Highly productive people — and that should include you — always prepare for potential problems. One problem likely to happen to most freelance writers eventually: loss of computer files, which could be anything from an article you just wrote, but haven’t sent to your editor yet, all the way to that novel you’ve been working on for nearly five years that’s almost complete.
Live long enough and it’ll happen to you — I guarantee it.
Common Ways You Can Lose Files
Damaged Hard Drive
This is how most people lose data. Hard drive problems can occur in the following ways:
- Hard drive failure. (Every hard drive eventually fails.)
- Power surge, either from lightning or a random power pulse. (Use a good surge protector; you can get a small one for your laptop also.)
- Liquids, from spilled drinks to floods. (Be careful with your coffee around your laptop.)
- Rough handling, like dropping your laptop or moving it quickly while the hard drive is spinning. (Be gentle.)
- Disasters natural and human: earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, fire, elephant stampede.
Theft is another common way to lose your files. Either someone comes in your house and steals your desktop, or you have your laptop stolen from your car or from your table at a coffee shop or library.
And now on to those…
8 Ways to Back Up Your Files
Obviously, your productivity will plummet if you lose days, months, or years of work, so protect your data with multiple levels of back-up. Here are 8 methods:
- Get an external hard drive. They are quite inexpensive and you can get a model that runs off your USB port.
- If you have a desktop computer, install a second hard drive and save all files on both hard drives.
- Back up all your data on thumb drives (also called flash drives). Cheap and very small, they easily fit in your pocket.
- Back up data on DVDs.
- Back up data on a second computer.
- Back up data on an external website designed for that purpose (the “cloud”). Many commercial operations do this for a reasonable monthly fee. Be wary though: if the company goes out of business, you may have a difficult time getting your data.
- Back up data by sending it as e-mail attachments to yourself using a free e-mail service such as gmail.com.
- Have all your data stored at multiple locations, including at least one that’s not in your house so you are protected in case of fire, flood, or theft.
Whatever methods you use, do at least one of them daily, and preferably more often.
How I Back Up My Files
Here’s how I personally back up my files: on my second hard drive on my desktop computer, full set of files on my laptop computer, and on a portable hard drive stored at family members’ houses.
I use a thumb drive to transfer files between my desktop and my laptop, and also to back up files every couple of hours when I’m using the laptop.
Have you ever lost important data? How did you feel when that happened? Any suggestions I missed, or important info to add?