A way with worlds: 08 – Your Worlds are in Danger! by Steven Savage of Seventh Sanctum

OK, yes, I wanted an impressive title because the actual theme of this column may sound as exciting as clipping your toenails. However, please trust me, put away the nailclipper, and read on.

You’ve put a lot of work into your world. You need to protect the information and the work. I’m not talking copyright (hey, I put up the notes and I even file the forms myself). I’m talking, yes, backup and protection of your world data and stories.

Of course everyone knows how to back up, right? It’s obvious, right? Just save some files.

In my experience, sadly, it isn’t obvious. Not for me, not for my friends, not for my co-workers. Recently a friend of mine lost almost his complete body of works, and my wife’s system temporarily died due to a computer hardware idiosyncrasy that wrecked her data drive. Neither had done proper back ups, and don’t even get my started on some of my other experiences . . .

In short, data protection is NOT a process that is inherently obvious. However, as a person who is A)a computer professional, B)a writer, and C)anal-retentive about what I do, I have a series of strategies I developed to protect my data.

YOUR SYSTEM:
Data protection starts, obviously, with your computer system. Your system is your life as a writer (and as an ff net reader). These things will help protect your system and help save and protect your data.

UPS OR SURGE PROTECTOR: I recommend, strongly, blowing the money to get a good UPS (Universal Power Supply). It may cost over $100, but it’s worth it in protecting your system from power surges and preventing sudden system-harming shutdowns from power outages. If you don’t get one, at least get a good surge protector – and make sure its one that also protects the modem line.

A WARRANTY PLAN: Many companies sell different levels of warranties (my system in fact has a 4 year on-site plan). Get a good one, you’ll probably use it at least once.

TAKING CARE OF YOUR SYSTEM: Learn how to take care of your system, learn the basic signs of problems, cleaning dust, etc. It’ll extend the life of your system and give you some basic knowledge that’ll prove useful almost anywhere.

BACKUP PLANS: If you’re on a regular schedule in publishing, such as a column or a page, make sure you’ve got friends whose computer you can borrow, a boss that’ll let you use the computer after hours, or even keep an old system around. Hey, who wants to be without a system for an extended time?

HARDWARE:
You’ve got a computer, and you obviously want to back up data on it? What’s the best way?

For my money, you cannot beat CD-ROM Read/Writes. You can get them internal and external and even USB models. You get a lot of space and you can set them so that they’re readable by regular CD-ROMs. They also function as spare CD-ROM drives in most cases. I swear by mine and have used it so much I’m probably wearing it out.

As for other versions of backup technology, I fully admit I don’t trust Zip drives or any other “new-style” disk technology. I’ve been burned before, and you don’t get the kind of compatibility floppies or CD-ROMs provide.

I have a spot in my heart for tape drives. They’re perhaps even less compatible than Zip disk and similar technologies, but I usually find them reliable and find the media enduring.

Then again, there are floppies. Hey, they work everywhere.

ARRANGING YOUR DATA:
OK, you got a backup plan. Now make sure it’s easy to implement – keep your data easy to find.

My recommendation is to have a few “top-level” folders for various projects, and then store data within them in an organized manner. For instance i have one major folder (“data”) with several subfolders for graphics, writing, etc. Within those subfolders are different projects. When I backup, I can find what I need easily, or even copy the whole folder. There are also some other “top-level” folders for other projects.

This may sound strange, but it doesn’t hurt to write down a guide to how you’ll arrange your files. Make a system. It pays off, trust me.

DATA – WHAT YOU DIDN’T THINK OF:
You’re ready to store your World and writing information and . . . you didn’t think of a few things. Besides just your stories and your notes on your world, what about?

Links to resources you may need?
Email of friends/readers/editors
FTP addresses and passwords for your website
MIRC server information for chats
Passwords or things you may need for websites.
Downloads that may be hard to find or are discontinued.
You’re going to want a way to record this information so you can get to it in case you need to.

BACKING UP – THE THRILLING EXPERIENCE:
Backup regularly and check your backups.

Sounds easy of course, but its also easy to get out of a good schedule, so set one up for yourself and enforce it. If you built a world, if you built an epic, losing it due to bad timing is a humiliating and disheartening experience. It’s your work – take the time to take care of it.

Make sure you’re backup media is stored in a safe place. That too sounds like obvious advice, but its easy to just stick something on a shelf and forget about it.

Organize your backups by dates so recovery is easier. Label your disks or jewel cases or tapes with their dates and perhaps contents. If you’re backing up different data at different times, try to make sure you are well-organized.

PRINTING OUT: KILLING TREES FOR SECURITY
Printing things out is an often-ignored method of backup. However, as you cant demagentize paper or scratch its writing layer, it’s a good idea to keep printouts of stories, concepts, etc. as well.

I recommend having a filing cabinet for your work. You can even purchase cheap, plastic one-drawer boxes at many stores. Set it aside for your work and your work only.

BACKUPS: THINGS YOU MAY NOT THINK OF:
A few things to keep in mind when backing up:

Is it necessary to back up a website all the time? If there’s one on the site and one on your computer, the chance both will be destroyed is more limited. Besides, it keeps you from having to save a big site all the time. A website is its own backup, so you can probably back up less often and save time.
Offsite storage is not a bad idea. There are sites that provide limited amounts of it, such as http://www.freedrive.com/.
If you use a lot of clip art, you probably don’t have to back it up if you have the CD’s or web pages you use. Unless its vital to have it right away in an emergency, it may just be extra bits on a drive.
Zipping files may be worth it to save space. Just check the integrety of the zip files and make sure you have an easily available copy of your zip program.

SUMMARY:
You’re going to put a lot of work into your world and your writing.

You can loose that data.

Don’t.

Enough said.

NEXT COLUMN:
Rectcon as continuity?

Take a trip to my own alternate world, the Crossworld of Xai, at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/xai/

Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Steven Savage, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.

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