Anything Not Saved Will Be Lost
Yes, you. Reading this on some kind of electronic device right now.
If a mischievous little goblin showed up and drop-kicked that thing into the ocean, would you lose anything important? (Besides the device itself, which I’m assuming was expensive.)
If so, you should back your stuff up right freakin’ now.
Have you done it yet?
If not, I’ll wait.
If so, feel free to keep reading. This is going to be a post in two parts.
Part the First: Why This Matters
As someone who’s written umpteen books, and made dozens of games, I’ve got a lot of stuff that I want to keep hold of (and obviously there’s the usual few thousand photographs and videos and whatnot as well – everybody’s got precious memories they don’t want to lose).
I’ve got one rule for all this stuff: it has to be saved in more than one place.
That’s it. It’s an incredibly simple rule, and unless something truly outrageous happens – a pesky goblin drop-kicks my laptop into the ocean on the very same day that a meteorite lands on my backup hard drive – it’s pretty much foolproof.
This rule could go further. Having everything saved in three places would be better than two, obviously. And it would make sense to insist that those “places” where my stuff is saved aren’t typically in the same geographical location, since a meteorite smashing the laptop on my desk is unlikely to spare the external drive in the drawer beneath it. But as a baseline level of insurance, “keep anything important in more than one place” does the job pretty well. An easy rule you can stick with is better than a difficult one you give up on.
The other reason I find this rule handy is it’s a reminder that one place is one place, no matter where it is. Every once in a while I’ll hear somebody say “I don’t need to make backups, I use Google Drive” and while, yes, okay, on a technical level Google is definitely storing your files in more than one location, Google itself is a huge single point of failure. Consider the following possibilities:
- Rami Malek hacks Google and deletes everybody’s stuff. Okay, this specific example is vanishingly unlikely, but it’s a stand-in for any number of (admittedly equally improbable) things that might cause Google Drive to go belly-up without warning. If I could tell you what kind of iceberg was going to sink Google, they’d already be steering away from it.
- Google suspends your account and you lose your stuff. This is actually way more likely than you’d think: it happened to the developer of Terraria just last year.
- You can’t get WiFi at a crucial moment. Okay, this isn’t a “lose your work forever” kind of situation, but if you’ve put together a PowerPoint for one crucial presentation, it’s stored nowhere but Google Drive, and you can’t connect to the conference room’s network? It might as well be.
Google Drive (or any similar cloud storage option) is a fantastic Plan B. If you’ve got your important stuff saved in two places and one of those places is “the internet,” then you’re golden! But the other place better be somewhere in meatspace you can physically get to, because if something’s only stored online then you’re counting on somebody else to keep in there. Which brings me to the second part of this:
Part the Second: How To Help
Look, I’ll level with you: I am not smart. I am what you get when God overclocks a monkey.
Just because I have plans to keep everything important in more than one place and even though I try to stick with them, it doesn’t mean I actually will.
Granted, the stuff I’m best known for – the flash fiction anthologies, for example – are really quite unlikely to vanish off the face of the earth. On top of my own copies (and efforts to back them up), they’re available pretty much everywhere books are sold, and the individual stories are on this very website (and at least one other, without exception). However, counting on me to look after my own stuff is a little like counting on Google to look after yours:
- Rami Malek could hack me and delete everything. This is a much more credible risk for me than it is for Google.
- If it goes away, it might not be coming back. Even if I never intentionally take down anything I’ve made available (and I make no promises I won’t), it could be taken down by whatever platform it’s on. Entire platforms might shut down – it’s happened before. Would I reupload the stuff you’d miss? Maybe. Maybe not.
- You might not have WiFi. Just imagine! You’re holidaying in the Outer Hebrides and you get the overwhelming urge to read a classic such as The Miller’s Daughter and the Unlikely Fairytale Scenario or The Little Enchilada That Could, but alack! You’ve always counted on those things being readily available online so never got hold of a copy for yourself.
As the classic Nintendo quit screen says: “Anything not saved will be lost.” If something’s important to you, it’s worth keeping in two places – and if my stuff is important to you, then you should include it in that. All my flash fiction ebooks have an extremely permissive distribution license in the front for this very reason (and if you’ve never taken a close look at that distribution license, you really should – it’s a little different in each book).
The stuff that isn’t books is considerably more prone to vanishing, by the way. I’m thinking YouTube videos, games on philome.la (which has been read-only for a while now and may someday disappear), the 365 drawings I posted to Twitter over the course of 2019.
Twitter is actually a big part of why I’m posting this now, by the way. For the last few years it’s probably where I’ve been the most active – and I was so close to reaching 1,000 followers before people started leaving en mass – but it’s no longer looking like a viable platform for me as a writer/gamedev/whatever and even if it were I don’t like the direction it’s going. I won’t be posting anything new there, and though I’ve saved an archive of my tweets I’ve got no plans to reupload all that nonsense elsewhere.
So there you have it. Anything not saved will be lost: if you care about anything I’ve ever made, then save a copy of it for yourself (and if you care about anything I’ve put on Twitter, you’d better do it quick).
Reblogged this on WindySilver and commented:
An excellent reminder to keep your backups up to date – or make them in the first place if you’ve neglected them entirely!
Good reminder – thank you! I will definitely run another backup today (including your ebooks, of course), and I’ll be sure not to mess with Rami Malek.