I saw a programme recently which featured a student who lost several months’ worth of very important work when his laptop was stolen. I think it was mentioned that he had been ‘just about to back it up’.
No, no, no!
We all know that so-called ‘inanimate’ objects actually do have a mind of their own and can in fact be quiet wilfully spiteful: the end of a roll of sellotape, coat-hangers when trying to take things out of crowded wardrobes, ‘re-sealable’ (Ha!) food packets – and computers. Most of the time they behave perfectly, but when they decide to act up the results can be not only intensely frustrating and possibly lead to further, accidental, damage…
…which – especially for fiction writers – might mean something is lost forever. You can never quite recreate or recapture the brilliant work you’ve just spend hours dredging from the depths of your soul.
So backing up regularly is the answer – but in my opinion, work isn’t really backed up until it’s been saved in three different places or ways. On the machine itself is the obvious first one. Then, I’m sure most of us use memory sticks, and they’re great. But in the case of fire or theft you may well lose the stick at the same time. So, when I’m saving my work I also turn to the Cloud.
Word automatically saves work every so often. I back my work up to a memory stick when I’ve finished a session – but every few minutes as I work I back up to Dropbox. Not only is it a free (up to a certain limit) way to store you work, but you can access it from other devices wherever you are. I use a desktop PC at home but often work on my laptop away from home. I can and do take my memory stick, but usually I simply access my Dropbox account and pick my work up that way.
Even better – but at a cost – is a dedicated online back-up service. I used to use one called Carbonite. The advantage of that over something like Dropbox is that it’s designed to run in the background and save as you work – you don’t have to do anything. Sadly, I can no longer afford it but I’d certainly recommend it, and there are numerous others providing a similar service.
Don’t let it be one of those things you complacently put off till some future date, like writing a will. Whatever method you use, back up regularly!
PS You’ll be glad to hear the student got his laptop back!