Back It Up!

Happy Thursday friends! Yesterday’s east-coast snowstorm doused us with enough of the white stuff to cancel school, but not paralyze us temporarily as the last dump. (Photos are on a previous post.) As I stated on one of my last posts, one of the coolest things about this author-gig/blog thing are the people I get to know in cyberspace. I’m always in the market for guest-bloggers: each brings something unique to my little corner of the web and very often exposes me to a topic I might not have considered otherwise. (BTW, I’m not necessarily looking only for writers. If someone is interested in posting an article about any topic, as long as it’s family friendly I’d love to take a look and consider it. E-mail me via my website!)

On to our guest!

Anna Kathryn Lanier started writing while still in high school. Her first novel was a futuristic Armageddon tale with romantic elements. She wrote her first romances in her early twenties, but her only submission was rejected. After putting her writing on hold for nearly two decades to raise two daughters and play housewife, Anna Kathryn picked up the pen again, so to speak—this is the computer age—seven years ago. She has completed three romance novels to date. She also enjoys writing short stories. Her first short story, Happily Ever After was published in 2005. She has since published five more short stories. The Priceless Gift, a contemporary western, was released in November, 2007, is a #1 best seller at The Wild Rose Press.

A Cowboy’s Dream, is also contemporary western, (Nov. 2008) and is a mega rewrite of Happily Ever After.  Salvation Bride, a historical western is the Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll 2009 Best Short Romance Story. Gift Beyond All Measure (Dec. 2010) is a sequel to The Priceless Gift.  Anna Kathryn lives in Texas with her husband and three cats. She has two grown daughters and three grandchildren. She is pursuing a bachelor degree in history at a local college.

Visit Anna at her website or blog. (I stopped by the latter. Can’t wait to try the Italian Vegetable Soup recipe she posted yesterday. Sounds like exactly what one needs on an east coast snowy day :).) Her stories may be purchased at The Wild Rose Press.

And with that I turn over to you author Anna Kathryn Lanier, with sage advice for every one of us who sees a computer as a lifeline should heed…

Good morning, everyone!

The other day someone posted a question about ‘cloud’ storage sites.  I didn’t know what ‘cloud’ meant, but I understood her question: what can you tell me about the online computer backup sites?  Later that day, I came across a post on AOL Discover about that very subject. It spawned the idea about the importance of saving data and the different types available for doing that.

Even if you’re not an author, you should have a need to back up your computer files.  I know that in addition to my stories, I have photographs on my computer that I don’t want to lose.  And I have lost them.  In November 2008 my computer crashed. The hard drive didn’t self-destruct, as those tapes on the old Mission Impossible shows did. I still have the hard drive, but it’s sitting on a shelf. I’m not sure how to retrieve the information. I had a new hard drive installed, which crashed three months later. That one did self-destruct, so I lost everything I had done between November and January. Yes, the first crash should have taught me a lesson. The second definitely did.  I looked into an online storage company.

Before I get into cloud computing though, I’d like to discuss the other types of back up systems available. The one most are probably familiar with is a thumb, flash or jump drive.  According to the website Everything USB “A flash drive is a small external storage device that reads and writes to flash memory, a solid-state storage medium that’s both inexpensive and durable.”  Its small size, “portable nature and near-universal compatibility” has allowed it to replace the floppy diskette as a way to store and transfer files from one computer to another.

There are drawbacks to using a jump drive (as I call them) as your only source of backing up files. One, their compact size makes it easy to lose them.  Two, if they are broken, your files are lost.  I don’t think I’ve lost a drive, but I have had two break.  One was completely destroyed when I left it in a computer at work and someone slammed a chair into it.  It broke into several pieces. There was no way of fixing it. So, it’s a good idea to take good care of your flash drive if it’s your only source for backing up files.

Another at-home back up source is an external hard drive.  The Wise Geek website explains, “An external hard drive sits outside the main computer tower in its own enclosure…This portable encasement allows the user to store information on a hard drive that is not inside the computer.”  It goes on to explain the advantages of having an external hard drive.  It allows the user to back up important files which could be comprised by Trojan horses, viruses and spyware that a computer’s internal hard drive is exposed to on a daily basis via the Internet.  In addition to keeping files safe from online threats, an external hard drive will also free up space on a computer’s internal hard drive.  You can keep “large music files, DVD images, movies, disk images and” even backup of your computer’s internal hard drive onto it.  And like a jump drive, you can move an external hard drive from computer to computer with relative ease.

Also, like a jump drive, an external hard drive can be lost, stolen or destroyed, though I think it would be harder to destroy a hard drive than a jump drive.

So, all this brings us to cloud services (cloud refers to the Internet). IDC, a global market intelligence firm, defines cloud services as “consumer and business products, services and solutions delivered and consumed in real-time over the Internet.”  In other words, it is a business that offers computer users goods or services that are offered over the Internet in actual, current time.

I signed up for Mozy, but other companies include ElephantDrive, SugarSync, Carbonite, and DropBox.  According to the AOL article, “PC World has high praise for Mozy, describing it as a great service that ‘works in the background protecting your data.’  And SugarSync has been lauded by critics who enjoy the fact that any change they make in one of their computers will automatically appear in the others, thereby reducing the tedious need to continuously email files here and there.”

This is what happens with the Mozy account I have: I signed up for it. At first I got the free service, but later I bought a level so I could back up more information (mainly, my photos, which were too large for the free service).  Mozy then started backing up my files.  This can take, literally, days or weeks, depending on the number of files.  Just keep the computer hooked up to the internet. You don’t have to have your internet browser on during this time.  Then, twice a day (about 12 hours apart), as long as I’m hooked up to the internet, Mozy swoops in and backs up any new file I’ve created since the last back up. That’s it. That’s all I need to do.

So far, I haven’t needed to use their ‘recovery’ service at home. I did use it once at work. I couldn’t find a file, so I did a ‘search’ on the computer for it. The search program found it in Mozy’s back up. Why it wasn’t on my computer, I don’t know. I do believe the work computer has Gremlins though.

The cost for Mozy is nominal. I recently added my brand new lap top (that first back up took about 10 minutes) to the account and paid an additional fee. I think the total for the two computers is now about $15 a month. Not a high fee for peace of mind.

So, when my second, defective hard drive crashed, I lost a few chapters on a book.  On my old, obsolete, floppy diskette computer (circa 1985), I have two completed manuscripts.  Okay, they are crap, and could, in no way be published, but I can’t transfer them to another computer and are basically lost to me.

What have you lost in a missing jump drive or crashed computer?  What do you have on your computer now that you’d hate to lose?  Leave a comment and you’ll be eligible to win a copy of my newest novel A GIFT BEYOND ALL MEASURE and its companion cookbook.


Thanks for having me today, Joanna.

My absolute pleasure, Anna. What great topic matter: would never have considered it. Serious food for thought, too! (Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in comment form: two books for the price of one comment. We’ll draw it Sunday at 7 PM EST!)

That’s it for today, folks. Snow day or not, it’s a busy week in the bloglight. Tune in tomorrow when romance author Linda Morris stops in and shares about her journey.

Until then, I’ll occupy myself thinking about the NFL playoffs and the upcoming Australian Open Tennis Championships. Have a great day!