What's Your Backup Plan?

— February 01, 2010 (9 comments)
Yes, I mean the title literally.

Until a few years ago, I never really thought about backing up my stuff, not at home. Part of it was that I had nothing worth backing up; I didn't write much, my music was on CDs, my pictures were on glossy paper, etc. My strongest backup method was to put things I thought were important onto a CD every so often -- which, because it was troublesome and I'm lazy, turned out to be once every 6-12 months.

So when my hard drive failed, I lost months of stuff -- pictures of my friend's Karen village wedding, my son's ultrasound pics, a month's work from my novel... It was a Bad Day. I made a resolution then, and I encourage you to do it now. If your hard drive failed completely, to the point where even recovery services could do nothing, what would you lose?

And what are you going to do about it?

It's not just hard drive failure. Theft, fire, and viruses are all possibilities too. But hard drive failure is the most likely. You may never get robbed and your house may never burn down, but unless you buy a new computer every year or two, your hard drive WILL fail someday.

Go ahead. Prove me wrong.

So as I said, I'm lazy. I needed a backup plan I could set up once and forget. I'm also cheap and well-aware of the strength of the open source community. I found a program called DeltaCopy, which is basically a Windows wrapper around an old, powerful Unix program. It's free, it's fast, and it works with Windows Scheduler so I don't have to think about it.*

Now my files gets backed up whenever my computer is idle and the kid's computer upstairs is on. The backup is usually current to within a day. And every month I copy the upstairs backup to an external hard drive which I keep locked away.**

So if my hard drive fails, I've got the upstairs copy that's a day old. If my house gets robbed, I've got the locked up copy that's a month old.

If my house burns down, I'm kinda screwed. But I figure it'd have to be a magical fire to burn down both floors of my brick-and-concrete house before I can get my laptop out. And I'm not aware of any wizards who want to destroy my stuff.

I've also started e-mailing chapters to my alpha reader (despite the fact that she lives in the same house and uses the same computer) because it's convenient and can be used as yet another backup for my most important documents.

If you don't have a backup plan, stop whatever you're doing and make one. At least save your work and your pictures -- whatever's important to you. It doesn't have to cost much. A little research can find free online storage, or software like DeltaCopy. External hard drives aren't that expensive, and apparently Windows 7 has some kind of backup scheme as well.

And just in case anyone is still being lazy about this, anyone have more horror stories of stuff they lost because they didn't back up?

* Well, usually. Sometimes it has some way-cryptic errors, like "writefd_unbuffered failed to write 4 bytes" which technically can mean lots of things but in my experience only means "the disk is full."

** Said copies are very fast because only files that have been changed since the last backup are copied. Still, it's a good idea to do a clean backup every once in a while.

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  1. I email everything to at least one of my many accounts, back it up on an external hard drive, and back it up on a USB drive.

    I know waaay too many computer people to not be heavily backed up.

  2. I actually dont have any horror stories myself, I learnt my lesson really early on, having had PCs since age 9.

    Having studied software engineering helped also.

    I also do basically the same thing Matthew says above. Execpt in my case, its not a USB HDD but my mini PC.

  3. Happened to me, too about 5 years ago and I've already fallen back into my wicked ways... I do email novels to myself, but many of my shorts would go the way of the dodo.

  4. I use an external harddrive and also mozy.com. That way, i'm backed up in the ground and in the clouds. and i sleep easy at night, knowing that the priceless things in my life: photos and videos of family, novel(s), are backed up.

    to lose those would majorly suck.

  5. Yeah, it's happened to my husband before. I think he's learned his lesson though...

    Thanks for all you do, honey.

  6. Andrew, I like mozy's philosophy (backups should be automatic and smart). That's how I feel.

    Cindy, you're welcome, baby :-)

  7. But it's the wizards you DON'T know about that pose the greatest danger to you!

  8. ...

    Crap, Matty. That changes everything! How do I protect against magic fire?

  9. It's a good question. The most elementary (get it?) is obvious, but look at the target - objects don't appear to be valid (I'm assuming you don't want to carry the hard drive on your person all the time). So I think we have to be more general.

    First: you can't hit what you can't see. If you're at home, you could maybe buy yourself some time to escape with your hard drive/loved ones. As Ferris Bueller said, "If you have the means, I highly recommend one - they are so choice." Strangely, he did not mention the obvious choice for a team-up. A question presents itself: why store your hard drive locally? And of course, you can't go wrong with just covering all your bases.