Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Practical tip: Back up often.

A good friend of mine had something happen that will probably make all of you want to vomit when you hear it. His hard drive died... with about 8 years worth of writing on it. Eight years of work - GONE.

I can hear a few of you now - "Why didn't he back up his work?" He did. It was on a flashdrive, the very same flashdrive that was plugged into his computer when it suffered whatever surge claimed the hard drive. Apparently, this surge was enough to render the data on the flashdrive unrecoverable.

Back up everything in multiple ways. My friend was able to recover some of what he was missing thanks to the fact he'd emailed several scripts out to other friends. However, these were only PDFs, which means he has to retype everything into Final Draft. It also means that he lost many, many interim drafts that were not send out for public consumption and he lost any newer rewrites.

My new policy is to email myself a copy of the Final Draft file and the corresponding PDF each time I complete a draft. That way there'll always at least be some sort of back up in cyberspace in my email folder. This isn't a foolproof plan, but between backing up like this, and via flashdrives and shutting material between my two computers, I hope I can reduce the odds of losing my entire creative portfolio in one swoop.

Seriously, don't let this week go by without putting double redundant backups into place. You don't want to end up like my friend.


  1. Yikes... say hello to Dropbox! Never lose anything, and you don't even have to remember to backup or email to yourself. It all backs up every time you save. It has saved my life on a number of occasions. http://www.getdropbox.com

  2. Dropbox is good, but involves a download. For a web-based option, use Google Documents - docs.google.com. Create an account with any email address, and upload every version of your script easily. Or use both services, and you have redundant backups.

    Of course, paying for a backup service is always best. But for us poor folks...

  3. Off site backup is the way to go. People love carbonate.
    Good annual price.

  4. I use Mozy as well as a backup drive, which I don't leave plugged in 24-7 ... and I also email myself all important docs, too ...

    Mozy's good and free, too ...

  5. I use a series of four flashdrives. One for daily backup. Three for weekly backup. I keep one in a safety deposit box that I switch out.

  6. Yes, I learned this lesson the hard way myself just before I finished film school. Same thing, I had only e-mailed .pdfs. Converting them back to Final Draft was excruciating.

    As I am a Mac user, I now work solely off of my iDisk through the soon-to-be defunct MobileMe. And I, of course, use Time Machine to back up my entire hard drive.

    iDisk is great because Finder treats it like it's a hard disc, so you don't have to go through the upload/download process like you do with Dropbox and Google Docs. Even that little step makes me get lazy...and that's when bad things happen.

    Hopefully apple just renames the iDisk feature but keeps how it works exactly the same. I sure hope so.

  7. My writing directory is inside my Dropbox directory, so everything is always synced and I don't have to worry about catastrophic crashes on whatever machine I'm using.

  8. Or you could just print it off on paper. Low tech for sure, but if you lose it and have to retype it, it'll end up better anyway.

  9. Dropbox doesn't necessarily require a download - files may be backed up and restored solely via their web interface, allowing you to get your files on any computer. The software makes backup so effortlessly easy, I don't know why you wouldn't want to dowload it.

    All of my old drafts (and probably some of yours, bsr) are automagically backed up from my Dropbox folder. Protip: register via my referral link and you and I get an extra 250MB storage space (500MB if you have a .edu email address)!


  10. It sucks thinking of having to retype everything. It`s happened to me before, this very same scenario. BUT, one awesome thing that I learned from retyping, was able to really figure out of the scene works to the letter. Some of these scripts ended up with much stronger revisions. This is what writers all had to do until 30 years ago... just saying, if there`s any positive, it`s that there is some creative enlightenment from retyping.

  11. Ugh, the pain of losing work. It never not hurts. One thing that can help prevent bad outcomes from electrical surges, a surge protector, black box that sits near your machine, plug the tech in (like here). Protects machine and your work.

  12. In Dropbox I trust.

    But, really, any backup software that does the same should be mandatory for anything, not just writing.

    I also email my software file and a pdf copy everyday. After a while it just becomes part of the process.

  13. Its nothing like getting your computer and drives stolen. This happened to me. 6 years of work!

    I now have an empty post office box with only a hard drive which is backup once every two weeks.

    The drive is in a post office box that is seperate from my postal post number.

    Then every 3 months the full drive is burned onto DVDs and given to a family member to keep.

    At least if I loose my keys I can still produce my drivers license with my photo ID to confirm ownership over the locked box and get the lock changed. Paranoid I know. however its work, ideas and time that are being protected. Well worth it one thinks.