Some time ago, I read a news story about an author who ran into a burning house to save his laptop. Luckily, the author survived and rescued the novels stored on his laptop. If he’d had a backup, he wouldn’t have had to risk his life to save his work. Backups will also save you from burglary, computer failure, and simple human error like mistakenly deleting files or chapters.
What is a Backup?
At its simplest, a backup is just a spare copy of any important files, like your manuscripts. Ideally, a backup will have the following properties:
- It’ll be located in a different physical location. A backup won’t save your work from a fire or burglars if it’s next to your computer.
- Backups will happen automatically. If you have to remember to do it, you might forget, or decide that something else is more important.
- It’ll keep older versions as well as the most recent one. This enables you to reverse changes if you need to.
- It will retain deleted files. If you delete a file by accident, you can get it back from the backup.
- If your files are stored by a third party, they should be encrypted. This keeps your private files private.
How to Make a Backup
Many authors aren’t very technical, and those that are probably already have a backup routine in place. Luckily, there are plenty of simple options. Online cloud storage such as Dropbox or Google Drive will probably suffice for a work in progress, but these services usually don’t offer encryption, so I can’t recommend them for sensitive or private files. Three possible solutions are Carbonite, Crashplan, and Mozy. All three work on Windows and Mac, provide all the features listed above, and aren’t too expensive.
I’ve used Dropbox for several years, but have little experience of the others, so can’t recommend them. They all have limited free options though, so you can try them out and see which one works for you.
Backup your Website, Mailing List & Email
Your web and mailing list hosts probably have backup procedures in place, but it’s still sensible to keep your own backups. If your web or mailing list host decides to terminate your account because you’ve contravened your terms of service (whether you did or not), a backup will allow you to switch to a new provider.
With hosted WordPress websites, you’re largely reliant on them for backups, though you can go to Tools->Export in the admin area to export your posts and pages (not images). For self-hosted WordPress sites, there are plugins to help with backups. iThemes Security Pro can be set up to email a database backup periodically, as well as providing various security tweaks. That will contain the text in all of your posts and pages, but no images. For those, you can either keep a copy when you upload them, or use a plugin like Backup Buddy.
MailChimp, ConvertKit, and Aweber have reasonably straightforward instructions for exporting data. You can also export your data from Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Unfortunately, Facebook’s export doesn’t include data from pages. For email, you’ll have to check your email provider’s help pages to find out how to export your messages. There isn’t a simple way to automate any of these, so I suggest you set up a repeating reminder in a calendar program. If you really want an automatic option, it may be possible to set up a recipe on If This Then That to (for instance) append Tweets to a file in Dropbox.
Test Your Backups Regularly
A backup is worthless if you can’t get your files back from it. Periodically check your backups and make sure you can restore files. This doesn’t have to be complicated, just pick several files at random. For each one, restore the latest version, plus an older version.
If you want one-to-one help, or you want me to set something up for you, email me and we can discuss your requirements.