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Easy and Safe Writing across Multiple Computers with Scrivener, Dropbox and Crashplan

Easy and Safe Writing across Multiple Computers with Scrivener, Dropbox and Crashplan

Easy and Safe Writing across Multiple Computers with Scrivener, Dropbox and CrashplanSome years ago I lost all of my writing in a hard drive crash. I’m not crying over spilled milk – the writing was rather horrible – but it did set me thinking about redundancy and safety. I started doing backups.

At first, I did backups to CDs. That worked all right, until I thought I had done a backup and formatted my hard drive. Of course, I didn’t have any CD with my latest stuff on it. And then, when my computer crashed and I had to reformat it, I lost a few months of work as well.

So instead of CDs, I started using an external drive to backup all of my files. Which worked fine, except that it’s a pain in the behind to hook it up all the time. And I didn’t want to leave it hooked up and out in the open because part of the reason of doing backups was to protect me in case my computer got stolen.

But, two years ago, I found my main backup and sync solution. And last month I found the perfect way to work across multiple platforms, multiple computers, in complete safety, without having to do anything.

Problems with Evernote

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you know that I’m partial to Evernote. It’s a very convenient solution, allowing me to take notes, add images, save web pages, portions of books, quotes and anything else that I can get electronically.

[bctt tweet=”Evernote is great for ‘quick and dirty’ writing.” username=”FilipWiltgren”]

I used to use Evernote for writing because of that: I could start a piece at work, continue on my phone, and finish it at home, all without lifting a finger to synchronize it. Except that I did still worry. Evernote is great for “quick and dirty” but quite bad for “accurate and safe”. There’s no real backup, you can magically erase your work, and the background sync doesn’t always work, leaving you with multiple, conflicting copies of your work. Or worse, leaving you missing half a chapter and having to re-insert it the next day, all the time worrying that you forgot something that affected your plot.

Dropbox Wasn’t Enough

I’ve used Dropbox for a couple of years. It’s a good sync solution across multiple computers, especially now that they’ve included encrypted transfers in their free package, but I was never comfortable using it for my writing. The prime reason is that Dropbox is for syncing files. Everything else you need to do yourself.

So no backup, no built-in editor, and writing in word meant I couldn’t write on my phone (at least not if I wanted any decent results – Evernote on the phone beats every word-compatible app I’ve tried). But for my images and files Dropbox was the place to store them.

That’s when I read about Crashplan.

Crashplan + Dropbox = True

Crashplan is a cloud backup service. It does what Dropbox doesn’t: takes your files and stores them safely elsewhere. Once I got Crashplan it didn’t matter where my files were (you can even automatically back them up to a friend with Crashplan, although I don’t recommend that), there was always a version safely stored. I stopped using my external drive for backup and started using it to dump old stuff that I didn’t have the heart to delete. Like my whole, unedited photo collection.

Except that storing it in the external drive was pointless – all I needed to do was hook up the folders to Crashplan central (the paid subscription without limits) and delete them. If I ever needed the files I’d have them safely stored off site.

[bctt tweet=”For longer writing, it’s Scrivener + Dropbox + Crashplan for the win!” username=”FilipWiltgren”]

But the big win came when I connected Crashplan with Dropbox. Dropbox let me sync files across multiple platforms. By adding my local Dropbox folder to Crashplan everything I put in my Dropbox would be backed up, in multiple versions, forever.

Writing: +Scrivener

A few months back I took the plunge. I downloaded a trial copy of Scrivener.

In case you haven’t used it, Scrivener is to writing what a latticed boom crane is to building highrises: it’s not strictly necessary but it does make everything so much easier that working without it becomes silly (the downside is that Scrivener’s got quite a learning curve, but once past that you’ll wonder why you’d ever stop using it).

[bctt tweet=”Scrivener is to writing what the latticed boom crane is to building highrises.” username=”FilipWiltgren”]

What happened was that I got a great synergy: Scrivener is great at writing, remembering versions, edits etc., and creating sequential backups of my work. Dropbox takes that writing and backup and syncs it across all my platforms. And Crashplan makes sure that every Scrivener version is safely locked away forever, in case I’d ever need it.

So now I don’t have to worry about ever losing my writing.

Of course, things are a bit more complex than that. I still use Evernote, for example, due to the ease of just starting up a note and typing away. That’s where I’m writing this post. But for anything longer, it’s Scrivener + Dropbox + Crashplan for the win!

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  • G. Wiz.

    Seem a bit anxious about privacy more than backup it seems from the article. FYI, your work is copyrighted the second you’ve put it onto any kind of storage, including a spiral notebook. Scrivener also takes great care with backup. You can have it auto backup to anywhere when you open or close it or save. And don’t forget that wonderful snapshot. I’m prone to use that a lot when I’m developing ideas. I toss out things and add them back in for a while until the complete idea becomes pretty stable and I’m sure what I’ll be doing.

    • Filip Wiltgren

      I love the snapshot feature, and the fact that Scrivener will do a fresh backup for me whenever I save manually (in addition to the auto-backup on shutdown). Putting the manual-save-backup, with the instant together with the instant CrashPlan backup, means that I can create a “snapshot” of the entire project that will be backed up forever. Yeah, I could do it by hand and omit CP, or move it to a USB-drive and omit DropBox, but the convenience of it all makes it worth it for me.

  • I have the same set-up. The DropBox standard account has a 30 day recovery timeline if you delete/overwrite a file, one year if you chose to upgrade it even further. CrashPlan can go back over a year for recovery. Those “ID1OT errors” are prevented by version controlling and both products have the feature. They also both have their pros and cons. CrashPlan is backup, plain and simple. DropBox is backup and file sharing. They are both in the cloud, but used differently. After doing this for a few years, I think Ill give up CrashPlan. It has really become redundant, and if you have to find files from more than a few months ago it’s really not that easy on CrashPlan – the archiving becomes cluttered and it’s very slow to search. I’ve found that DropBox is a fantastic tool that really works well with third party websites and iPhone apps, it’s more flexible and you just don’t realize it until you start to use it (and need it). I have little need to backup apps since I can download them again from the Apple Store so CrashPlan doesn’t help me with that either.

    • Filip Wiltgren

      Hm… I’ll have to look into the DropBox recovery timeline, and whether I could use it instead of CPlan. Thanks!

      • It’s worth it to take a look and see if it fits your need. I’ll admit Im a bit hesitant to get rid of CrashPlan because it works nicely in the background. A huge con that I just remembered is that DropBox doesn’t encrypt your data, any of their staff can see your files, that’s not the case with CrashPlan, it has built in encryption and it can be controlled in the settings. There are add ons for DropBox that can encrypt if you need it.

        • Filip Wiltgren

          If I remember correctly, DropBox encrytps the data during transfer but they do have access to it themselves.

  • Vae Asmadi

    The premise of this article is wrong. Dropbox *does* backup your files elsewhere. When you save a file in your Dropbox folder, it is actually backed up to a cloud folder, and when you connect with another computer, it downloads your Dropbox files from the cloud to that computer. This is why you can login to your Dropbox folder via their website from *any* computer, not just ones with Dropbox installed. In other words, Crashplan is superfluous.

    • Filip Wiltgren

      Sorry, I wasn’t clear enough: Dropbox doesn’t prevent “ID10T” errors – if I accidentally remove something, it’s gone. I can’t recreate it. Neither can I recreate it if I overwrite it. And I’m not sure if it protects from corrupted files, if I’d access the file. So, for me, Crashplan is the backup as it allows me to automatically save and restore any number of versions.

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