Are you someone who only does intermittent computer backups (like I was)? Or, worse, you’re not doing them at all?
File backup is easier than you think. It doesn’t have to hurt, even for the novice computer user.
Now, losing files, that’s a headache. I have one friend whose laptop crashed, his data was irretrievable, and he hadn’t backed it up anywhere. He’s since torn out whatever hair had remained on his head. I know someone else who spent several hundred dollars on data recovery. If I’m going to throw money away like that, I should at least wake up with a hangover and a Justin Bieber tattoo on my chest.
Up until a couple of months ago, I was using an external hard drive to do a complete system backup every month. The problem was that I do a lot of work on my book manuscript in a month, in between those backups. Can you imagine if….? Gasp. What? No. I don’t even want to think about it.
I started to use Dropbox to back up my most important, frequently-changed files.
- It’s free. You get two gigabytes (2 gb) of storage at no cost. That’s exactly 2048 megabytes (mb). My entire manuscript folder (with sub-folders) is currently 6.3 megabytes.
- It’s easy. You create an account on their website (user name, password), then download the Dropbox program to your computer. A Dropbox folder will be created on your computer (and a shortcut icon on your desktop, from which to open Dropbox.) You decide which sub-folders you want to create for your files inside the Dropbox folder. You can then also download Dropbox to your other devices (secondary computers, smartphone, etc.)
- It’s distributed. Whatever files are stored inside your Dropbox folder will be synchronized on all your computers, phones, and on their website. You could even access them from a hospital bed!
- It won’t ask you to go all the way on the first date. To start, I kept the folder with my manuscript files where it was on my computer, and then copied it over to Dropbox at the end of every day. When I became more comfortable with it, I made the Dropbox folder the only location of my manuscript file folder (which is how you’re supposed to use it.) Working on files from within the Dropbox folder while Dropbox is synchronizing them (backing them up) doesn’t disrupt anything, and synchronization takes less than a minute.
- It’s secure. The concept of cloud-computing—keeping a copy of your files on someone else’s servers—has been embraced and is used by major corporations and federal government agencies.
- It’s collaborative. You can invite other people to access a folder or file in your Dropbox. Then there’s only one (synchronized) copy and you don’t have to email stuff back and forth. And back and forth. And back and forth.
I don’t have everything that’s on my computer in my Dropbox folder, only the things I work on all the time. The rest of the stuff—the stuff that doesn’t change much—still gets its treatment in a monthly backup to my external hard drive. At some point I’ll probably also burn all that stuff (music, photos) to DVDs and store the DVDs in an off-site location, e.g. I’ll trade DVD storage with a friend.
There are other tools out there that are similar to Dropbox, so if any of you are using those, feel free to share them in the comments below. And, if you’ve found something cool about Dropbox that I’ve failed to mention, please chime in.
So, it’s not so bad, huh? In fact, it’s really just a few minutes of set up for a whole lot of peace of mind. Okay, then, with all this extra time, who wants to go with me to that pub down the road? You know, the one that’s right next to the tattoo parlor…