Don't forget the Primary Directive: "Always Back Up." Alternatively, be more like Jesus. After all, "Jesus Saves."
But fortunately, I'm compulsive about backing up, and all I lost was a few PowerPoint slides I'd edited into an existing (and backed up) presentation.
So...do you back up? And do you do it regularly? Let's look at some of your options, including a few Suzy and our readers suggested in a post last fall.
1. The Flash Drive Solution
A lot of people use flash drives. I, personally, lose them. Often. Other people don't lose them...they just accidentally leave them in pockets that go through the wash. Repeatedly. So I finally attached one to my keychain, and that seems to have taken care of my problem. I use an 8 GB Verbatim that I love, though a lot of people swear by this Kingston drive or, if you prefer one without a cap you can lose, this one.
The problem with this solution, for me, is that I have to remember to plug my keychain into my computer. I'm also a little paranoid about the possibility of losing it and having someone steal my manuscript.
The other problem is that I don't just want to back up my writing. I also do a lot of photography, and 400GB of photos doesn't fit on an itty bitty flash drive. So I decided to try an external hard drive.
2. The External Hard Drive Solution
Now this is cool. For a mere $80, I got a500GB iPhone-sized drive by a company that knows hard drives and includes sync software that really works: the Seagate FreeAgent Go. You just plug this baby into your hard drive, and it will automatically back everything up every night at a time you designate.
When I tell people about this drive, they often volunteer that you can buy a 1 Terabyte (that's a lot of storage space, folks!) Western Digital myBook at BestBuy for about $100. What they don't realize is that the myBooks are kind of bulky, and they come in a distant...oh, 50th...in comparison to the Seagate. I also have a WesternDigital myPassport, which I like, but it really does come in a distant 2nd to my Seagate thanks to inadequate sync software.
So for an easy, inexpensive, reliable all-in-one package, go with the Seagate.
Now I, like you, wonder what that means if there's a fire. So I bought a second external hard drive, which I keep at work. I bring it home once a week, back everything up, and take it back to work.
3. Sync Software
Let's say you already have a backup drive, whether it's a flash drive, an external hard drive, or something else, but you don't have good sync software for whatever reason. Maybe your drive didn't come with it. Maybe what came with it is confusing, or doesn't work well.
After comparing a bunch of sync programs, including expensive bigger-name applications, I found one that's easy to use...and free: AllwaySync. If you use it daily, it will eventually prompt you to buy the pro version, but the license isn't expensive, and it's not just for today's version of the program...it's good forever, you'll never have to pay another dime. This is the route I took to get the most out of my Western Digital myPassport.
4. Email Backups
The nice thing about modern email programs like Gmail is that all of your messages are stored online, rather than on your hard drive (as is usually the case with, for example, Microsoft Outlook). Gmail also offers an outrageous amount of storage space, so you can email your manuscript to yourself just as often as you like.
5. Online Document Managers
Reader Iapetus999 reminds us that GoogleDocs and OfficeLive let you edit online documents from any computer. These applications even include helpers like spellcheckers, formatting, and sharing, so you can make sure your crit-mates are reading from the most-recent draft! And as nightsmusic explains, applications like this "can be set to sync periodically while you're working on the document so you don't lose anything."
6. Online Hard Drives
Our readers like Mozy (which offers unlimited backup for $4.95 a month and will do an automatic backup once a day) and iDrive (which offers 2GB of space for free -- plenty for most people's writing). PC Magazine gave their Editor's Choice Award to SOS Online Backup, and the Wall Street Journal is a customer. It's more expensive than some, but offers a lot of power and is easy to use. Carbonite is an automatic backup service for $55 a year. It's a tiny background application that continually looks for things that have changed on your machine and need to be backed up. For automatic backups on the Mac, try Time Capsule. Edit: A number of people recommended DropBox in the comments -- it's free! (Thanks, guys!)
7. The Hard Copy
It's a pain to print out a manuscript and put it in a binder, but if you're really paranoid (or a sci-fi buff who knows what an EMP is), it might be a good idea to do it quarterly and drop it off in a local safe-deposit box. That way if the computer world ever implodes, all is not lost.
What did I miss? What are your tips for backing up?