Anthony recently suggested that I don’t post enough, and so here I am; your wish is my command!
A couple of years ago, I rebutted a post by Jay Lake that described his utterly Byzantine methodology for backing up his work. His directions were on par with that hoary old saw you hear from lots of newbie writers about protecting your copyright: seal a copy of your MS in an envelope and mail it to yourself. A more experienced writer–even many pros, I am sad to say–will chuckle at the ludicrousness of that notion, then turn right around and employ some kind of insane Rube Goldberg methodology just to feel safe that their work will never be lost. It’s enough to make you weep.
I am, after all, a software developer by trade, and as the saying goes, There’s an App For That. So I wrote my little diatribe explaining what version control software is and how it’s comparatively painless to employ, a better means of backing up, and gives you additional benefits the old “email-it-to-my-brother-in-Newark” method just doesn’t. This article, I’m certain, was profoundly inspiring to the five or six people that read it.
Well, six people, hold on to your socks, because I am about to bake your noodle: I don’t recommend you use version control software for keeping your writing safe anymore.
Instead, you should use Dropbox.
Dropbox is about as perfect a piece of internet software there is. It Just Works. You install an app on any computer where you wish to have access to your personal Dropbox. You designate a folder to be said Dropbox. That folder gets automatically replicated to every device you own, and is also accessible by logging into Dropbox.com.
Your writing laptop gets stolen? No problem, all your files exist on your spouse’s desktop machine as well.
What if your house burns down and both machines are destroyed? No problem, the files live on the Dropbox.com servers, as well. When the insurance check clears, buy a new laptop, install Dropbox and your files will magically appear within minutes.
Ah, but wait, you say. What if you live in the same state as the Dropbox servers and that state gets hit with some horrifying natural disaster? Okay, try this: get your trusted relative in Newark to install Dropbox and login with his own credentials, then share your writing folder with him. Every time you you update, he gets a copy of your files.
OK, how about this: say you get hopped up on cold medicine and decide it’s the perfect time for a rewrite. After you come down for your high, you see that you’ve replaced some previously fine writing with delirious ramblings about LOLcats. No problem. Dropbox tracks your changes going back 30 days, so you can, at any time, recover the state of any file you placed in there. For a relatively paltry fee ($140 a year), they will track your changes forever.
This is absolutely the perfect solution for writers. All the benefits of software version control, with none of the required technical know-how. If you’re a writer and you’re not already using this, you owe it to yourself to give it a look.
NB: I notice now as I checked the link back to Jay’s blog that the very first commenter suggested Dropbox. Doh! <headdesk>