Writer Help: Manuscript backup tips

Being a geek I know a thing or two about backing up files. In fact, I make part of my living managing backups. And as a writer, I know how crucial those backups are. So crucial are backups, I always backup to multiple sources — at all times. I’m paranoid. I refuse to let the accidental death of a computer take my precious manuscripts with it. With that knowledge in hand, I though I would give my fellow indie writers some backup tips. For anyone who hasn’t been backing up their digital manuscripts — read carefully.

Where to back up?

Here’s the deal — you need to be backing up to:

  • External drive.
  • CD/DVD.
  • On line space.

That’s right, I back up to three locations. Why? Well, it’s great if you back up to an external drive AND CD/DVD. ┬áBut what if tragedy should strike and your house, or office, burn down? If that does happen then that external drive and burned CDs are no good to you. But if you happened to have backed up to an online storage facility — you’re in luck.

There are numerous online sources:

Google Docs — sign up for a Google account and copy/paste your manuscript into a document.

Dropbox — Not only are you syncing to a centralized location outside of your home/office, you can sync to any machine you have drop box installed on (and configured for your account.) The basic service is free and should serve you well enough to store your manuscripts.

Ubuntu One — If you are one of the millions of Ubuntu Linux users, you can use Ubuntu One in the same way Dropbox is used, but also sync with the Ubuntu One music store purchases you have made.

Local backups

For many of you, backing up to a CD will be fine. ┬áBut you must remember to do so regularly. That is the problem with backing up to CD — those things pile up. And if you are backing up nightly, as you should, that pile of burned CDs is going to grow and grow. That is why I do the following:

  • Backup nightly to an external hard drive.
  • Backup monthly to CD/DVD.

This affords me assurance that should one method fail, I will have another. And although the CD backup would be out of date, I still have my online backup as a fail safe.

You see where this is going? It’s all about failsafes.

If you’re unsure what application to use to backup to an external drive, there are plenty. For the Linux operating system, I use LuckyBackup. Here is a howto article I wrote for LuckyBackup. A nice free tool for the Windows operating system is SyncToy. Both of these are fairly easy to use, just make sure you have an external drive ready for the backups.

Make sure, without fail, you have that backup to the external drive set up to backup nightly. When using SyncToy you will have to set up the schedule using the Windows Task Scheduler. Make sure those scheduled backups occur at a time when you are not using the computer.

Final thoughts

Backups are a writers best friend. When that computer dies (and it will), you do not want to find you’ve lost years of hard work. With just a bit of planning you can be sure that your work is safe and, should disaster strike, you won’t wind up having to rewrite that invaluable manuscript.