OK, lovely people, here’s my news: today I got that call. No, not THAT call — I mean the call that says, ‘Sorry, your hard drive is broken and we can’t retrieve any of the files.’
It will be another 48 hours before my laptop is even allowed home; currently it’s wired up to life support in the PC clinic.
So, turns out data can disappear entirely, I’d never seen that before.
I work from an external hard drive most of the time, so this means a minor glitch rather than career disaster (I hope); a few story edits lost, a handful of emails — it could have been worse. Still, though, scary…
I’ll be backing up daily from now on. Join me, folks. Back up. Back up today.
(I wish I hadn’t published that post about exclamation marks, now. #staresintovoid)
UPDATE: 1 Feb 2014
Hello again, well, here I am — back up and running, and bemoaning the fact that January appears to have vapourised.
So — the hard drive on my laptop burnt itself to a crisp and I lost EVERY file on it, every last one, and yet it wasn’t a disaster because I do a lot of work on an external drive. Now, this in itself would have meant no loss, except from October I moved my work to my c: drive for a trip away and forgot to switch back. So where do you go when you have lost 3 months’ work?
How to rescue stuff.
- Email. Everything on email would come back, if you didn’t do that server-cleaning time limit thing with Outlook, and if some IMAP glitch hadn’t scraped out everything except the last week’s work, and if you had all your emails bcc’d to yourself so they were present in your inbox… (who does that?) So I got one week’s worth of received emails back, hurray.
- Submittable — if you get the option to use it, do. Pdf files sit there, just waiting to rescue you.
- Competition servers — thank you, Fish Publishing, for keeping viewable copies online, behind an entrant login. All competitions should do this.
- Publishers — hurray for recent online publications, always nice to be able to siphon a piece back into the fold.
- Ditto Fictionaut.
All these aside, though, it’s not cool to have to scrabble around, dragging snippets across time zones and file formats. Everyone should back up, and back up everything, on a daily or weekly basis.
How to back up?
- My personal preference is going to remain the external hard drive, simply because I deal with a massive volume of work files and emails. I also like to have my files in a place where I don’t have to worry about security, and there are few things more secure from internet threats than a disconnected drive.
That said, disconnected drives can be lost or washed away on a tide of coffee, and so an internet depository can be handy too.
- Enter Dropbox. Am I a fan? Well, it’s certainly easy to use and the trial version is free, so there’s nothing not to love. Looking at my tweets and comments, a lot of people are big fans, and it is simple to install. For sure, if I were thrashing out novel edits, it would be a two-second drag-and-drop daily exercise to safeguard the latest version. So, I have that too, now.
- pen drives. I use these with the Hublord, when we occasionally switch computers, and it’s the easiest way to find a file on someone else’s PC.
These days, backing up is really, really easy — online resources are free or cheap, and data storage hardware costs only a few pounds. It’s worth backing up every day or two — or at the very least, every time you submit something.
I’m all wrapped up now, I have everything in order, except for one piece. All I need now is to win one competition, or at least one of the prizes, so that I can find out what I submitted to- (Enough already. I don’t need to admit that, do I? Seriously, though, what did I write? #blank. That can’t be a good sign.)
Watch this very literal space.