Your computer – be it desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone – is a wonderful device, full of shortcuts for the aspiring writer. In many ways, the computer far exceeds pen and paper. For example, when writing on paper, if the paper is lost, the story is lost. With the computer, a backup is at your fingertips.

Or is it? Do you save? Do you save often while typing? Do you backup on a schedule? Do you really understand backups?  This is a bird’s eye view of four ways to backup. For step-by-step backup procedures for your specific hardware and software, a web search is your best bet.

  1. Save Your Work. The first backup on any device and any application is the save button. If the device hiccups, the restore normally returns to the last time you saved. Loads of lovely prose can be lost if you forget to save often. Newer programs will auto-save if you set it up in preferences. The key is to turn it on.
  2. Short-term Backups. If you’re out and about, perhaps at a write-in, and have spent hours writing, back up your work to a flash drive before logging off. That way, if something happens on the way home, you still have the data on a flash drive. A flash drive is short-term. These drives allow you to write and overwrite documents as you see fit. Eventually, the drive will become corrupted from repetitive use, much like the cassette and VSH tapes of old. Disks are rarely used anymore but are a valid backup option if your device supports them. Disks have the same issues as a flash drive.
  3. External Hard Drives. This is a backup physically removed from your computer. An external hard drive is typically set to automatically back up your whole computer, or a portion of your computer, on a schedule you define, but you can also save as you go. As with any other option, external drives are hardware and can become corrupted.
  4. Cloud Backups. A solution presented by various sources. Some are free up to a certain amount, but many are offered as part of a subscription service. Unfortunately, the cloud is really an off-site hard drive, and they too can become corrupted, but these services should run multiple backups as they are a business. While I highly recommend using a cloud service, don’t depend solely upon the cloud. Also, keep in mind that hackers can break into the cloud drive and steal your stories and personal information.

After review, it’s obvious all backup options have issues. What to do? One backup is not enough for important documents.

Using my process as an example:

  • Save Often. Make it a habit of hitting the save button frequently unless you have an auto-save function set up and working. Even then, verify the auto-save occurs because an operating system or application upgrade might turn off functions like auto-save.
  • Use a flash drive or other short-term device to back up when traveling or anytime significant writing has occurred. Hints:
    1. The first time the flash drive complains or behaves funny, it’s time to think about replacing it, but sometimes they don’t give a warning before crashing.
    2. Consider multiple flash drives for different functions, reducing the chance of all data disappearing at the same time. I have one for art, one for writing as NRTucker, one for guild files, and so on.
  • Schedule automatic computer backups to an external drive on a schedule that works for you. I do full backups once a week. For text documents, I have my MacBook Air and iMac slaved to each other so that any changes I make to one will save those changes on the other computer when I’m within my home network.
  • If you have access to cloud storage, use it. Google Documents, iCloud, and Microsoft Cloud are just a few useful resources. For my copyrighted materials, I password protect, but a good hacker will have no trouble breaking into my files. As with locks and keys, barriers keep honest people honest but only slow down a determined thief.

Using these four options, I have multiple locations where recovery is possible. If my MacBook Air dies, all documents are saved to my iMac, my weekly backup to an external drive is available, and the cloud contains some of my work. I also have a flash drive for short-term backups.

Can I still lose data? Sure, but I won’t lose much.