It’s like exercising regularly and eating healthy food. We all know we should do it. But sometimes we don’t.
Backup, that is.
Our books-in-progress are valuable. Don’t let yours become a victim of a hacker or a technology failure.
I’ve heard so many horror stories lately that it has challenged me to develop some better backup strategies. Here’s some tips for what you could do.
Backup your computer
In August 2012, I felt the blood drain from my face as I read the story of the technology journalist Mat Honan, who fell victim to a malicious hacker, and not only lost his important work on his laptop but saw his digital life stolen before his eyes.
The hacker exploited Apple’s online systems for finding and wiping a stolen laptop or iPhone, and wiped his devices clean.
And even though he was a techy person, Mat’s laptop wasn’t backed up.
“Had I been regularly backing up the data on my MacBook,” he wrote, “I wouldn’t have had to worry about losing more than a year’s worth of photos, covering the entire lifespan of my daughter, or documents and e-mails that I had stored in no other location.”
You may be relieved to hear that even though some of Mat’s computer was gone forever, specialists were able to recover the photos of his baby girl’s birth and first year. (At a cost of nearly $1700.)
If a techy person can neglect to backup for a year, there’s no shame in it for the rest of us. Don’t be embarrassed, just do something about it now. 🙂
Have a Plan B backup
Backup your backup.
Literary agent Rachelle Gardner recently blogged about a client who had faced what we all dread. “His computer had crashed and died; his external backup was corrupted. His manuscript—the one he’d been writing for months—was due to the publisher in a couple of weeks. And it was GONE.”
Take note: this man HAD backed up his computer. But the backup failed too. It was corrupted.
So we need to check our backups to make sure they’re working correctly.
And we need to have what they call “redundancy” in our backups. Multiple backups, completely independent of each other. And in different physical locations.
This is what I’m currently doing:
- I have an external hard drive, and my computer backs up to it every hour. (I work on Mac and it has a utility called Time Machine, which automates this whole process. Thank goodness I don’t have to remember it.) I have already had one external hard drive fail on me, so I know this method is not bulletproof.
- I’ve recently signed up for a paid “cloud” backup, which means it’s out there floating around in the interwebs, and therefore not subject to whatever disasters might befall my home or office. (The cloud servers could fail of course, but that’s why we have redundancy.) I chose Crashplan+ because I have about a billion photos on my computer, so I need a big backup, and the reviews I read praised Crashplan for having a genuinely unlimited plan. Many of the other providers of “unlimited” backup will apparently throttle your backup speed when you reach a certain amount of data. But if you don’t need to backup big amounts of data, just Word documents and emails, there could be cheaper options — this is another review that shows some of the other options.
- I also have a free Dropbox account, which is another kind of cloud backup. I have a Dropbox folder on my computer, and when I’m working on something important, I just shift it into that folder. That way, it’s backing up to my external hard drive, my Crashplan account, and my Dropbox — simultaneously and automatically.
- I have numerous USB drives in my office and in my handbag (I like the brightly coloured ones — they’re easier to find!), and I’m often copying important things to them.
- When I’m getting to a really crucial stage of a manuscript, I tend to email it to myself via gmail at the end of the day, so that I’ve got yet another offsite backup, in my gmail account. Another side benefit of this is you have a version with a date on it, if you want to check back through changes you’ve made!
Just reading all that, I do sound a bit nuts. Hang on while I adjust my foil hat to protect me from alien transmissions. 😉
But I really, really don’t want to lose my hard work.
Use good passwords
A related issue — particularly relevant to our various online backup options — is to use strong passwords. You don’t want anyone getting at this valuable stuff you’re storing in the cloud.
I learned the password issue the hard way a couple of years ago when my gmail account was hacked, and someone sent out spam links to all my contacts. My mistake: I’d used the same password for multiple sites, even though EVERYONE says not to do that. 😉 Somehow, someone found a password for another site, tested it on my gmail account, and voila! they were in.
Yes, we all know not to double-up on passwords. And yet, many of us do it. If you’ve done that, learn from my experience and change them today.
We’ve also got to stop using easily-guessed passwords. Yes, we’ve all done it! 😉 But we have to protect ourselves and our work.
We’re nagged to use longer passwords, with mixtures of upper and lower case characters, numbers and punctuation marks. We hear it again and again.
And yet, a survey in 2012 found that the most commonly used passwords were STILL “password”, “123456” and “12345678”!
In April 2013, there was a kerfuffle with hacking attempts on WordPress blogs. Weak passwords, and the username “admin” were the key vulnerabilities. If you blog with WordPress — and especially if you have a username of “admin” or “editor” or “moderator” — this article gives simple instructions for how to fix it.
Don’t forget to backup your website too!
Yes, that’s right, your website or blog is your valuable writing, too. Protect it.
My sites are hosted by Hostgator, and I’m really pleased with their prices and services and their 24/7 Live Chat support, and for a long time I just assumed they would be backing up for me and I didn’t have to think about it. It was easier for me to think this!
But then I read some things that made me realise that while they would indeed be backing up their servers, it might not be simple or quick to restore my little site from any webhost’s backup, should I be hacked or suffer some other internet horror. And if I took a day or two to notice I’d been hacked, the backup might have been overwritten! (This wasn’t any particular Hostgator problem, but apparently applies broadly.)
I ended up signing up for Backup Buddy, an add-on that you can buy for WordPress, which has taken the pressure off. I’m not very geeky, but I managed to figure out the instructions for getting it set up, and now it backs up my WordPress sites regularly, and automatically. You can save backups to various online places, or download them to your computer.
Let’s encourage each other to take the security of our work seriously! Our words are worth protecting.
What is your experience? Ever lost your work to hackers or a computer failure?
What backups are you currently running? And are you backing up your blog or website? Tell us what you’ve found to be good.