Writing Tips: Five Steps to Saving Your Work (and Your Sanity)

Crashing hard drives, software glitches and other technical difficulties. Whether you’re a writer, an accountant or web designer, computer problems are horrible. But not insurmountable. There are measures you can take to reduce lost work and save your sanity.

One such sanity-saving measure I recommend is to use a cloud backup service such as Carbonite. Excellent as it is, Carbonite does have limitations. I discovered one last year when I was working on a big project for a client.

They day before the project was due, I spent over eight hours typing away on my laptop. I was on a roll! About 10 minutes before I was ready to pack up and go home, my sizeable Word document had a major malfunction. My screen went from displaying the words I’d been typing to nothing but 0’s and 1’s. I’m pretty sure some choice words escaped my mouth when I realized that my work had disappeared.

I spent a fruitless two hours attempting to recover my document. But it was gone. Since Carbonite was set to back up at 10:00 pm that night, nothing I’d done that day had been saved to my cloud account. Eight hours of intense work were gone. Between the hours fiddling with recovering a document and alternating between rage, frustration and despair, my workday was shot.

So inspired from this maddening occurrence, I developed my 5-Step File Backup Protocol:

  1. Autosave. Go into your settings in Word or Pages (or other software) and change your auto save options to save every one minute.
  2. Save your documents hourly. Resave your document as with a new name every hour. Here’s my file naming system: DocumentTitle-[date]-[time]. If my computer or software does crash, I only lose about an hour’s worth of work at most—much better than a whole day’s work!
  3. Time Machine. If you’re on a Mac, use this feature! I purchased a portable external hard drive for my laptop. Then, using the Time Machine Editor app set Time Machine to backup your documents hourly.
  4. Keep another file in the cloud. Carbonite’s online backup system is set to back up just once a day. As I learned, a lot can be lost before the next scheduled backup. Check out DropBox, a file-sharing system in the cloud. Save a copy of your document to Dropbox in addition to your other. You’ll be able to access your files from any computer with Internet connection. DropBox has various rate structures depending on how much storage you need (most simple Word documents don’t take up too much space, so you probably don’t need to pay much.) Another place to store files is Google Drive, which is free. It appears next to your other file extensions when you save something, and as you save a file to your computer drive, you can save another one equally to Google Drive, whose documents exist just for you in the cloud. As most of you already probably have a Google mail account, setup is pretty seamless.
  5. Email documents to yourself. If you’re traveling or don’t have access to another external backup system, email your documents to yourself hourly – and if you have more than one account, like most people, do, email your documents to both of them. A colleague emails his documents to his Google mail, which is forwarded automatically to his Mac mail inbox, so he always has two copies saved. Should anything happen to your computer your document will be readily retrievable from any computer with internet connection.

I’ve found these five steps tremendously beneficial, and well worth the extra effort. Do you have a file backup method that works for you? Please comment and share below.

Tags: preventing lost work, Writing Tips

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