Friday, 30 March 2012

Tips for writers #4: Backups

+ If you use a PC to store your writing, you don't need to learn the hard way, like me. Always keep backups of your work.

+ Don't rely solely on a backup to the same PC. I've had two PCs and a hard drive die on me.

+ If you have an old PC, don't backup solely to floppy disk. These are notoriously unreliable and may not open at all on a different floppy disk drive.

+ I used to backup to USB flash memory sticks. However, these do sometimes become corrupt, especially if you accidentally nudge or pull out the stick without first clicking on "safely remove hardware". Windows 98 was the worst offender. I've also had sticks corrupt after deleting many files. Remember, too, that flash memory sticks only last about 10 years. So don't use these flash memory sticks as your sole backup. Trust me: I had six sticks and now I'm down to three.

+ The best way to backup files locally is to use an external USB hard drive and also to backup to another machine, such as your laptop. External drives are now small enough to fit in your pocket or handbag.

+ Every now and again, copy your work to a CD or DVD. Again, though: I've had some old CDs corrode on me. They look like some cyber wordworm has meandered through the CD surface, and of course the corrosion makes the CD unworkable.

+ If you can afford it, upload backups on-line. There are many sites that offer this as a paid service, or you can open a free Dropbox account which you can also use to share and collaborate with friends and colleagues.

+ Never use one method or keep all your backups in the same place. If you pop out to the shops, say, take backup copies with you.

+ Be careful to save different versions of backups. Again, I learnt the hard way, accidentally editing an old version of a book and then faithfully copying this old version to all my backup locations. Ouch!

+ I have a long list of passwords which I keep in a simple text file. It's probably not a good idea to leave this file on your PC, however. What I do is copy the file to several removable media, such as my external hard drive; I just have a shortcut to the file on my desktop, and I also carry a paper hard copy around with me.

• By Etienne de L'Amour ~ Google+

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