Friday, July 15, 2011

Are You Ready for Disaster? (Part 1)

A severe thunderstorm rolled through the area Monday night. Several lightning bolts struck fairly close to the house, one of which managed to blow out our cable modem. This was quite a challenge for us, I need to have Internet access and phone service for my day job, not to mention that my wife is currently taking an online class, so any downtime is a huge problem.  And, of course, the cable company couldn’t  replace the modem for until over two days later. So I sneaked off to local caf├ęs and McDonald's to sponge off their free Wi-Fi in order to check e-mail and do just enough to keep up with things.

There isn't much we could've done about this, but this does bring to mind many other potential disasters and all writers should be prepared for:
  • Losing critical project files
  • Misplacing paper copies of notes  and information
  • Dealing with the failure of critical hardware, such as a computer or printer
  • Addressing the loss of primary phone service
  • Handling the loss of internet access
Losing critical project files
This is the easiest disaster to prevent, but the hardest for some of us to remember to do.  Scheduling daily backups is critical to avoid the most painful of situations: file loss.  Whether through file corruption, equipment failure or simply losing your storage media, there is nothing (and I mean NOTHING) worse than losing your only copy of a novel or book proposal.

Ka-boom (lightning)
Photo courtesy of Leszek Leszekcynski via Flickr
With high capacity flash drives costing less than $10 at any store, you should have a couple of them around at all times. But other methods for backing up files are available, such as using a rewritable CD in your CD-ROM drive for your daily backups.  Just let the new files overwrite the old ones.

There are also online solutions such as Dropbox, Google Docs or even e-mailing critical files to yourself at the end of the work day. These types of solutions are also good because they provide off-site storage.  That way even if your house burns down or is flooded, you always have your backups in another location.  If you don’t feel comfortable relying on online storage for off-site storage, consider storing back up files (either on flash drives or CD-ROMs) at a friend’s house or even in your car.

Misplacing paper copies of notes and information
Managing paper is one of the biggest challenges any writer faces. Little is more frustrating than digging through reams of paper and notebook pages to find those critical notes you took from a phone interview or careful research.

When I start a new project, I select a hanging file folder, label it clearly, and put it in a prominent place in my work area. Then I simply put any information related to that project into that hanging file folder.  I also use manila file folders to organize information within the hanging file folder. That way all of the information is in one place and harder to lose.

Another option to consider is to create electronic copies of your paper files by using a scanner or photocopier.  With multi-function printer/scanner/copiers costing less than $100 at many electronic and office supply stores (probably even cheaper on Craigslist), this might be an excellent way to “back-up” your important papers.  You can also use a digital camera or a phone camera with a decent resolution to capture info quickly.

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