Monday, December 24, 2007

Tools for writers: Online backup

Periodically one writer's blog or another will discuss the importance of backing up your work regularly. The fruits of our labor are entirely electronic, and therefore can be entirely lost to us if our hard drive fries, or if our computer is stolen or destroyed.

Up until recently, I've always backed my work up using a USB drive, but unfortunately I am getting increasingly worse about remembering to do so. Plus, backing up on a USB drive isn't always the best protection — if you keep your backup device at the same location as your computer (as many writers do, by definition of the "home office"), it is subject to the same calamities that could befall your computer (i.e. theft, natural disaster, etc.).

I've been contracted to write about online backup twice, and the most recent time — just last week — made up my mind to try it myself. The difference was that in writing an article about online backup, I ran across a popular service that offers a basic package for free: MozyHome. (Get the free account by clicking the orange "Sign Up Now" button on the left side of the screen, under the heading "MozyHome Free.")

The free account gives you only 2 GB of space, but I figure that's enough to keep my most important things backed up: my writing work (both freelance and fiction), my financial records (i.e. scans of payments and Excel files detailing my income), the website revisions I'm working on right now, and my Outlook emails and contacts. If I decide to add anything else to the list, I'll have to move to their paid account ($4.99 a month for unlimited storage space — not a bad deal, but I want to see how I like it first).

The nice thing is that I don't have to actively remember to back up my work anymore. MozyHome has two different settings to choose from: I can either back up once a day at any time I choose, or I can set it to back up any time the computer is idle, and simply limit the number of times in a day it backs up. Right now I have it scheduled to back up in the evenings, when I'm theoretically done working for the day. However, some evenings I work late, so I may eventually switch to the idle computer setting.

The big advantage is, of course, that my backups are stored offsite, and are available over the Internet. In other words, if something happens to my laptop, I can access my files via my account at Mozy.com... from any computer.

So far I really like online backup, and I would definitely recommend the free account to my fellow writers.

2 comments:

french panic said...

That sounds like an interesting option - have you done any research on the company itself? My worry would be that the company would go boom and my files would be gone!

Katharine Swan said...

During my research for the article I wrote, I read a couple of articles and a survey that mentioned Moxy.com. Apparently it's one of the most popular online backup services, so I rather doubt it's going anywhere!

But you have a good point -- before using an online backup service, you should definitely check the company out and make sure it's stable enough to rely on.