photo of donkey in mirror

"Hey! Watch where you've been!"

This is finals week for me and my students, and it happens every quarter: A students arrives to class breathless (or sends an anxiety-ridden email) to say that his hard drive crashed or his laptop froze up or he lost his flash drive, the consequence of which is that no trace remains of his essay/technical report/take-home exam.

I feel for these students at the same time that I must decide what if any concessions to make regarding deadlines (I also at times engage in a willing suspension of disbelief that this catastrophe just happened to occur the day before a major assignment is due, but that’s another issue). I feel for them because I’m not nearly as conscientious about backing up as I should be.

BACKING UP (from the California DMV)

  1. Put left hand at top of the steering wheel.
  2. Place foot on brake.
  3. Shift to reverse.
  4. Check in all directions for traffic, children, animals, and objects in or moving toward his/her path.
  5. Release parking brake.
  6. Place right hand on the back of the seat and look over right shoulder through the rear window.
  7. Release the foot brake slowly. Apply accelerator if needed and be ready to brake to control the speed of the car.
  8. Occasionally look quickly to your left.
  9. Move slowly and avoid sudden movement of the steering wheel.
  10. Turn wheel to the right if you wish to back to the right. Turn wheel to the left if you wish to back to the left.
  11. Press brake gently to stop.
  12. Shift to park.

It seems so complicated! However, I can share one easy-peasy back-up trick that I learned from my husband. It requires almost no effort and has saved me many times:

The Email Paperless Trail

Whenever you are working on a writing project that takes several days to finish, email yourself a copy of the document before turning off your computer for the day.

Wallah! From a web-based email server, you now have instant access to the latest version of your work in progress.

This back-up practice offers at least two additional benefits: You can now work on your piece on any computer that has internet access, and you have a record of drafts both partial and full that lead to your final version. While computers make revision oh so much easier than typing drafts and making corrections by hand before retyping, they also mean we lose the tangible testimony (unless we often print hard copies) to the work involved in getting from A to Z. What if you deleted a section early on that now you want to include? An email paperless trail allows you to go back to almost any stage of the process and revive old versions.

When your project is finished and the “in progress” drops from “work,” you can delete the emails to save space, transfer the documents to a desktop folder, or, if you have unlimited email storage, archive them for your future biographer to stumble upon and analyze. 🙂

What’s your favorite way to back up?