Some 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.
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!