Monday, November 26, 2007

Keep your poems safe

After pouring your heart and soul into your poems, do yourself a favor and make sure you don't lose them. A few basic steps can prevent tragedy.

There are various ways of making a backup copy -- copy to some external media such as flash drive or separate hard drive, or for some people a printed copy will work just fine. But what happens if that copy goes AWOL? Backups are as likely as your primary copy to develop technical problems and become inaccessible. Consider a worst scenario -- if your house burns down have you lost your primary copy of your work AND your backup copy? Big-time ouch.

So pick a backup method that will survive a worst scenario occurence, and keep your backup current. I back up to a flash drive, and am considering an external hard drive as a faster and more reliable way to do that. I also back up to an online secure area - I used to copy everything to briefcase.yahoo.com but have recently found box.net to be easier to use, and just as free. An added bonus for online backups is that my poems are now accessible anywhere I can get internet access. Most online backup services also provide a way to share specific folders, so you can keep your backup private but copy poems into a public shared folder and define who gets access to that -- great if you need to collaborate with someone.

As a publisher, I have the same (or greater) backup concerns with my contact list, sales history, and copies of any chapbooks published or in process. Online backups are perfect for this. And a public shared folder (where I control access) is handy for backing up a cover image and also sharing it with the author while we're making final production decisions.

Ok, backups done. What else? Basic security. My day job is at a large publicly traded corporation, and since I work with computers and am responsible for supporting some of our traveling / consultant financial advisors, I can sometimes find myself on the bleeding edge of security concerns. Laptops out in the field will run into the same security issues you and I run into at home, but on a larger scale since an infected laptop can (I kid you not) bring down a significant portion of the whole company. They aren't as easy to lock into the tight security network that the in-office computers are corralled in. So let's just say I've grown paranoid, with good cause, about computer security. And I know that even some of the security whizzes at my company will confess they've been hacked or phished or otherwise faced security risks on their home personal computers despite their deep knowledge of security and despite following all the "best practices" for preventing such problems.

So whatever you are doing for security, do just a little bit more. If you're already keeping your operating system and your virus scanner and your firewall updated, great. (If you're not, go back to GO, do not collect $200, and you're already a lost cause, sorry.) Take one more easy step and go to http://www.secunia.com/, and in the left column under Software Inspectors select the "Online" option. You'll go to a screen that will offer to scan your computer for any security risks caused by out-of-date software. Yes, this is important. Outdated software versions in something as innocuous as iTunes can let a hacker or virus plow through your system with a backhoe. So select the "Start" button and wait for the bad news. (If the Secunia software won't run, you most likely have a terribly outdated version of java, and you should take a detour to http://www.java.com/ and ask it to check if you have the most current version of java -- if you're outdated that site will let you download the latest version.)

Secunia will present a list of software that you should upgrade, and it will describe the security risk each presents, and give you a link where you can update to the latest version. I thought I was in good shape until I tried this Secunia scan -- my version of java was totally obsolete (it doesn't automatically prompt you to update like some other software), and once I'd fixed that I had a list of half a dozen programs that had turned my system to Swiss cheese despite all my care with virus scanning, firewalls, and backups. I had to update iTunes, RealPlayer, Adobe, Adobe Flash Player -- it was really really embarrassing!

Secunia is reasonable in its reactions too -- it will only flag an outdated version if there's a risk associated with it. So you might find you can keep an older version of your browser or some other software, as long as there's no security risk.

Alright, poet, now you can sleep at night...

2 comments:

Ackworth Born said...

When talking about backing up writing, you seem to have missed one method - print it out [at least twice] and store the printouts - then if your digital media fails you've still got some hard-copy!

Catherine Rankovic said...

Thank you for the tip about Box.net! In addition to its basic usefulness it's got a lot of great features.