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Former Nink editor Jody Novins lives in Connecticut. “While I’m experienced at running a house without power, work pretty much stops when the computer batteries die. I charge everything whenever there’s a storm report, particularly iPads and cell phones.”

NINC member Ashley McConnell lives in the mountains of Virginia. She was caught with millions of others in Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland in the derecho (straight-line winds) on June 29th of this year, causing power outages that lasted more than seven days in some places. “I now keep a supply of ninevolt batteries in the refrigerator (you could not find these for love nor money during the power failure after the derecho), and I keep two dozen two-liter bottles of water in the spare bathroom tub and more in the barn. I find that if I’m worrying about water, I’m not going to write. I’m tempted to invest in a generator. I use offsite file storage, but can’t help but wonder where the server farm is located!”

Denise said, “I backed up all my major files to a ‘cloud.’ Important personal documents were packed and ready in the ‘to go bag’ along with clothing and essentials. I recommend every author at least have an external hard drive, if not a cloud, backup. Keeping your major documents such as marriage license, passports, title to the house and cars, etc. in a place where you can get to them quickly is always a good idea. It’s impossible to think of everything, but at the very least if you have backups of completed novels and your work in progress, you’re a long way toward creating peace of mind.”

Personally, I keep originals of important documents, including book contracts, along with backup of completed manuscripts, in a safety deposit box with copies at home.

NINC member Randy Ingermanson has worked as a scientific software developer and currently runs the software division of a biotech company in San Diego. “My policy on backups tries to account for the three main kinds of disaster that can happen:

  • The hard drive fails. The probability of this happening on any given day is about one in 1,000. If you live long enough, hard drive failure is inevitable.

  • The computer gets stolen. The probability of this is lower than a hard drive failure, but it happens.

  • The house burns down or gets flooded, and the computer is destroyed. The probability of this is lower than a theft, but it happens.

“Any backup solution has to take care of all three of these disasters. My policy is to use a two-pronged backup system. [First], connect my computer to an external hard drive and use Time Machine (on a Mac) or any other standard automatic backup system so that the external hard drive always backs up everything on my computer. This solves the problem of my computer’s hard drive failing and it may also solve the problem of the computer being stolen (unless the thief takes the external hard drive too, which is possible). However, if the house burns down, the external drive will be lost, so this is not a complete solution. An external hard drive backup is very fast and costs about $100. The initial backup takes about an hour and then the system continually backs up all changes. With Time Machine, it’s easy to go back to any previous version by just ‘going back in time.’

“[Second,] use an online backup solution. I use CrashPlan, which gets high ratings from those pesky techie magazines and which I find very usable. An online backup service is slow because upload speeds are slow. It may take weeks to back up an entire hard drive that has 50 to 100 GB of data. The trick here is to first get the most critical data backed up, then keep adding more data to the backup list until everything has been uploaded.

The nice thing about online backup is that it’s off-site, so if the house burns down, the backup is somewhere safe. Note that restoring your entire hard drive from an online site is going to be much slower than restoring from an external hard drive.

“Neither of these is a complete solution. To be both safe and fast, you need both an external hard drive and an online backup system. Neither a flash drive nor DropBox are terribly well-suited for doing backups (although they work).”

Sometimes Mother Nature gives us advance warning; in other situations She strikes quick and sharp.

Wayne’s reminder of the long-standing Boy Scout motto is good advice: Be prepared.


JoAnn Grote is the award-winning author of 38 books, including inspirational romances, middle-grade historical novels, and children’s nonfiction.

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