No, not an accounting degree, or a fallback career. I’m talking technical back up, so that all those almost-finished drafts aren’t lost if the technological termites take over while you’re on the road. I admit, this is easy to be lazy about (backup being about as sexy as tax), but it’s one of those boring yet essential keys to success.
5 backup plans travel writers (and other remote workers) should consider.
1. Have a cloud-based plan in place.
It’s not the entire solution, but it’s a sensible one. Cloud backup is, in my opinion, the optimum long-term back up plan for writers. Sugar Sync is one system. Dropbox is another. I’m sure there are others. Choose the one you like best. Photos can also be uploaded to image based accounts, like Flickr.
If you’re on WiFi, you don’t have to do much to set up a cloud based back up, it’s reasonably simple (beware: the actual backup may take a while if you’re uploading thousands of files, or really large ones). If you’re working off WIFI and have your cloud system running in the background, new files get automatically uploaded.
Of course, often you won’t have WiFi on the road (usually when you’ve spent hours perfecting that final draft), so what then?
2. USBs – large ones – are your friend.
Teeny tiny 1 gig USBs are next to useless. Buy some big ones. Stash one in your handbag, another in your wallet, and a third with your official writing gear. That way, chances are you’ll have one with you most of the time. Upload the latest draft of every story onto at least one – but ideally two – of these.
The other advantage to having USBs around is the kindness of strangers. This week, a photographer I met enroute said, “I’d happily give you a few of these pics for your stories, do you have a USB?” Easy. Quick. Saves me heaps of time taking photos he was happy to share. (I just made sure I got his name for the photo credit.)
3. Invest in an external hard drive.
Back up your whole system onto this. Do it regularly. Once a week is good. Once a month is okay. Once a quarter is better than nothing. Basically the frequency you backup your entire ‘show’ should be relative to the devastation you’d feel if you lost your whole hard drive today. If you get that edgy “holy crap I’d be screwed” feeling when you think about everything vanishing into a cyber puff, it’s probably time to do the major backup again.
4. When in doubt, email yourself.
Prior to the days when I relied so heavily on cloud-based backup, I tended to email my latest draft to my gmail account. I still do this fairly often from the road (old habits…). So if my computer is stolen, my USBs fall into the river and my external hard drive implodes, I still have my latest story draft on hand. Paranoid, much? I know.
5. Get travel insurance.
Travel insurance won’t bring back your wordsmithing genius if an elephant tramples on your computer (and USBs and external hard drive). Nothing will bring back your lost files. But it will at least let you buy new equipment if you do lose the lot. I always buy travel insurance. I just consider it a cost of doing business – I buy a 12 month policy, and keep it rolling over. Then I cross my fingers I never have to use it.
What’s your backup plan? Anything you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments section below.