I’m a fanatic backer-upper…I’ve lost too much stuff over the years to not be a rat packer about data. Pat Haggerty tells us the best ways to back up out most important documents.
Backing Your Writing up to the Cloud
When Hurricane Katrina roared ashore back in 2005, I had a house on the beach in Pascagoula, MS. Now Pascagoula is a good way east of where Katrina’s eye made landfall, but it’s right on the water and got hit hard. My house for all intents and purposes was destroyed. It looked a lot like something that might appear in a kid’s book titled, “What your house looks like inside the walls.” The brick was gone, the walls were gone, the kitchen counters were gone, even the wall to wall carpet in the master bedroom was gone.
When people ask me why I don’t like backing my writing up to an external drive or USB key or something, that’s always the story I tell. The problem with any local backup solution is just that, it’s local. If (heaven forbid) your house burns down, your computer gets stolen, or the lightning strike takes out both your computer and your external drive, then all your work is lost.
Enter the Cloud
I was at an especially geeky event the other day and I saw a guy walking around with a button which read, “There is no Cloud, it’s just someone else’s computer.” Which, it turns out, is absolutely true. When someone says, “The Cloud” all they’re really talking about is some service which, rather than running and storing things on your local machine, runs and stores things on one or more computers accessible across the internet. Like the button said, most of the work is happening on someone else’s machine.
It’s kind of a trend. You can join Adobe’s creative cloud and it will give you access to editors like Photoshop and will allow you to store the images you create up on Adobe’s machines. Microsoft Office365 will happily give you access to an online version of Word and again, you can store the documents you create in Microsoft’s cloud. The list goes on.
“What,” you might be wondering, “does all this have to do with backing up my writing?”
I’m glad you asked that! Turns out that in addition to using cloud based software, you can store documents in the cloud too.
I’m über-paranoid when it comes to backing up my writing. Most of it might be unpolished crap, but by God it’s my creatively created crap and I don’t want to lose a word of it. Given the choice of storing backups locally or storing them in the cloud, I choose the cloud every time.
There are two main options for backing up your writing to the cloud. First, there are providers who specialize in offsite (in the cloud) computer backups. Then there are providers who specialize in synchronizing documents from a particular folder on your machine to a cloud based target.
Offsite backup providers are companies in the business of backing up computer systems to a storage location in the cloud. To put it simply, you pay them money, and they make sure the key files from your computer are backed up to their machines (servers) across the internet. Good examples of cloud based backup providers include:
What’s nice about all three of these providers is that for about $5 a month they will automatically backup any number of files from your computer to the cloud. You sign up for the service, install an app on your computer, and let the backups commence. Some services backup one or more times a day on a schedule, and some backup continuously. Either way, as long as your computer is running and connected to the internet, backups are happening.
The second major type of cloud backup is through cloud synchronization. Here, a folder is created on your local computer and only things in that folder are automatically copied to a location online. If I use Dropbox as an example, it will create a folder on my machine named Dropbox. If I drag myStory.docx into the Dropbox folder, then a copy is stored on my local machine in that folder, a copy is pushed online into my account, and a copy is duplicated to the Dropbox folder on any other machines I have connected to the same account. My home desktop and my laptops are both signed into the same Dropbox account, so they both have access to the same files in their Dropbox folders. I can even access the files from my tablet through the Dropbox app or from a web page by navigating to Dropbox.com.
Good examples of cloud synchronization providers include:
All three have free starter plans which will allow you to get used to how online synchronization works, before you have to start paying. The pay point isn’t by time, rather it’s by amount of data stored. Beware though that the free plans are like gateway drugs. They are designed to hook you in and move you up to the pay services. First, you’re only storing your writing, then you start storing your family photos, and next thing you know you have to start paying. Or, maybe that’s just me.
Honorable mentions when it comes to online sync include Apple’s iCloud and Google Drive. Each offers solid services but may not work with all file types or may be specific to particular types of devices. That’s why they aren’t in my top three favorites.
One concern I’ve heard frequently when I suggest moving data to the cloud is that doing so might make said data more vulnerable to hacking. A few thoughts. If you write on a computer that’s connected to the internet, do you really think you have better security than a company whose whole job is storing data online and keeping it safe? I mean seriously, cloud backup and synchronization services are used by banks, top 100 businesses, and governments. They work hard to keep that data protected from physical and electronic attack and ultimately, with the encryption that providers are using, your data is likely much more secure in the cloud than sitting on your own machine.
Someone asked me once, if Nora Roberts stored her next book in the cloud, did I think I could find a hacker who could get access? I thought a moment and responded no, but I bet I could hire someone who could break into her house and steal her computer. Trust me, that would be way easier 🙂
Most of the “hacks” you hear about in the news related to cloud data revolve around the biggest weak point in all of this: the user. When people choose weak passwords, use the same password on lots of different sites, and don’t investigate extra security measures like two factor authentication, they become their own worst enemy.
With all the proper security measures enabled and with a strong password on the account, data in the cloud is on the whole much more secure than it ever will be on your own machine.
The clouds innate security features, ease of use, and remote storage location will all work in your favor when it comes to backing up important data like your writing.
RU Writers, how do YOU back up your stories?
Join us on Friday for the not-to-be-missed Damon Suede!
Bio: After four years in the USMC, Patrick Haggerty studied Actuarial Science and Computers at Georgia State University. He has spent the past 15+ years developing and delivering technical training courses for Learning Tree International. On the side he has a successful consulting practice doing web application development for clients ranging from the United State Marines to Delta Airlines.
Seven years ago, stuck reading a mediocre book in yet another hotel, Patrick decided to try his hand at fiction. He may not be published, but these days you are much more likely to find him spending his evenings writing romance, than code. Patrick is an active member of RWA, RWAustralia, RW New Zealand, and is VP of Membership for Gulf Coast Romance Writers of America, and VP of OIRWA.
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