Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
I received a panicked email from a client. His computer had crashed and died; his external backup was corrupted. His manuscript—the one he’d been writing for months—was due to the publisher in a couple of weeks. And it was GONE.
All of his hard work. All his moments of epiphany, his late nights and early mornings, his flashes of brilliance and the hours spent rewriting the not-so-brilliant. Each little God-given nugget of wisdom, each carefully-placed word and sentence and comma. All of it just gone.
He sent his computer off to an expensive service, who made no promises but committed to extracting as many X’s and O’s from his hard drive as possible, to see if there was any semblance of a book left there. Weeks went by. Meanwhile, the writer was heartsick and grieving. He cycled through the stages of grief (repeatedly): denial, anger, bargaining, depression… I’m not sure he ever really got to #5, acceptance.
I empathized through all of this. Who hasn’t had a computer crash? I worked with the publisher to come up with alternate plans, in case the manuscript wasn’t recovered. I stayed quiet, not wanting to rub salt in the wound.
Finally, a miraculous sort-of happy ending. The document was largely recovered—albeit a messy, unformatted and incomplete version. And very expensive. But it was there. Phew! We worked out a new delivery date with the publisher. And the author could finally get on with life.
Except for the question he knew I would ask: Do you mind if I blog about this?
He graciously agreed, because he doesn’t want anyone, ever, to have to go through what he went through.
Nobody has to lose their work, ever.
The technology available at our fingertips is so easy to use, so inexpensive, so foolproof that there is no excuse to lose work to a computer problem, a virus, or an unfortunate airplane crash landing. (I had a client whose laptop ended up in the bottom of the Hudson when his pilot—Sully Sullenberger—landed the flight on that river in 2009).
You’re smart! You know you should have a foolproof backup plan.
But do you?
And if you do, have you checked it lately to make sure it’s working right?
Don’t spend one more day writing anything at all until you’ve made sure you’ve taken steps to protect it.
So how do you protect your work?
Forget about doing anything manually. Ditch the external hard drive. You need everything saved automatically and remotely—in the cloud—and I recommend a redundant system (i.e. two backup systems).
Get a remote backup.
First, sign up for a remote backup such as Carbonite or Mozy. It is SO QUICK AND EASY. Do it now! You can have your entire computer backed up twice a day (or more) for an entire year for only about $60. Sixty bucks! Is your peace of mind worth sixty dollars a year? Go to the website, sign up, spend about 15 minutes getting it all set up, then sit back breathe a sigh of relief. Your computer will never go more than a few hours without being backed up in a remote location, so that your house could burn down and you would still not lose your work.
Save everything to the cloud.
Second, and even more important, set up a system in which all your documents are automatically saved in the cloud. This is real-time — it doesn’t depend on a backup every few hours. You want your document files to exist in the cloud rather than on your computer. There are several ways to do this, and I’ll recommend two.
If you’re a Mac person and all your devices are Apple, get set up with iCloud. When you do, all your documents, photos, music, calendars and contacts are automatically saved remotely and available from any device. You can make the final edit on your manuscript, then that very second, stomp on your MacBook. No problem! Pull the document up on your iPad and it’s all up to date. You get the picture.
For those who are on Windows computers (and even those on Macs), you can use Dropbox. Download Dropbox, then follow the instructions to configure it on your computer. You can set it up so that all your Documents Folders are no longer saved to your computer, they’re automatically saved to Dropbox, which means you can access them from any device, anywhere.
I like having a redundant system because it gives me peace of mind that I’m protecting all of my business data. I use Mozy to backup my entire computer daily. I use Dropbox to hold my Documents (not everything else on my computer). My computer could get stepped-on by an elephant, and as long as I can get access to another computer somewhere, I can still get access to all my files — perfectly updated!
You never again need to lose a single word of your work. Set up your systems immediately!
P.S. Writers have been losing their work forever, long before computers were invented. I’m sure you’re aware of a famous literary loss – the time in 1922 when every single piece of Hemingway‘s existing work was left in a suitcase on a train by his wife Hadley. (Even now I get a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think of it.) For another story, read this piece on how John Steinbeck responded with equanimity and humor when his dog ate his entire book.
What is your system for protecting your files? Be honest!