With spring officially here, many of us look at it as a time of rebirth and rejuvenation – the days are longer, dormant plants bloom again, and people begin a ritual of cleaning – windows are washed, closets get a once over for impending trips to Goodwill, and we flock to the stores for linen sales. As a writer, I like to look at this time as a reminder that our computers also need a good cleaning to be running smoothly – we need to be clearing our cookies and deleting files we don’t need any more, but more importantly, we need a reliable plan in place to back up our files, emails, pictures, videos, and the like that can tragically be lost in the blink of an eye, causing us nothing but heartache and problems.
I wish I could say that I am being overly dramatic, but I am speaking from experience when I say it is not a matter of if you will lose invaluable information from your computer, but when you will. Unlike the days of typing manuscripts by hand and keeping a copy stored in a filing cabinet or taking photographs and displaying them in a photo album, everything we do is based on putting information into a piece of machinery that is suspect to a myriad of problems. We take the technology of today for granted and assume everything will be fine, but if we don’t have a backup plan in place to save our irreplaceable data, the results can be disastrous.
For example, in a matter of 5 short years, I have had an external hard drive filled with thousands of invaluable business and personal photos accidentally knocked to the floor by one of my cats, causing it a near death experience, only to be revived two-weeks and $500.00 later by an IT person who I had to call in desperation to help me. The photos were retrieved, but they came back encrypted with no file names and it took weeks to catalog them all over again.
I have also had a computer that was working fine one day, turn a sickening blue color the next for no reason at all. It stopped working completely and I was forced again to call an IT person to retrieve my files – luckily he was able to save most of them but the computer itself had to be restored to factory settings and I lost all sorts of programs and other information I had stored over the years.
Then there have been the occasional USB sticks that I have used to store information. Thinking I was smart in backing up some of my files on a USB stick, I had no idea that they could just stop working, but they can. Not to mention all the other little things that can happen – you can spill coffee on your keyboard, causing your computer to go haywire. Or your cat can walk across your keyboard, inadvertently causing damage. Power outages can also cause computer problems, as can lightning, floods, fires, and more. My point to all of this, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE take this post seriously and make sure that you have checks and balances in place to back up the data on your computer.
There are several options available and I recommend that you do more than one of them at a time so that you always have as much current information saved as you can. That way if something does happen to your computer, restoring your files will be as painless as possible. One of the easiest recommendations is to purchase an external hard-drive that you connect to your computer with a USB cord to back up your files. They come in a wide range of prices – all you need to figure out is your storage needs and budget (see reviews here of options available from PC Magazine). The backup can be done manually – once a day, once a week, once a month – whatever you are most comfortable with, or you can even set up your computer through your control panel to automatically schedule a backup to the external drive.
Another option is to backup information onto portable USB sticks. I know I said that sometimes they stop working, so I suggest this be an adjunct to other methods you chose. I always save files that I work on frequently in both my computer as well as a USB stick. I then keep that stick with me in my purse in case anything was to ever happen to my computer.
There are also numerous ways to store information on the cloud now. The cloud is a backup system done thought the Internet and unlike buying an external drive, this option requires no extra hardware. Many storage sites offer the service for free and some charge a monthly fee – it all really depends on what features you are looking for, such as privacy encryption, and how much storage space you need. I have found a link that rates the Top 10 Storage Companies that is quite helpful if this is something you would like to look into.
If you have a blog or website through Word Press or other platforms, you should also get into the habit of backing up your site. This is typically done through the C-Panel and I know in my instance, even though I have a hosting company that backs up my blog, I like to manually back it up on my own every now and then just to be safe.
Regardless of what method or methods you chose, doing something is better than doing nothing. I can assure you there are very few people in the Cat Writers’ Association that haven’t experienced an issue with their computer and learned a lesson the hard way…