Backing up? Share your tips & thoughts.

Gee, can anyone tell I’m mooning around the house waiting for my new laptop to arrive? My husband has already asked me to stop talking about it for the weekend :slight_smile:

Backing up has been naturally on my mind as I transition files from an OS 9 Mac to a OS X one. It’s not at all a new thing for me; I have done transitions from different computers, different operating systems, and different programs for many years now. The key is:

Plain text is your friend.

You can dutifully backup all the files you were supposed to, and still get caught in the incompatibility trap. This won’t happen with current files. But what about your old ones? Do you have important past work, or notes for future projects, sitting around in various different kinds of files? Not saved in plain text, but in their proprietary versions?

It could be a problem waiting to happen. Most of the time, you can go back years or upgrades later and still access them like you used to. And most of the time, a hard drive will spin along for years. But when it doesn’t, it’s lamentation time.

I have a novel that has gone through three different computer systems and is still intact. Sure, I might have lost some italics, but I’m happy to know that when I want to revamp it or use it in another project, it’s there. It’s now resting comfortably in Scrivener.

Keeping your files also means keeping your files accessible.

Currently, I’m backing up frequently updated works online. Since I have a website with plenty of room, it’s easy for me to open and FTP program and synchronize it. I’ve also started weekly backups on DVD-Rs since they have so much room. Anyone written multiple times to a DVD? Had any problems? This is new to me, but I’ve retired my Zip disks for good.

Are you asking about backing up for recovery purposes or backing up for archival purposes?

Considering that my first computer was a CPM machine with double density 8-inch floppies and that I wrote with WordStar (still love that program :laughing: ) I have kept only print outs as archive copies (uh, somewhere).

If you’re wanting to archive to DVDs or CDs, you should probably get specially-made archival ones (usually gold), but even those won’t last forever. Printing your manuscript out using a laser printer onto acid-free paper is pretty much your only guaranteed* path to permanence.

(*guaranteed only in the sense that the medium itself will not self-destruct or become obsolete. There’s no guarantee against mold, water damage, insects, fire, etc.)

If you’re asking about backing up for recovery, then there are a lot more options for you since the very nature of that is short-term. My system isn’t all that sophisticated but it works for me. Overall, I have an auto-backup (first one full, then incremental) to an external hard drive. Currently I use Chronosync for that. Periodically, I burn my writing and research to a CD/DVD and date it. I just use Write Once media for those.

For my writing, I daily:

  • print out what I’ve written that day (with date and time)
  • copy what I’ve written that day to a flash drive (putting the date in the filename) (an iPod would work here, too)
  • mail the file to gmail for off-site archiving (again, with the date in the filename)

I use to use Yahoo’s briefcase, then moved to gmail only because it was easier (and Yahoo didn’t play well with Safari - haven’t checked it lately). Imo, it doesn’t matter what you use as long as you can trust it to some extent and you can recover your work if you need to.

HTH I’m sure many others on here have their own way of doing things and, like Kipling’s lays, I’m sure every single one of them is right. :wink:

  • Daily offsite backup to BackJack. Automatically backs up everything that has changed. Keeps version history.
  • Weekly backup of entire disk to external Firewire drive using Super Duper. Maintains version history by using multiple data volumes. This week I update volume 2, preserving volume 1.
  • Weekly backup of data to DVD. Provides weekly snapshots.
  • My mail server maintains a copy of all email for me. It’s in a leased facility, and is also backed up to a server locally. (It helps to be married to a software engineer…)

This covers historical archives as well. Disk space is now cheap enough that it’s easier to just keep everything on my main hard disk where all of the above methods catch it. Until I switched to Scrivener, I kept everything in Word, which is actually pretty good about maintaining backward readability. With Scrivener, everything is RTF, which is even better.

I added the offsite backup after I lost a hard disk. That only cost me about a week of data, most of that email, but I decided a week was too much to risk.



I am just in the same process of working through my old files. Plain Text, ps, is good, all CAD formats (including the “open” ones) are horror.

Again I am surprised how great my WordPerfect files still work. The first ones were written on an XT in a DOS Version, but copied to the Mac about 15 years ago, they still open in WordPerfect 3 for Mac with the same layout as they did on the DOS machine. NisusWriter files are OK since they show up as text and now can be opened in Nisus Express or Pro. CWK is ridiculous, I decided to just extract the text in BBEdit and now am through with it.

I am now printing all diagramms etc. to .ps in Classic and transform to PDF, new diagramms need new design but old ones should be readable. The same with text, but I keep a text version as well. I have exported my database data to text format (later XML) ever since I started field work, so they are accessible to any software, only thing I added was transformation to Unicode with Cyclone. What to do with DXF? I export to PS now and hope for an XML solution in the near future.

After all: I try to get anything into text, XML if possible, when I want to preserve a look, I also keep a PDF. Some new files still are better kept in proprietary versions to work on them properly. Since all programms offer export into standard formats (sometimes with loss of information), I keep the working version and one or two backup versions in standard format that ensure accessibility over long time like HTML or PDF. I still prefer HTML because of its text character in contrast to PDF which would be too difficult for me to parse. Metadata in the comment field about the type of document (working version, standard backup version) show me why I have this file on my machine, so I need not check all the time.

I hope for Leopard with the option of saving text files in OpenDocument format.

Also, I hope that tagging the comment field is the solution that will guarantee open and eternally accessible metadata, if not in this form, then easy to transform in an more standard form like the IPTC I use for my photographs etc. Photographs are a problem since RAW format is proprietary, so I ponder with the idea of backing them up as TIFF files from time to time.

After all, it seems that the loss of data is less than I thought – a few formattings, a few drawings that may be have to be redone in the future.

So, this was not about backing up my daily work ( which I do with Chronosynch, satisfied), more about keeping work accessible over years. One additional problem: I backed up on DVD in 2 series, stored at 2 different places. I did so earlier with MO, then CD. Copying them (while veryfying the old data) every 3 or 5 years may be a good idea, yet I had not data loss with either of these media.

Hope that helps others struggling with similar problems,

I’m trying out something new, because it’s free :slight_smile:

There’s a service from Mozy, now in Beta, that will give you two gigs of online storage free. They just started supporting OS X (Tiger.)

They let you choose your own encryption. But warn you that if you forget your code, you are “hosed.” (I love that.)

So with the usual warnings, I think this might be a low cost method, depending on your internet connection, to get unlimited for $5 a month.

And if you use the below link it means I referred you, and get a little storage bonus.

I read a review somewhere that said their free service is provided in exchange for you agreeing to recieve promotional emails or something like that, but on the Mozy website I couldn’t find any info about that. Do you know how it works?

I didn’t agree to anything like that. Nor did it come up.

I will inform anyone if it turns out to be whacky… thanks for the heads up.

I found the review; it’s here:

But it was from quite a while ago - maybe they don’t do it anymore? I sure couldn’t find anything about it on Mozy’s site.