What gets your backup?

Firstly an apology.  I’ve been tied up with other things over the past weeks and haven’t responded to any comments, been reading any other blogs and even missed the second write campaign challenge.  Stuff just gets in the way sometimes, unfortunately between major issues at one of our foreign offices and going away for a week everything has just got clogged up.  So I’ll get round to all that over the next few days (and from my inbox I’ve got a lot of blog reading to do!).

Anyway, back to the post :-).

Of course I don’t mean backup as in what irritates you, but digital backups.  As you know I work in IT and it’s not uncommon that people (friends/colleagues/strange people in the street) will ask how they can recover the data from their laptop/pc.  It could be that they’ve had a virus or their computer has literally just gone up in smoke.  It happens more often than you’d think and unfortunately people only start to think about recovery after the event and in most cases that’s too late.

The proliferation of digital devices from phones to tablets to cameras to laptops has made the situation worse because several years ago there was only one device in a house (the PC) now there are several and disk sizes as well as file sizes have balooned.  The first PC I used had a 10Mb hard drive – I currently have 3Tb in the PC that’s used for our entertainment centre.  My first digital camera took photos that were 300Kb and now each one is 4Mb.

You can divide data into three categories

  • Transient – the stuff you can replace easily or can re-write or simply aren’t bothered about
  • Inconvenient – the stuff that takes time to replace, MP3’s are a good example (since you have the CD’s or can download the ones you’ve purchased)
  • Irreplaceable – what you put into this category is up to you

A couple of years ago we had a guinea pig and when the kids asked me what I’d rescue first if the house was burning (and everyone was safe) I stated quite categorically that it would be the NAS (basically a big hard disk that sits on the network) that lives in the garage.  This mildly traumatized the children until I explained why.  It has everything of value on it, and while it stores backups of all our films, tv series and music it also contains something I can’t replace.

Memories.  Copies of all our digital photos and home videos that I simply can’t ever replace.   Those moments are gone forever and I have 19,000 of them.

But back to writing, how many copies of your manuscript (final or work in progress) do you keep at any one time and where do you keep them?  Based on experience I’d say people are split between just storing it on their computer only (and overwriting the file) or also storing a copy on something like a memory stick.  Now here’s a couple of scenarios :

  • You have one copy, click save and there’s a disk error, or the computer crashes/panics.  Your file might be recoverable, but it might not
  • You have a copy on a memory stick, you stick that in the computer and suddenly the screen goes off.  The computer is fried and it’s taken the memory stick with it

Extreme?  Yes.  Can it happen? Yes.  I’ve seen it and it’s happened to me.

The problem is that people just expect things to work these days (understand I’m generalizing here, but from experience the number of people who ever consider what will happen if they lose their data is a tiny minority), but it extends far beyond that.   A few weeks ago the cellular network I use went down due to a flood in their data centre and the number of people complaining on the forums that they couldn’t work, couldn’t make phone calls etc was astonishing.  One guy blamed the network for lost business because he couldn’t make a phone call.  Now if that was me I’d just… well, use another phone, probably a land line and make the call but people expect these things to just be there, to just work and just last forever.  What if that guy’s phone got toasted when he charged it, or he lost it?  Did he have a backup?  Unlikely, I don’t know of anyone who backs up their mobile phone (although in fairness Android does to an extent with contacts, but not everything).

Anyway, back to manuscripts…. I generally copy my manuscript in progress to a new file every week, rename the original with the date and then carry on working on the current copy.  The files are backed up to the main computer in the house, which is in turn backed up to the NAS nightly.  In addition I copy it to my phone regularly.  And a USB stick.  Having 4 copies in different locations is no bad thing (providing you have a good naming convention otherwise you risk overwriting a more recent copy, although most operating systems will warn you when you’re about to do that anyway).

Paranoid?  No.  I don’t trust technology and with good reason – expect the unexpected.  The issue I had at the foreign office involved a multiple disk failure that caused havoc – it should never have happened and was designed to cope with such a thing, but it’s technology and it didn’t.  To quote a specialist from a worldwide IT company after we had a near disaster a few years ago ‘You have hardware, you have software.  Poo happens’ (cleaned up, use your imagination) – and that statement was made to a senior exec in the company I work for.  If an enterprise class storage system can fail that spectacularly what makes you think the single disk that’s turning at 10,000 rpm with a tiny head floating a human hairs width above a metal platter won’t?

So, what do you do?  I’d assume most people who spend a considerable amount of time writing would make sure they have multiple copies of the file, but if not I hope this has been food for thought.  Especially if you don’t backup your photos……

And I make no apologies to the guinea pig 🙂

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One comment on “What gets your backup?

  1. I use an external hard drive plus I have the harddrive from my former computer which the repair man says we could pull files off of if need be. I’ve tried disks but never seem to have enough space. The external hard drive does the trick for me.

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