A Free, Easy Backup Plan

You need to backup your stuff. Not because your computer might get stolen or your house might burn down. But because your hard drive WILL fail within a couple of years. Someone in your house WILL, somehow, put a virus on your machine. You WILL accidentally-but-permanently delete your work in progress.

I am the most tech savvy, obsessively careful person I know, yet all three of these things have happened to me. They'll get you too.

I'm also supremely lazy. So if my backup plan requires any maintenance from me, it just won't happen. Here's how I do it then.

You guys know about Dropbox, right? You can store 2 GB for free online with very little work. That's not enough to keep all your pictures and music, but it's more than enough to protect your writing.

Make an account and download the app to your computer. That's it. After that, Dropbox will auto-upload anything you put into the special Dropbox folder, anytime it changes.

"But wait," you say, "Don't I have to manually copy my stuff into that folder as I work?"

Well, yeah. One solution is to work directly within the Dropbox folder, but you don't want to do that (especially since Dropbox can sync two ways -- if somebody hacked into Dropbox, or you had multiple computers linked up, you might lose everything accidentally again). The other solution is this:

Create Synchronicity is this nice little program that will automatically copy files from anywhere to anywhere, on a schedule. It's free, lightweight, versatile, and smart enough to only copy files that actually changed.

Just install it on your machine and set up a profile to copy your important files wherever you want them -- an external hard drive, another computer on the network, or (in this case) your Dropbox folder. Schedule it to run once a day and bam, you never have to think about protecting your work again.

Is this helpful to you? What's your backup plan?


Valerie said...

I save my drafts to Dropbox as well. I also have copies on my computer and an external drive. In the past I also emailed my files to myself, but that started clogging up my inbox and eating my storage space. I might do it with later drafts though, just to be sure.

I’ve had more than my fair share of computer issues, so I back up every day after I finish writing. All in all it takes maybe three minutes. For hours of work, that’s not too much trouble in my opinion.

Stina said...

I just email things to myself. It's the photos that are the biggest issue. :(

Steve MC said...

After learning the hard way, I have an external hard drive I back up to almost every day, plus another external hard drive I have for just photos/music/videos, and I burn a DVD, just to be sure, about once a month.

For Dropbox, I copy folders into it once a week, and didn't know about Synchronicity. (I heard Macs can do it with a work-around, but not PCs.)

Also, it's always good to have one back-up that isn't synced, since when I accidentally wiped out a lot of my documents without knowing it for a few days, it was the unsynced one that I was able to retrieve them from.

Steve MC said...

Just went to read up on Synchronicity and found it in PC Mag's "Best Free Software of 2011" list.

Also found this great tutorial on how to set it up.


Matthew MacNish said...

We've discussed this before, but for whatever reason, I'm too uptight about backups to allow them to be automated. The only thing I really back up is my writing, and for now, I don't have enough of it that it's really a problem for me to do it manually.

Cap'n Heine said...

Do you have any version control with this method? Or do you only have the latest version backed up?

Megan Hand said...

I will check out this Dropbox. Backing up daily or weekly on a card is also extremely easy and gives me peace of mind.

Patchi said...

Another one to check out is SugarSync. I have it setup to backup my WIP folder that is inside my Dropbox folder. Double protection.

The other thing I liked about SugarSync is that you can share folders with someone else and both can edit the documents. Great for crit partners.

Adam Heine said...

Cap'n: I don't know if Synchronicity allows version control, but Dropbox definitely has it.

Patchi: Dropbox does that too, which I've found amazing for crit partners and collaborations.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Nice!! I recently discovered Dropbox, so Syncronicity might be next.

I currently have an external hard drive and Mozy - an offsite software backup. Both cost money, but I like the peace of mind.

Jay Noel said...

Huh, need to check out Synchronicity. I currently use two back up external drives.