Backup systems for writers

Having abandoned a life as an ultra-techie to become an author writing in classical times is a bit of a jump, to put it mildly. One which I am enjoying immensely, btw.

You couldn't think of two more radically different careers, however, my old life does help my new in a couple of ways. The first is, I apply the principals of project management to writing novels. Which is to say, I get the job done. (I may regret that assertion come next deadline...)

Secondly, my backup system, to be immodest about it, is immaculate.

The first thing to notice about the backup requirements for a writer is that they are really small. A 90,000 word manuscript in Microsoft Word comes to about 1.2MB. The same in OpenOffice's equivalent Write application (which, btw, I much prefer), is no more than 300K. You could store this on the head of a pin.

There are three levels of disaster you need to cover:

1. Your computer is stolen or blows up.
2. Your office is burgled and everything taken.
3. Your house burns to the ground. (Sorry, Travis)

Saving a spare copy of the manuscript on your own computer does not cut the mustard, not even for the lowest level of disaster. It is essential you copy your manuscript to a drive external to your work machine. If you are a nomal human bean, you won't do this religiously every day, so you also need to automate the copy.

My own backup system is over the top for writing, but it's a legacy of my old job and since it works well I'm not going to change it.

I have ethernet cable laid from one corner of the house, where the office is, to the far opposite corner of the house. In the opposite corner I've installed a network drive.

I have configured all our PCs, using the built-in Windows backup system, to copy the entire contents of every data disk in the house to the network drive every night. Yes, it's a big network drive. There are two instances of this script on every machine, which run on alternate nights. So there are two total backups of every disk on the backup drive. That's to cover the risk that a machine might self-destruct while halfway through writing its backup.

This means any file lost can be recovered as long as the loss is noticed within two days. I'm not worried (much) about long term archiving because (a) if I tried, I would go mad, and (b) we have a zillion family photos and videos, and network storage of 10+ copies of everything isn't cost-effective. Occasional DVD copies work okay for archiving.

Online (internet) server space is very cheap these days, but extremely slow to copy to. A select number of crucial files, including the manuscripts, are copied to internet storage every night. This covers the possibility of the house burning down and me not being there to grab the backup drive. In fact, since my server space is in the US, it covers off the possibility of a giant meteor crashing into the earth and obliterating Australia. I may be reduced to my component atoms, but somewhere on the other side of the planet my words will live on.

It's this last piece I that I really think every writer should consider doing. Buy some internet server space. Create a scheduled task to copy your ms to somewhere far away from your house every night. If the worst occurs, you'll be thankful you did.

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