Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Easiest way to backup your documents

Work faster autofocus!
Picture is unrelated
If I wrote the word backup in mirror-image all over your face so that you saw the word 'backup' every time you passed a reflective surface I still wouldn't consider that a strong enough way of making you appreciate the importance of backing up your documents.

The importance of backups was first made clear to me waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back when I started working in IT - I nuked a hard drive in a computer I was repairing, which turned out to be the wrong hard drive to nuke.  It transpired that the customer hadn't backed up any of his documents and thanks to me he had lost fifteen years worth of work.  My boss at the time explained this to me via the medium of his hands around my throat, and he was squeezing just a little bit too hard...  At the time I was devastated, but since that day I have had fifteen years to build up cynical defences to accusations relating to customers' complaints about things that have their root cause in their own 'keyboard to seat interface error'.  In short the customer should have backed up, and then backed up again, and then done another couple of back ups to be on the safe side.

Back when I was in the position to idly destroy fifteen years of someone's professional life getting ones backups off-site was an expensive business, but now it is not.  When I started writing professionally (which admittedly might inspire a 'HA!' from any reader of this blog who is familiar with my shoddy prose) I gave some careful thought to how I could backup up my masterpieces with maximum resilience given minimal effort, and here's the plan I came up with:

Backing up using Email, Google Docs, friends and Dropbox

  1. Each time you finish a chapter, quit for the day, go to have a poo or get distracted by the cat save your work (if you're using Google Docs / Google Drive then you can ignore this point, your work is saved with almost every keystroke).  As a side note I am NOT a fan of auto-save.
  2. Write an email to yourself and copy in a willing friend, attach a copy of your work to said email (if you're using Google Docs you'll have to download a copy first).  Write the title of your masterpiece in the subject line followed by the date and time.  So a novel called 'Writing comedy is like strangling your own humour' would have the subject line 'Writing comedy is like strangling your own humour - 06/11/12 - 9.10pm'.  To be honest adding the date and time doesn't make a huge difference because all emails are timestamped as a matter of course, but I find it useful.  This takes seconds but saves meaty tears should something go wrong.
  3. At the end of the day upload your document to Google Docs, if you're really clever then you could use the marvellous 'revisions' facility in Google Docs.  If you created your masterpiece in Google Docs then you can skip this step and sit back with a smug smile, safe in the knowledge that you are a clever peanut.
  4. Get a Dropbox account and also upload your file / document to Dropbox.  Click this link to get a Dropbox account for free...
  5. Once every few days save all your work to a usb memory stick, just remember to never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever use a memory stick to store your only version of anything at all ever ever ever (you get the idea).
If you're a lazy sod then just email yourself a copy of your work each day; this really is the only important step here because it gives you the ability to go back to versions of your files created on specific dates and times.

Just before I go I have one more thing to add - BACK UP NOW!