"You're about to lose everything..."
This commercial from Carbonite makes an excellent point. You get little or no warning when your computer is about to crash. I can't tell you how many times I've lost chapters I just wrote, copies of books on my TBR hard drive, important data for the family, etc. Power outages, viruses, and the computer gods all sometimes work against us. How can you protect all those files? I use several different vehicles.
1. Carbonite.com Oh, Carbonite, how I love you! After a six month free trial, it was a no-brainer to pay the $50 a year to protect everything off-site. I did have to take advantage of their file storage about two years ago when my desktop finally blew its chips, leaving me without computer. Once I purchased my new sleek laptop, I went straight to Carbonite's website, popped in my sign-in info and voila! I was back up and running.
2. Dropbox This is a free program that requires a little more work on your part to make sure that all of your files are being copied, but well worth the effort for writers, since we have a tendency to make changes to manuscripts on a whim. Dropbox saves your changes every time you sign in and out of your computer and is accessible on other devices. So if you type on your laptop sometimes, and iPad other times, this is an ideal way to make sure you're working off the most recent version of a document.
3. Yahoo Groups I've had a private Yahoo Group for about ten years now where I keep all my writing related documents in separate folders. Want to see the unedited version of my first book, The Bonds of Matri-money? I got that. I also have a list of all my sign-in passwords for the various websites I frequent, copies of workshops and handouts, articles from my Articles for Writers page on my website, etc. Like Dropbox, the beauty of this is that I have access from any computer at any time, simply by signing into Yahoo. The downside is that unlike Dropbox, it's not an auto-save. I have to remember to upload my most recent versions of anything I work on. Still, it's a little extra peace of mind.
4. USB External Drive Sometimes, you do get some warning that your computer is acting a bit dodgy. When this happened with my old desktop, I immediately bought a USB External Drive (cost is based on amount of storage required. Try to buy one that will be big enough to copy your entire harddrive!) Plug it in and follow the prompts.
5. Auto Save In Microsoft Word, you can adjust your computer to save a version of your document in timed increments. (Mine is set for every five minutes). Depending upon which version of Word you're using, you can find the option under Tools or under Options, Save.
I hope these tips help you sleep a little easier and keep that old lady in the floppy hat away!
For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page: http://www.ginaardito.com/ArticlesforWriters.html