26 May 2011

The Cloud Is Your Friend

Image: graur codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
How do you back up your work? Can you access it no matter where you are?

Most people will have a copy of their WIP on their home hard drive. Perhaps you email yourself bits and pieces when you're at work (not that I would ever do that!) or email the whole thing so you can work on it on other computers. It's a bit of a hassle though, because not only do you have to keep sending and retrieving it - you end up with multiple versions. The danger is that you'll open (or delete!) the wrong one. Email is an excellent resource for holding your files at key milestones (i.e. each completed draft), but don't use it to ferry your work around as you're working on it.

I've been burned by flash drives (aka USB sticks) a couple of times now, and I've sworn off them. They just stop working. Suddenly. With no warning at all. When you've done hours of good work that's not saved anywhere else. Please heed my advice - use them for an additional back-up if you must, but do not use them to transport changes to your work around.

What I do now is utilise my friend, The Cloud. For the uninitiated, The Cloud is made up of all the millions of servers which host the internet. There's an infinite amount of space that's got unlimited back-up servers, so it's pretty reliable. And you should be able to get all the space you need for free. The tool I use is called Dropbox. Once you've downloaded it on to one machine/device, you just either drop/save stuff into a normal folder, or upload it to the internet from anywhere. It works on mobile devices, which means I can read my MS Word WIP on my iPhone on the train. You could be in Timbuktu, and as long as you have the internet, your files are there. One thing to be careful of if you're on a limited bandwidth plan - every time you save your file to your Dropbox folder, it uploads it to the internet. This is handy, but can eat up your bandwidth with larger files. You could save your files locally during your session, and drag them back to Dropbox when you're done.

Another option is to work on your file within Google Docs. This means you can work on them even if the computer you're using doesn't have Word for example. The only downside is you'll be using Google's version of the software, so things look and behave a little differently.

Both of these tools allow you to share selected files with others if you want. This is quite useful in a business setting, as it frees up network space. You might use this function if you often share files within a household or group of friends or critique partners.

Do you use The Cloud? What other methods do you use to keep your work safe?

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