Tech Journalists – Staring into the Abyss

I make no secret I enjoy Apple products. I got into Apple products after my experience with my first iPod and deciding that I was tired of feeling like I was still at work when I was home.  All the maintenance and effort to keep Windows based products working efficiently was too much like my day job. Most of the time Apple products just work for how I use them. Sure like any product made by humans Apple can have design issues.  Like any electronic device it will fail at some point in time.  With that said I am an information security professional.  I spent several years out of college in loss prevention.  I am not a lawyer but clearly I have strong feelings on this whole situation.  And here they are.

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Dropbox – Backing up for Authors on the Cheap

I am working on an overall backup tutorial document for podcasting authors.  But I thought I would get this segment out for some immediate benefit.

If you are an author you spend a great deal of time making document files.  Let’s forget the massive audio files if you podcast your work.  Let us focus on the money maker so to speak.  Your original written work.

This works if you are on Mac or Windows.  

Get yourself a free dropbox account from www.dropbox.com.  You can also use this referral link if you are so inclined.  https://www.dropbox.com/referrals/NTkyODk5OQ  The referral link just gives myself and you some bonus space because you joined via a referral. Nothing more.

I will say that at the time of this writing I use just the free level account and I move around audio files much larger than your sum total story documents are in size. A base free account with no referral bonus is 2GB of storage. I have no other relationship to dropbox.  I am considering the paid account for a reason I will cover shortly.

The dropbox is easy to setup.  You just make yourself an account, download and install the software then give it your user name and password.  Each machine you do this on it will make a folder called Dropbox under your user home folder.  Anything you put in that folder or its subfolders will automatically synchronize to dropbox and back onto the other computers you have it setup on.

Even if you have only ONE computer this is still a great idea.  Because it will synchronize your files up to dropbox.  If your computer hard drive dies completely you might lose everything else assuming you have no real backups, but you wont lose the stuff on dropbox.  So anything in the dropbox folder in your home folder is what is copied up to dropbox.

For a free account and a few minutes of your time you now have an off site backup of your written work.  You cannot beat that investment.

Why would you want a paid account?  

Besides more space for more files, the big bonus is that under the free account you can restore any file deleted for up to 30 days from the deletion.  The paid account has an unlimited shelf life.  Meaning if you accidentally deleted chapter 8 and did not notice till chapter 20 you can get it back just by logging into the dropbox.com web site, finding the file and clicking to restore it.

What about security?

Dropbox is like anything it is as secure as your password.  So choose a good one that no one will guess.  It does use SSL encryption between your computer and the dropbox service.  This does NOT mean your files are encrypted.  So it is very very unlikely anyone at dropbox could get nosy into your files.  But it could be possible.  Thus I tend to think its fine for anything except finance or medical information level of sensitivity.  They have a great reputation so far and are doing well.  I doubt they will do anything to mess with their success.

I don’t want to move my files from where I save them.

You are an author, likely a stereotypical eccentric right?  So you do not want to change your habits.  That is ok.  This is a bit geekier than dragging and dropping a copy of your work into the dropbox folder.  So be prepared.  

You need to read, or have your computer savy nephew read this document from dropbox.

It will enable you to make the dropbox software think your folder with all your precious work is in the dropbox folder without actually moving anything.  Let’s say you save all your work in your home folder under Documents in a folder called Writing.  Maybe each book is in its own folder under that.  Perfect!  You are well organized and this trick will work great.  

If you used the geek trick above then its automatic from now on.  Just keep making your new writing files where you always do and double check its on dropbox and you are good to go. The other option is just save/move them all there to begin with this also is automatically sync’d to dropbox. Worst case make yourself a note to manually drag a copy if your work files into your dropbox folder once a week or more.

That is it!  You have now backed up your work to dropbox for free.  No usb thumb drive to lose or hope it doesn’t get corrupted.  No CDs you burned to get scratched, lost or go simply bad.  Your work is safe if your computer dies or even if your house burns down taking the computer with it.

Bonus tip.  You can make a shared folder other dropbox users can see and only the folder you share with them.  That could be a good way to share your work files with your first reviewer or editor.  Perhaps get back graphics proofs for your review and comment all without using email.
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