Saturday, August 16, 2014

Back It Up





One or another of us at The Kill Zone will at infrequent and irregular intervals discuss the importance of backing up your work. I am reminding you of this today, simply because I spent some time on the telephone this week consoling a friend who did not. If you are doing any type of creative work, in any field, in any medium, you should be --- you must be --- replicating, saving and storing what you are doing. Period.

 I write. My wife and younger daughter are photographers. My older son, who has his own home elsewhere, is a musician and composer. We all preserve our respective work. There is a drawer in our home that is devoted to flash drives in gigabytes of 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, and 128. My humble laptop is paired with a 1.0 terabyte external hard drive; my wife and daughter share an iMac and their own external hard drive. We each back up our work to our respective external hard drives at the close of each day.  I back both of the external hard drives up every six months to yet another external hard drive. If a computer goes down --- and it WILL go down, sooner or later, and probably at the worst possible time --- we have the external hard drives. I should back those up more often as well, and at some point will work on doing that. It is doubtful, however, that everything will pass a sandcastle at once. There is one other thing that I should do, but don’t, and that you should do as well: keep your backup external hard drive --- the one that backs up your principal external hard drives --- off site, such as in a friend’s home or in a safe deposit box. There are authors and musicians in New Orleans who speak my name with reverence to this day because I kept back-up copies of their manuscripts and demo recordings in my home in Ohio while theirs were being washed away by Katrina.

What to buy? For flash drives, you don’t need to purchase the most expensive one you can find, but you shouldn’t reach by default for the “take your change in flash drives” models, either. Most of our flash drives (and yes, we have gone a bit overboard on the quantity of them in our home) are Kingston 3.0. All of our hard drives are manufactured by WD, but Seagate makes a very adequate one as well.

Please note: I do NOT consider backing something up in the cloud or “cloud storage” to be backing up or storage. I consider the cloud an excellent place to lose things at some indeterminate point in the future. Yes. I am old-fashioned in the sense that I still like to hold things in hand, even if it’s a plastic rectangle the size of a trade paperback or a sliver of metal encased in plastic the size of my thumb. I have a recurring nightmare, however that one day someone with more time on their hands than sense in their bodies will hack into the cloud and go through it like urchins in an unlocked schoolhouse. So yes, I back up letters and emails and even whatever I compose in google drive, such as this blog.


As always, I am curious: how many of you actively back up your creative work on a regular basis? How often? What do you use? Do you have a backup plan for your backup plan? And --- God forbid --- have you lost anything?

47 comments:

  1. I lost an entire novel once - my novel. My house is now awash with flash drives.

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    1. Roger, I HATE hearing that --- about you losing your novel --- but the multiple flash drives sounds like a plan. BTW, I am hearing stories about people who actually collect flash drives. I almost --- almost --- bought a set of ten this morning. Time to get on Adderall!

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  2. Joe, couldn't agree more. I have Time Machine back up most of my hard drive on a separate WD Hard Disk. I back up to a flash drive after I complete every chapter, and I have the final versions of all my novels on that same drive. And so forth. Belt, suspenders, and keep your hands in your pockets.

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    1. Richard, thank you so much for mentioning Time Machine, which makes it easier. Sounds like you have a great, meticulous plan there. Thanks for sharing it.

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  3. Oh dear. Heading for Staples right now...

    I've never lost anything, though. Once, when confronted with the Blue Screen of Death, a young, severely-pierced teenager took my hard drive and put it all on a new laptop. I'm not sure if everything came back, come to think of it, but most did.

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    1. A lot of things that seem lost are recoverable, Amanda, but the cost...I had a friend whose Mac crashed (yes, they do crash) and he had to spend a couple of hundred dollars to get everything back. And he HAD to get everything back. I'm glad things worked out for you with the pincushion!

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  4. I use a flash drive and a Passport external hard drive. The office manager at work showed me a terrabyte external hard drive he got at Staples for $75! Great topic. Thank you. Only things I've lost were through intentional deletion that was regretted later. But it could happen at any time.

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  5. The price of all of those external storage devices are really coming down, Lance. I paid over $100 for my 1TB external drives a couple of years ago and I'm seeing 2TB for sale for less than that now. Re: intentional deletion...I've unintentionally deleted stuff, but I'm one of these clutter guys who agonizes over throwing anything away. It's served me well in some ways, but not in others. Thanks!

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  6. Good reminders, Joe. There are two types of backup: file and partition. File backup is just that, backing up select files from your computer to some other device. Partition backup creates an exact copy of your hard drive. Some call it ghost imaging. If your hard drive crashes, you can insert a new hard drive and restore the ghost image, reboot and go.

    I back up my files using two different programs once a day. I ghost image once a week. And I store my most important files including all my manuscripts in the cloud using Dropbox. No matter what method used, it's important that everyone make copies of their work and keep it safe.

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    1. Joe, I had only heard of partition backup without really knowing what it was/is. Thank you for mentioning this. I just did a bit of research on this and as soon as I catch up on my responses I'm going to get to it. Thank you!

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  7. I use a flash drive and a hard drive backup. If you're willing to spend a little extra money, ioSafe has an external hard drive built to resist fire and water. Fortunately, I haven't had to test those qualities.

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    1. Eric, between you and Joe I'm learning all sorts of things. I just looked at the ioSafe and I'm drooling all over my keyboard. Yes, it's a little pricy, but if you look at it as insurance, it's money well spent. One question: to your knowledge, will it resist a seven year old granddaughter?

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    2. Oh dear. I'm sure it will try hard to resist your granddaughter, but if she is determined, I'm sure it will fail!

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  8. Good topic Joe!
    I once lost a year's worth of photos from a hard drive crash back when I went to digital photography . Lesson learned. I now have SIX 2T external drives. One each for writing, photography, and video, then one duplicate of each drive. I use a backup software to back up each drive daily, then back up the duplicate drives each daily. I plan to get three more drives to keep in my safe deposit box as backups for the backups, then switch them out monthly.

    I'm not paranoid, am I?

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    1. Thanks, Dave! You're not paranoid, just careful. And that offsite storage is an excellent idea; I can't stress that enough.

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  9. By the way, Joe, I've read most everyone else here on the Kill Zone, but I haven't seen anything you've written. Any recommendations?

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    1. Uh, no...
      Seriously, Dave, thank you for asking. You can find my "Crossed Double" in the collection THRILLER 2, edited by Clive Cussler; "Starlets & Spaceboys" in DARK DELICACIES III: Haunted, edited by Del Howison and Jeff Gelb (for some reason, this story is enormously popular in Russia); “A Good Look at Dead Jimmy” in the limited edition collection SHOW & TELL, edited by William Greiner; and "When You're a Jet" which can be found at The Drowning Machine blog at http://drowningmachine.blogspot.com/2010/06/wgi-2nd-place-when-youre-jet-by-joe.html

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  10. Ha! We just had a power blip here and I lost the last version of a chapter I was working on. No big deal because it was only a couple new graphs but...

    Yeah, I have lost whole sections of books due to dumbness and laziness. Yes, I have thumb drives and one of those little mini-drives the size of a cigarette pack (it's even got a name-- Herman). But if you FORGET to use the damn things or set them for automatic backup, external drives are useless.

    Last week, I downloaded iDrive. It's free. (up to a certain max storage) It backs up every time I type a new word. Also, unlike its counterpart DropBox, I continue to work out of my laptop C drive. (with DropBox you must remember to work out of DropBox itself).

    I am a Luddite. But I can't believe it took me this long to give in to such a simple solution.

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    1. Not sure what to tell you on that one, P.J. We don't have power failures in Ohio.
      ...Seriously, thanks for the info on iDrive. Again, I'm just a little hesitant to rely much on the Cloud but I'm probably in the minority on that. It's an interesting concept in any event and the feature of instantaneous backup is hard to resist. And by the way, if you're using something like iDrive you're no Luddite.

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  11. Thanks for opening up this discussion, Joe. Good topic. Great advice. I use flash drives and an external hard.

    Off subject, do you have a business/professional website or way for clients to contact you? You can reach me at hooleysteve@hotmail.com.

    Thanks!

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    1. I'm with you totally on the storage, Steve.

      My website progresses at the same rate as the turtle in Zeno's Paradox, Steve. But please feel free to contact me at josephhartlaub@gmail.com. Thanks!

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  12. Speaking as someone who son once spilled a can of Coke into the laptop (we let him live) I second your motion.

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    1. I have friends who constantly send me emails containing material of a certain persuasion which cause me to choke all manner and sorts of fluid --- coffee, rootbeer, etc. --- all over the keyboard. It is a real problem, John.

      Of course...I will never forget how a friend of mine completed his master's thesis in the mid-1970s. It was sitting on the kitchen table on the afternoon he was to turn it in when his wife accidentally dumped a soda all over it. The divorce followed.

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  13. Dropped laptop so now only have 2/3rd's of screen visible and can't follow/see prompts for flash drive and I'm as technologically advanced as a baboon so I copy/paste each days rewrite and email to self and email entire document at least once a week.

    Off Topic Alert: Last night I watched an interview of Nora Roberts and learned Nora pumps out FIVE novels a year and has penned over two hundred. Wow. Just wow.

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  14. Actually, Fatboy, you are more technologically savvy than you think you are if you can continue to work around adversity like that. Good luck and I hope that you can get that laptop replaced sooner rather than later.

    I read Nora's Eve Dallas series (written under the J.D. Robb pen name) religiously and am constantly impressed as to how she 1) keeps it fresh while 2) making it look easy.

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    1. Thanks, Joe. Necessity is the mother of all. Thankfully I can drag document to bottom right of screen, then center. It was the dog's fault. Should of dumped him in the woods after.

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    2. Fatboy, I had a beagle totally destroy a first edition of RINGWORLD by Larry Niven. I had to walk around outside for about a half-hour after that one.

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  15. Last year my husband partially dismantled our pc to clean out the dust; a good idea except that we didn't think to back everything up first. The pc never turned back on, no matter how much he fiddled. Thankfully all of the really important stuff (I say "novels", he says "taxes") were on flash drives as well.

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    1. shnife, I think that your husband and I may have gone to the same tech school. He gets points, however, if he unplugged your pc before dismantling it. Thirty years ago I attempted to repair a switch on a vacuum cleaner without disconnecting the cord from the power supply. Aieee. It's a miracle I'm sitting here. Thanks!

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  16. Sometimes we are sabotaged by our tools. Many years ago, I was writing a novel using an early version of MS Word for Mac. Due to a software bug, it turns out that each chapter "save" overwrote the last saved chapter. I lost several months work on that one, but Microsoft sincerely thanked me for my bug report, which made it (almost) all worthwhile. The ultimate backup is to PRINT each chapter as it's completed! You can always scan the thing back into the machine.

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    1. Oh, the humanity Evan! That's horrible. I am always somewhat behind the curve in trying out new IT advances, software, updates etc. for precisely that reason. When all of us in the house were using PCs, I came downstairs one morning to discover the blue screen of doom on all of the computers, thanks to a faulty Windows update. I disconnected the automatic feature and now I wait a few days before updating. Your cautionary tale reminds me of why. Thanks.

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  17. So, I started saving things to Dropbox when I couldn't find the flash drive for my first book. I am one of those people who tend to space out and lose the physical thing. I can't really explain it--it is one of my superpowers. What I like about the Cloud is that I can work on my stuff whenever and wherever I am--and I don't have to remember to bring the flash drive with me. That said. I do have a paper copy of my current book printed out. I figure that it would be better than nothing if something does cause the Cloud to whack out and disappear.

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    1. Paper works, Jeanne. Absolutely. Re: losing flash drives...my younger daughter has a penchant for sticking hers in a pocket and not discovering it until she does her laundry. It would embarrass her to tell that story, so I won't.

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  18. Dropbox is amazing, I use it extensively for works in progress, just wary of Selective Sync. You can save bandwidth with it, but if you're too liberal, dropbox is no longer a backup, just a remote storage method. (If your stuff is in just one location, it ain't backed up, folks)

    Also, if you don't use a laptop, get a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply -- basically a battery you plug your computer into) for your system. It scoffs at short power blips and allows you to save and shutdown normally before the juice runs out.

    Also wanted to mention you don't have to backup EVERYTHING every time, for those who don't want to take the time to whip the day's work onto a flash drive, SD card or external hard drive. Even if you're Stephen King, a day's work will take less than 30 seconds to secure.

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  19. Jack, you said it all in one sentence: if your stuff is in just one location, it ain't backed up. Thanks!

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  20. Like Jack, I use Dropbox. I have my novels set in their own folders. Each one of those sync to my tablet, two computers at the house, and one off-site (at a daughter's home.) Automatic off-site has the advantage that I don't need to think about it.

    I also save everything once a week to a flash drive and email to a separate email to myself once a week. I use two separate flash drives - one stays with me, the other at the house.

    Not foolproof (I have ample evidence of my ability to screw up a system!) but good enough. I only save files rather than have external hard drives backing up entire partitions. Programming I can replace in minutes and I always have at least one back up computer ready to roll.

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  21. Paul, you're right, nothing is foolproof, but I would say that your method is close enough to pull up next to it. I especially like the syncing --- why didn't I think of that? --- to the computer at your daughter's home. Brilliant. Thank you!

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  22. I HATE TABLETS!!!!! Tring to post this for the 5th time today. My question is do u overwrite each day's backup? What happens if u want to revert to an old version of a manuscript?

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    1. I cheat. I use Word and save each chapter individually and again in a composite. Takes less than a minute. I've built the formatting to hold when I move to ebooks - Amazon, Smashwords, etc. - and to InDesign. If I want to change a particular chapter, I do it and file it with a slightly different name, such as LM Chapter 4. I also have a Chapter 4a for this book.

      If I decide to do something a bit different, I have all the before and after chapters to work with, in each variation. A lot of times, later chapters can be quickly adapted to the earlier change without having to fully rewrite.

      All those files get saved via dropbox and to flash.

      Side note: I still have every crappy chapter I had to rewrite on the first book. When I feel glum about a lack of progress, I go back and read some of it. Then I buy my sweetie flowers for suffering through reading it - some of it was horrid.

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  23. While I like tablets for reading and checking emails, making memos to myself, etc. I don't have much use for them when answering emails, posting, etc. I feel ya, BK.

    To answer your question...what I normally do if I'm going to heavily edit a doc but feel like I might need the original later is to make a new doc, copy the original doc onto it, and use the new doc to make edits, saving both or all versions. I'll title the new doc as "original doc-revised 081602014" (or something equally catchy and original). That way I have both (or many) versions of the letter, ms., notes, or whatever. I keep them all in the same folder so I'm not looking all over the place for them. At least that's how it is supposed to work.

    I recently drafted an agreement that started off as a horse and by the time everyone had tossed in their two cents it looked like an elephant. I kept every copy of every version of the agreement in one folder ("AGREEMENT FOR *** *******") so that if it was ever questioned as to who wanted what and when I would have documentation. And, of course, I backed that folder up every time I made an addition to it.

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  24. Always a timely reminder, Joe. Thanks.

    I back up every day to a flash drive. Probably I should keep double backups. Back in the day, I've had backups on floppy discs go bad. Talk about heartbreak. That's when I was writing for clients and charging nosebleed rates. So if suddenly all those pricey deliverables turn up "gone," what are the odds that the client will want their money back and my head in a bag? We all learn the hard way.

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    1. You're welcome, Adam, and thank you for the reminder about floppy discs. I imagine that there might be a portion of our reading audience that has only a vague idea of what those are and a somewhat larger portion that has never actually seen one in the real world. How quickly things change.

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  25. I use Seagate, which is wonderful because I can take my work on vacation, too. It backs up automatically.

    Plus, I also use flashdrives for my WIPs.

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  26. Thanks for the recommendation, Sheryl. Remember the good old days when "vacation" and "work" were not overlapping sets?

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  27. As an IT guy for over 25 years I approve of this post Joe.

    Multiple backups is the only way to go. You also have to consciously take care of the equipment its backed up on.

    A year my church had 4 terabytes of data, digitized pictures dating back to the early 70s, tons of documents and other media stored on a network storage device that had a pair of mirrored drives. We had two drives right? Well yes and no, it was two drives in one housing, controlled by one SCSI board. If one drive goes out, the other had an identical copy of the data. Problem was they insisted on putting the equipment inside the secretary's office which the secretary liked to keep very warm, like about 80 F. And they put it into a cabinet with no ventilation, since the cabinet I had recommended was a bit pricey and really kind of stuck out against the decor. Well, short story long, two years and a couple thousand dollars later all their data is gone because the only place they had it stored overheated and malfunctioned to the point that I could not even get the data off with forensic software.

    Multiple locations, and remember to take care of it.

    Class over.

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  28. Thank you, Basil, for your kind words, excellent advice, and cautionary tale. While I was reading about that non-ventilated cabinet in that hot office I kept thinking of the words I see with great regularity: "Keep in a cool, dry place." Just so. Thanks again for sharing.

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  29. I have to laugh. (at myself)

    I wrote a long(ish) and very passionate reply here about how important this topic is to me, and how important it should be to everyone else, and then...
    I lost it.

    I forgot to log in BEFORE composing the reply, so now its been voided into the ether.
    Ah well.

    Thanks, Joe, for posting this topic!!
    Shortest version of my story...a laptop was stolen a few years ago. I lost part of my ms and some photos of friends who had been stationed overseas. But everything else was backed up.
    Now I compose offline and back up every single time before logging off.
    Every
    Single
    Time

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