Losing our writing is one of the worst things that can happen to a writer. But we’re OK, because we’ve backed up. Or are we? How long ago did we back up? On what did we back up? How many times? In what format? The risks to writing files are loss, damage, corruption and obsolescence.
Most writers store their writing in the most vulnerable place of all – in Documents on their laptop. If our computers were to stop working, become damaged or even lost, we would lose everything. If our one and only copy of a particular file became corrupted, that would be it. An able technician might be able to access the volume, and, in an emergency it’s always worth a try, but don’t depend upon it.
So, we copy our files on to another device, an external (portable) hard drive or a memory stick. Hard drives use magnetic technology, which is particularly suitable for updating files - adding to them and editing them - and also, if necessary, for hosting new files. However, external hard discs are fragile things, easily damaged by heat and water and by being dropped. On the other hand, memory sticks, which, like mobile phones and flash technology, can When I accidentally washed my husband’s trousers in the washing machine, with his phone in the pocket, I dried it out in the airing cupboard, and it worked for another three years. However, every time we update a file on a memory stick, a new version of that file is created, even though we can’t see it in the file menu, so memory sticks fill up quickly. Also, being so small, they get lost. The solution? Make three copies of everything: one on the computer; one on an external hard drive; one on a memory stick.withstand both water and heat.
In addition, use cloud computing, such as Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive. Instructions on downloading, and using, these - free - applications are available through Google. One copy of each file is stored on the internet (‘in the cloud’) and another on the hard drive of our laptop (and any other computer on which we’ve downloaded the cloud application), so files as readily available as in Documents. This is the safest solution. We may mislay our Dropbox password, but we can get back in through the Forget Password link. We cannot break the internet.
What about obsolescence? What about all those stories lost forever on floppy discs. It is possible to source an external floppy drive and copy files on to a more up-to-date device, but we must keep up with technology. How long will external hard drives, memory sticks and usb ports be supported? They won't last forever. Think also about formats. If our writing is saved in Word, we’re probably safe, because Microsoft has built Word to be backwards compatible, but, if we’ve used another word processing application, we should re-save in Word (.docx) – now. Everything in computing changes – fast.