've even got off-grid electricity at home, so I'm not relying on house current to work.

Tres Buffalo said...

I save my working files daily, by date, on my laptop, back the laptop up weekly to my network drive. I also copy the work in process files to a jump drive periodically. My complete files are on three different drives, on a jump drive, and on two separate DVDs. My editor also has copies of all completed files. Then there are the files at the publication points.

Lisa Ahn said...

I'm a fan of Mozy -- auto backup twice a day, and it auto saves to my external hard drive too.

Michele said...

I keep a current file on one of my flash drives. I use this flash drive to write and keep all my stuff together, and I keep it on my person at all times. I keep copies on my desktop and laptop computer just in case the flash drive fails. But, in the event of a fire and I lose both my computers and flash drive, I keep another flash drive in a fire proof safe. In the event that a nuclear bomb is dropped on my house and vaporizes the fire proof safe, I email copies of the books to myself over 3 different email clients just in case Yahoo, Google or Hotmail offices have fires or bombs dropped on them and my house is fine. However, I'm still trying to figure out how to back up my files in case a comet hits the earth. It's kind of expensive to send a flash drive into outer space.

Clare said...

Might sound a little strange, but I really want to thank you for the second sentence in your post. I hate having to re-write something I've already done and a part of me has always worried that that means I'm not and will never be 'a proper writer' because of that. Y'know, because writing's all about revising and editing and crafting and carving and honing, so you never really just write something once.

I thought everyone else was so committed to their craft that they would write a scene twenty times if it meant they got it 'right', whereas I'd rather tap dance on a rusty nail than write a scene again.

So thanks for making me feel better about that nagging worry!

As for backing up, I write on my laptop; I save a copy onto a USB key that is attached to my work ID that gets carried around almost everywhere with me; I have an external HDD where I back up all my docs; I email a copy to myself. This goes for all actual writing as well as my planning and background docs. So sign me up to the paranoid pack! I think when you write, you need to be paranoid about data loss!

Chuck Hunter said...

I shared an anecdote on my blog about backing up my work and the importance of staying organized. I had multiple revisions of my manuscript on a flash drive, on my laptop, and on my PC. They were saved under names like "painsjokefinal.doc" and "painsjokerevision.doc". Eventually, I couldn't remember which was which. A file mix up resulted in the printing of a few copies of my book that contained all the "f bombs" I had intended to remove. Now I only back up to a single flash drive, and I only use file names like "painsjoke1.doc". This way I only have to look for the highest number to find the most recent revision (and I avoid having to call Grandma to apologize).

Stephanie said...

I think this question is on just about every writer's mind, these days! I write by hand, and the question is always regarding what's going to be the quickest and most reliable method for backing up the handwritten work. I think I've narrowed it down, as I discuss here: http://bit.ly/Tb3DyI , but if anyone has suggestions for making the process faster, I'd love to hear them!

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