If I’d lose all my stories, notes, and ideas from my Documents folder without being able to recover them, I’d be tempted to throw my hat out the window and jump after it…
How can documents be lost?
- Accidental deletion – More likely to occur when you keep your documents disorganized.
- Document closes before it is saved – Word processors have auto-save features. I use OpenOffice which auto-saves my documents every 3 minutes. You can also do manual saves by pressing save document, usually Ctrl + S as often as you remember.
- Hard disk failure – Not much you can do about it. A safety measure would be to install a secondary hard disk (possibly external) and perform daily backups on it.
- Computer theft/loss – Everyone who carries their laptop around is at risk. I rarely go out, and when I do, I don’t take my laptop with me.
- Power outage resulting in document corruption – Desktop users without an UPS are especially at risk. Some word processors, including OpenOffice, can corrupt documents if the electricity supply is cut while the document is open. Laptop users are safe because their battery picks up the power when the electricity goes out. Still, if you have a laptop it’s unwise to shut down your computer by pressing and holding the power button before closing the word processor.
What to do to protect your files
- Use a backup application that performs daily backups automatically. I use DejaVu backup for Ubuntu. Here are the best backup tools. Ideally you want the backups done on a separate HDD. When you don’t have a secondary HDD, choose a different backup location than your Documents folder.
- Keep your documents organized to prevent accidental deletion. Create a Documents folder and then within that main folder create sub folders such as Novel, Poetry, Blog, etc. Do not mix story files with work or blog files. Keep all media files in another location to keep the size of the Documents folder small.
- Perform daily or weekly manual backups on a USB stick that you use only for backups. A USB stick is more practical and durable than a CD/DVD or Micro SD stick. Store your USB in a safe place. I keep mine under my pillow, together with G.G. Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude (and with an invisible lock of hair from the inky woman).
- Use a realtime online backup/syncing service that works across devices. I use Ubuntu One. I believe Dropbox is another free service offering similar features, which works on all major operating systems, including Windows. Your folders and files will be stored online, from where you can access them from any device. Real-time syncing means that the moment you modify a document, the new version gets uploaded online right away. A document file is uploaded almost instantly. Make sure though that files stored online by your backup service are not available publicly.
For us writers, protecting our documents is fairly easy, because a whole novel can come in a file that’s less than 1MB in size. By contrast, photographers or video artists have GBs of artworks that they need to back-up regularly. Poor folks…