The Importance of Backups

As you know, I’m now working on a brand-new laptop.

Seven days after the warranty expired on my HP laptop, so did the motherboard. After much discussion with the customer service representatives and case managers, the best offer they could gve me was a $400 price tag to replace it. I thought that was a ridiculous amount of money to spend repairing a laptop when a new laptop is only $500. HP suggested that the solution was that I should have bought an extended warranty. Believe me, if I invent a time machine, buying an extended warranty on my now defunct laptop will not be my first order of business. There’s a little matter of a Microsoft IPO I’ll want to get in on.

So, I decided to buy a new laptop, a Toshiba L505. It is working swimmingly so far. In fact, I got all of my backed up files back on it and organized last night.

Which brings me to the point of my post. After losing an entire 95% complete book manuscript one month before it was due and having to rewrite it from scratch, I became a bit of a backup fascist. I have backups on other computers in the house and in more than one online location. Here are a few suggestions of free and low-cost places to backup your files.

  1. Another computer in your house. Just set up a network and drag your files to a folder on a second computer when you finish working on them for the day. As a household whose computer count is only slightly dwarfed by its TV count, we have multiple options for in-house backups.
  2. A stand-alone hard drive. This is even easier than another computer, because you can just plug the hard drive in and copy your files. Hard drive space is so cheap, so you can get a good-size backup drive for less than $100.
  3. drop.io. This site allows you to set up free online drops of up to 100 MB each. Pick your drop name and password, write them down, then upload your files. Drops expire after one year of inactivity, so visit often to keep it alive.
  4. Gmail. I saw this tip on Twitter a while back, I believe from Yasmine Galenorn. At the end of the day, email a copy of your files to a Gmail account. Not every writer trusts Google to protect our intellectual property rights (the Google Books settlement still elicits multiple angry blog posts each month), but we can probably trust them to protect our files.
  5. Online backup through your anti-virus software. I have Norton 360 on three of our computers, and it includes 2GB of online backup space. This is nowhere near enough for our photos or music, but it is more than adequate for my books, short stories, and articles. The software version I bought is $60 a year, and the backup was part of the reason I upgraded from the cheaper product.

Any other good tips for keeping good backups?

Edited to add: Here is a link to a comparison of some online backup services, courtesy of a post earlier this week on Rachelle Gardner’s blog.


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