A Simple Solution to Backup Your Writing Documents

March 15, 2009

You’re a writer, which means the majority of your work resides in text format.  Text takes up a relatively small amount of disk space when left in editable formats such as .doc, .rtf, .fdr, etc.  Thus, writers do not need a complicated backup system. 

I realize many of our readers are not so tech savvy, but for those of you who are adept at computing, please feel free to stop reading here.  This article is for those of you who are just trying to grasp the basics of all this "backup" talk.

Enter your local Best Buy and you will find no shortage of backup hard drives.  Some resemble a titanium brick or 007 device, while others are displayed in all the colors of spring boasting capacities of 500GB to 1 TB (1000 gigabytes).   As a writer, if you find yourself needing that much disk space then your last name must be Britannica.

2+2 = 4
First let’s understand the math scale by which computer data is measured:
1,000 kb (kilobytes) = 1 mb (megabytes)
1,000 mb = 1 gb (gigabytes)
1,000 gb = 1 tb (terabyte)

Make Sense of the Math
Using Final Draft Screenwriting software as a reference point, a 115-page script equates to 230kb.  Pretty small footprint, isn’t it?  (Converted to PDF, that same script is 231 kb.)  Therefore if I wrote five 115-page scripts I would need a little over 1mb of storage space.  That equates to approximately 5,000/115-page scripts to consume just 1 GB of storage space.  Raise your hand if you’ve written 5,000 scripts.  Anyone?  Anyone? 

So there you have it, one gigabyte of storage should suffice your backup needs as a writer.  Now pay close attention because this where it gets really easy. This backup solution can be as simple as a….drum roll…. 1GB USB flash drive! 

Just plug it (flash drive) into your USB port and the Mac will show it as a disk off to left of Finder.  A PC will first ask if you want to choose a program to open the device (Open folder to view files using Windows Explorer).  I recommend you select the USB flash drive, right click and select RENAME.  Name the device to something that allows you to easily identify it.  Once you know where the device is located, then open the folder with all your literary works, select the documents and COPY them onto your USB flash drive. 

Flash drives can get somewhat fancy.  Some have thumbprint readers or password protection in case the flash drive is lost or stolen.  Whether or not such precautions are necessary depends on your environment and paranoia tendencies.

1) …attach the flash drive to your key ring.
2) …keep the flash drive in the same laptop bag as your laptop.
3) …leave the flash drive behind if the house catches fire.
4) …forget and leave it in your pocket during a permanent rinse cycle.

1) Easily transportable
2) Low cost solution
3) Easy to understand

1) Small and therefore easy to lose
2) Help me here, I can’t think of anything else…

Which one do you recommend, Robin?

Oy vey, I hate when you ask that question.  I haven’t tried them all…obviously.  However, IN MY EXPERIENCE,  OCZ Rally2 Flash Drive has served me well. I own several, each made of titanium and posts super fast speeds for transporting large amounts of data.  The model pictured above cost just $12.99. I lost a cap, but emailed the company and they sent me a bag full of extras for free.  For those of you located in the Pacific Northwest, they also offer a water resistant model. Newegg is a reliable internet source for purchasing USB flash drives. 

In Summary…

The key to backing up is to COPY your creations onto something separate from your computer in the event your computer is lost, stolen, burned alive in a fire, or just decides to crap out one day.   If you write daily then you may want to backup just as often or at least once a week.   If you do not have a backup solution then you simply love to play with fire. And those that play with fire eventually get…anyone?…anyone?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa March 26, 2009 at 12:57 pm

It really is that simple for writers. I would also add that if you use your computer for more than writing then get a bigger USB drive. I use mine for writing and pictures but I back them up on different drives.

It is also amazing how many people are confused by backup devices so good job in presenting it plain and simple.


Craig April 3, 2009 at 10:05 am

Aren’t USB flash drives subject to sudden failure without prior warning?


Robin April 3, 2009 at 7:26 pm

“Aren’t USB flash drives subject to sudden failure without prior warning”

All storage drives are susceptible to sudden failure without warning – especially traditional HDDs with moveable parts. (That’s why all the rave over the new SSDs.) The fact that flash drives don’t have all those complicated moving parts inside makes them not only more reliable, but cheap and easy to use.

If your flash drive does fail, it’s cheap to replace. If it happens to crap out the SAME DAY your computer is lost, stolen or has a HDD failure then bat down the hatches and breakout the garlic necklace. 🙂


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