When to avoid showing your vulnerable side

It doesn’t matter what sort of book you are seeking to write – sharing your life through memoir or your knowledge through a book of your expertise, or something in between – you can be pretty sure that your book will be more engaging to readers if it includes a good chunk of ‘you’.

Being willing to reveal a bit of yourself, especially through a bit of self-effacing humour, will lighten your text and give your readers something to connect to.

But this blog post is not about that sort of vulnerability.

No, this time I want to remind you of two of the less inspiring but just-as-important vulnerabilities every writer faces. Those vulnerabilities are backup and data security.

What is your backup strategy? You have one … don’t you?

I was reminded recently about this by a rare computer crash that led to me losing a small amount of work. It wasn’t important and was easily recovered, but it could have been so much worse. Imagine losing a whole book to a hard drive crash!

Backing up your data is one of those things that everyone knows is important but far too many people never get around to doing. I’m not going to reiterate all the reasons why backing up is important. It’s been done before, many times and, as I said, you already know it is anyway.

All I want to do here is prompt you to act if you haven’t already. I think one of the reasons many people don’t get around to having a good backup plan is that they get confused by all the options. (I did look at some of them in a previous post on this subject a few years ago, much of which is still valid.) So here I’m going to skip what you could do and share with you what my current setup is, with just a couple of alternatives.

My approach isn’t perfect, but I know it’s better than those of many. If it works for you then great, problem solved. If not, alter those parts that you need to. Whatever you do, get a reliable backup system in place now.

My approach is three-fold, including offsite sync, local daily backup and offsite backup.

  • My most important data is constantly synced to my Dropbox account every time a change is made. Strictly speaking, Dropbox is a ‘file sync’ service, not a backup service (there are subtle differences), but I’ve found it very reliable over a number of years and it’s highly secure with two-factor authentication. And it’s a piece of cake to set up. (Similar options include Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Apple iCloud.) My paid Dropbox account also stores older versions of files and deleted files for 30 days, reducing the risk of accidentally deleting something for good.
  • I have an external hard drive permanently connected to my desktop computer. Each evening, Carbon Copy Cloner ‘clones’ my iMac’s hard drive, effectively making an identical copy of it. If my iMac’s drive were to fail, I could reboot from the CCC backup and continue working. CCC also keeps older versions of files and deleted files for a limited period. (CCC is Mac-only – this article lists some Windows alternatives.)
  • I have a separate external hard drive onto which I backup critical data weekly, also using Carbon Copy Cloner. That drive is stored ‘offsite’, i.e. outside the house (in my shed). This is probably the weak point of my approach. It’s good to have offsite backup for the worst-case scenario, but the ‘hard drive in the shed’ version requires that I retrieve that drive and plug it in every week, which doesn’t always happen. A better alternative would be a secure online backup service like Backblaze or iDrive, which I’m looking into at the moment.

I could certainly improve things, particularly on that last point. But with my three-fold approach I think that if circumstances were such that I were to lose everything, I’d probably have bigger concerns than what had happened to my data.

How secure is your online life?

This topic is only tangentially related to book writing, but while I’m in the pulpit I might as well complete the sermon.

Simple question: what’s your system for securing your online life? Do you have a single password that you use for every online account, from your bank to your Facebook account? Have you chosen that password for ease of remembering rather than difficulty of guessing? If either or both of these apply to you, you’re certainly not alone. But you’re certainly not safe either.

Bottom line. You should have unique passwords for every website you access, and at the very least for every website that is either valuable to you (e.g. the bank) or which is likely the target of hackers (e.g. prominent sites like Facebook).

Obviously remembering tens or hundreds of unique passwords is nigh-on impossible, which is why we have tools available to us like Lastpass and 1Password. They both have free and cheap options. They can take a bit of time to set up and start using properly, but once done they will certainly make your online life safer.

The message is simple: use one.

Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash.com

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