Digital Immortality (the Importance of Backing Up)

Backing up is one of those things that most people think sounds good in theory, but in practice rarely bother about.

When you had to go to the effort of burning things on DVD or even worse backing up stuff on floppy drives or tapes, it was just too much of a hassle for the average computer user.

But if you’ve ever experienced a hard drive crash or had your computer stolen, then in hindsight backing up your computer wouldn’t seem like much of a chore versus the idea of having to rewrite almost your entire novel from scratch.

These days there are a few tools that make backing up easy and quick and well worth the small investment in time it takes to set up.

External USB hard drives are cheap these days.

There are lots of programs that will easily backup your important directories for you. Later versions of Windows include backup software and many external hard drives come with their own backup software. Mac’s OS X has a utility called Time Machine.

There is also the very important issue of having an off-site backup.  A former co-worker of mine (in the days of floppy disks) was fanatical about ensuring his computer was backed up every night.  Unfortunately when his house was broken into, the thieves took his box of disks as well.

There are plenty of sites that offer free online storage space.  You should keep online backups of your documents.  Then if the worst happens, at least you’ll be able to recover your stories.

I use Dropbox and Windows Live Mesh.  Mozy is also popular.

I’m more technically inclined, so I’ve set up a script file which automatically compresses my documents directory and sends it to my online dropbox storage.  But it’s easy to backup files just by using a file browser, such as Windows explorer.

If you find all of this just a bit technically daunting, then at the very least you can email yourself a copy of your files.  Gmail has more than 7GB of storage, so it can be used as a way of keeping backups of your next award-winning novel.

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