Don’t wait until your latest novel goes up in a puff of dust to set up a backup strategy. Here’s a selection depending on how you write your drafts.
Last Line of Defence
To be completely safe, you need at least two backup methods. The belt and braces approach is to have an external hard drive plugged permanently into your computer along with backup software that regularly copies files from your main hard disk to the external one. Because it must be permanently plugged in, I recommend a low-profile flash drive such as this one . Although these drives are relatively low capacity, 64GB is plenty to backup as many novels as you’re ever likely to write along with all associated media.
Having done that, use software such as EaseUS Todo Backup Free to schedule backups while you work. By doing this, your files are copied across to your external drive at intervals you specify – I suggest hourly is plenty often enough.
An external drive can be considered a backup to your backup policy. External drives can fail, be lost or destroyed – an external drive is not enough! You will spend hundreds of hours writing your books, your backups need backups!!!
If you’re using Scrivener, then I suggest signing up for the free version of Dropbox. Install it onto your computer and you’ll find a new folder (called Dropbox) – anything within that folder (including all subfolders) will be copied from your computer to Dropbox’s cloud storage. Dropbox is intended to allow you to work on multiple computers, keeping all of them in sync, but by copying the file into the cloud, you have effectively insured yourself against your laptop blowing up.
In practice, then, this means copying your Scrivener document folder into Dropbox and working from there in future.
In itself, this approach is only protecting you against hardware failure or loss. What about if you accidentally delete a file or you corrupt it? This file will then be copied to Dropbox, overwriting your original file and not helping at all. However, Dropbox retains multiple versions of your documents so you can go back and restore an older one. With the free version, this only goes back 30 days. This is one reason why you shouldn’t rely on a single backup strategy.
Dropbox isn’t the only file synchroniser and, in fact, I use Google Drive much more than Dropbox. However, it is the only one that the makers of Scrivener support.
Set up your backup software to copy the contents of the relevant dropbox folders to the external drive regularly and you’ve got a pretty fool-proof strategy.
If you’re on a subscription plan for Word, you have access to OneDrive, Microsoft’s version of Dropbox. Unless you’re very short of cash, though, or if you’re not on a subscription, I recommend Google Drive as it has a much more generous free storage allowance (15GB) than Dropbox (2GB).
So, you’d install Drive and make sure that you put your work in progress folder into the Drive folder on your main hard disk. It’ll then be synchronised automatically. Again, set up your backup software to copy it across to the external drive.
Until recently, I wrote all my first drafts in Google Docs. This means the document exists in the cloud, not on the hard disk. So, to back that up you need some sort of third party service. I use Backupify which costs $3 a month to backup your entire Google Drive so that a copy exists elsewhere. I also periodically export my novel as a Word document as a sort of snapshot.
Of course you’ll generate other files during the production process, but the process is the same – install Dropbox or Google Drive and make sure all the files you want to be backed up are stored within their folder and add a scheduled backup to an external disk drive.