Back It Up or Lose It

Most of us are reminded to save a backup of our documents after we lose a sizeable chunk of work. Few things suck the creative life from a writer like having to recreate paragraphs or even pages of work. We complicate matters by writing on multiple computers. Bouncing from desktop to laptop creates out-of-sync versions of stories and scripts. Using a thumbdrive to maintain sync between computers is an option, but without syncing software it’s up to the user to determine which files are newer and copy or overwrite in the proper direction. Plus, memory sticks are small and easy to misplace (or wash and dry… don’t ask!).

Cloud storage is now feasable, and many products offer free storage and syncing services. But I’m not comfortable with cloud storage and I know some others aren’t either. That leaves us on our own to address the problems mentioned above. My current software choice is Allway Sync, which is free for moderate, non-commercial use. I should note that Allway Sync is available for Windows only.

I chose this software because of its ability to securely connect to WebDAV folders. Many who develop and maintain their own websites are familiar with WebDAV, a remote file storage system well suited for document syncing and retrieval. Vista and Windows 7 have problems initiating secure WebDAV connections. Allway Sync solves this problem. The software also enables connections to regular and secure FTP sites, and a few other systems as seen in the folder setup dialog below.

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Basic operation involves choosing the folder on your computer that has your writing. Next, choose the location where you want to copy that folder. This may be a thumbdrive, your web server, another computer on your network, or several other options. If the remote destination is web-based, you’ll have to input user login and password information. Once the remote connection and folder are set up, click analyze and the software compares the two folders’ contents, and then shows what changes will be made in each folder.

Now, you’ll see the beauty of using sync software instead of manually updating changed files. If you’ve previously sync’ed the two folders, the analysis will show the differences between all changed files, and arrows will show which direction files will be copied when you click “synchronize”. If you’ve deleted a file from either folder, you have the option of copying it back or deleting it from the target folder as well. Subsequent syncing operations are speedy, as they only consist of copying changed or newly created files.¬†Running the software with the same setup on another computer allows you to keep your writing folders on both devices in sync, with the benefit of having a current remote backup copy.

Anyone who manages their own website can figure the software out. While it may lack the sex appeal of¬†the cloud, it more than makes up for that lack in configurability, robustness, and by offering viable alternatives to cloud storage. However you choose to backup your work, make sure to do it soon after making major changes. If you don’t, it’s not a matter of if, but when you will lose something you may never get back.