Why it Pays to be Paranoid

Oh, yes, it pays to be Paranoid

About backing up.

What do you mean my files are gone?

The subject came up recently. Of course, the subject of backups is highly relevant to my day job, so it’s something I think about a lot. And, several years ago, I learned a hard lesson about assuming 3rd parties will always be there or will give you enough time to get your files as opposed to, say, just turning off the server. I did, of course, have my own backups, but I still lost a lot of files. And what about people who were storing perfectly legitimate files on Megaupload? The US government concedes this is true, but 5 months after having taken control of the files on Megaupload, not one single file has been returned to legitimate users.

I love Dropbox, but what if the US government seizes them? Never ever ever rely on hardware or services you do not personally own as your only backup.


Remember, the Internet is NOT always there or available. I happen to live in a place where I don’t have true broadband. That means a service like Carbonite won’t work for me. I was thrilled when I found out Dropbox didn’t overwhelm our internet and allowed me to specify what I wanted there. When I write on my lunch hour, I don’t have an internet connection. Hello USB drive!

I ran through my process and yeah, I’m paranoid. But it pays off.

  1. I use Time Machine to back up my computer to an external drive. I have a total of 4 terabytes of external attached storage and sometimes I worry that’s not enough. Some of the storage is for legal reasons. (Google Jewel vs. NSA if you’re curious.)
  2. There are certain files I backup to other external drives.
  3. Since I run parallels, I make backups of the .pvm file to an external drive. That’s the fastest way to restore the virtual machine if something goes wrong. It’s a big file.
  4. I keep my writing files, website files and epublishing files synched with my laptop
  5. I synch those same files to a USB drive.
  6. I synch all those files plus others to dropbox. That makes it easy to keep files synched between the desktop, laptop, and iPad as well.
  7. Every night, I zip up files in the WIP, name it with date, and email that (as an attachment: 20120630.zip) to my gmail account with a subject of [WIP NAME] [Date]. In gmail, the email gets a label of “backup”
  8. The folder for every MS has a directory called Zips. Every zipped archive file is there. Which means it’s synched to dropbox.
  9. The folder for every MS has a directory called Current. At the end of every day, I copy all my MS files into it. That way I always have the previous day’s work right there. Every now and then, something goes wrong (often the problem is between the chair and the keyboard) and I have to recover by starting over for a certain chapter. The Current folder makes it easy to do that.

What do you do? What’s your backup and recovery strategy?



3 Responses to “Why it Pays to be Paranoid”

  1. OMG, you do all that? Wow, I thought dropbox was good enough. I used to email stuff to myself before that. Maybe it’s time to get a flash drive! Or whatever those thingys are that you stick in. So interesting!! Nice image.

  2. Yes. I do all that. The court order has something to do with all the other files I have to save, but yes. Naturally I need the laptop synched with the desktop. I think over the years I’ve needed to go through my zip archive twice. And both times I was glad I had it! I’ve not yet had to recover a file from gmail, but it’s nice to know I could.

    I’ve had to use Time Machine, when my hard drive failed and I needed to restore to the new drive and then to the new computer. Boy. Time Machine is major reason to have a Mac. It’s awesome.

    The sheep by the way, is Thirsty. She was one of our bummer lambs who we really thought we were going to lose. She is now the alpha ewe.

  3. Alright so I am a complete fool when it comes to this sort of thing. I am amply paranoid when it comes to backing up my novels (there are as many as 12 copies stashed here and there) but guess what I didnt bother to back up before my hard drive in my laptop crashed a couple of months back? Every-blooming-thing else. To be honest I was in the process of backing up the kids pictures when it happened. I had just taken a hiatus of sorts from it (ran out of CDs) and well guess what.. poof! four years of pictures gone. I learned a very hard lesson.

    So to all you who think you have backed everything up I say Listen to this lovely lady and back it up again folks you just never know! :o)