Don’t let this happen to you!

Grad student John Boldt had his laptop (which held his thesis) stolen. But he backed everything up, so no big deal, right? Well: His backup hard drive was stolen too, and now he may have to drop out.

Anthropologists reading this Gawker post might recall how Edmund Leach loosing all of his Kachin field notes was actually a good thing for the history of anthropology, but not everyone is Edmund Leach. Remember the importance not just of having regular backups of your work, but off-site backups as well!

My tool of choice is Dropbox, which automatically syncs your files to the cloud, as well as to any other computers you choose to sync with your account. Dropbox will even save previous versions of your files, allowing you to undo any mistakes you made in the past 30 days. (Or unlimited if you pay for it.) It is also a great way to share files on collaborative projects and one of the easiest ways to move files to your iPad if you have one.

But if you don’t trust the cloud, at least remember to regularly leave a copy of your hard drive at your parents house. Or, if you live with your parents, then leave a copy in a safe-deposit box, or with your advisor. Anywhere but the same place you live and work. If you use Mac OS, SuperDuper is my favorite tool for making a clone of your hard drive. Perhaps readers can suggest similar tools for Windows and Linux. (Dropbox works on all three.)

8 thoughts on “Don’t let this happen to you!

  1. Dropbox is so great for that, you can also combine cloud and physical backup. Just use a second account on your computer, reinstall the client, move that accounts Dropbox folder to an external HD. When you use this account instead of your usual one, the files get automatically backed up.

  2. I had the same thing happen to me. My computer was stolen a few months before I had to hand in my Master’s dissertation, with my back-up. Luckily I had emailed myself a copy of my dissertation a month or two before that. Although I lost some work it wasn’t completely disastrous. And it has taught me to be extra careful for my PhD thesis!

  3. As a grad student who’s currently writing up, I’d actually suggest a multi-pronged back up strategy: Dropbox, USB stick drive, external harddrive, emails to self, printed out hardcopies of chpaters, AND burned cds left at the ‘rents.

  4. I’ve always maintained that the best thing about flash drives is that they are small enough to be inserted into the fleshy parts of the body using only tools you have at home and without causing to much scarring. That way you’ll _never_ lose your data.

  5. Carbonite is the offsite backup of choice for many of the editors I know. I just signed up and so far I’m happy with it. Runs in the background, like Dropbox.

  6. I agree with Zora that Carbonite is a great. I use Backblaze which works the same way (but from what I hear, is better suited for working with a Mac operating system). It costs me $5 a month.

  7. I agree that a multi-pronged approach is correct. For my dissertation, I used a dot-mac account “iDisk,” my own web space I rent, an external HD, and the occasional email sent to myself. As well, I would print out pages periodically, not only for backup but also for editing.

    I cannot believe anyone would lose data this way in today’s day and age! It gives me the heebie jeebies just to read such stories.

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