To Anyone Who Creates Digitally: Save
You should keep copies of your work in a safe place.
“Jesus saves,” my editor said.
It was 2003. Cloud computing hadn’t yet made it to the newsroom of the newspaper, where I worked as a reporter.
One afternoon, I sat at my computer, working on an article. The electricity blinked. My computer shut down. The story I’d been writing disappeared forever. I would have to start over.
And though I didn’t appreciate my editor’s quip at the time, her words serve as a reminder to us today. Even in our era of the Cloud, it’s still important to save our work.
It’s that the definition of “save” has shifted.
Earlier this year, I ran an experiment on Instagram.
Some services automate some Instagram activities. I wanted to know how these applications work. So I signed up for one that would like the posts of my followers.
I selected a service that had good reviews and appeared reputable. I paid a fee to use the tool, read its instructions, setup my parameters and turned on the automation. Then I went to sleep planning to turn it off in the morning.
Except for the next day, I forgot to stop the automation. And then, I published a post to my Instagram account. Instantly Instagram locked me out of my account. An email said my account was closed for suspicious activity.
After several days of trying to get my account back, I accepted reality. The Instagram account I’d had since the service’s early days were gone forever. I’d lost every photo and caption I had ever published.
And that’s when I remembered my editor’s words from 16 years before: Jesus saves.
When we use digital platforms such as Medium, we’re putting what we create onto a digital service we don’t own.
Even if we own what we’re publishing, there’s no guarantee that what we publish will be around forever.
If you put your heart and soul into your MySpace page, you know this is true. There’s a good chance the MySpace presence you built is gone.
Medium might last forever. But what if it doesn’t? Or, what if Medium changes what it is and all the pieces we’ve published on it?
The managers of Medium may give us a warning and a method for downloading all our stories. But that’s risky. If they don’t, everything we’ve ever published here will disappear.
The same is true of any digital tool or service you use.
Your witty tweets? They can go away. Your helpful LinkedIn articles, beautiful Instagram photos, and guest columns on someone else’s website can all go away.
But there’s something you can do to preserve your work.
Keep it in the Cloud
Because I write articles such as this one using Google Docs, everything I write is automatically saved in the Cloud by Google.
In other words, I back up what I create to the Cloud. For example, there’s another version of what you’re reading right now saved on Google’s servers, not Medium’s. Doing so means I keep a copy of my work, no matter what happens to Medium.
Sure, there’s a risk that Google could go under or close its Cloud business. That seems unlikely, though, at least in the foreseeable future. Besides, if you had to vote for the Company Most Likely to Succeed between Google and Medium, who would you choose?
But you also don’t have to use Google.
Dropbox and Box are two other options for saving your work to the Cloud. You can even rent server space from companies such as SiteGround or GoDaddy and upload files of your work to their servers.
The point is that we shouldn’t leave the only copies of our creative work on one platform or service. We also shouldn’t keep the single secondary copies of our creations on our computers or phones.
What if you lose your laptop or your computer crashes? What if your data doesn’t back up the next time you upgrade your phone?
Instead, we should back up everything we create to the Cloud. Use a service you trust. And back up often.
It’s the only way to cut the risk that you won’t lose what you create for eternity.
Nicholas Barron is a writer in Washington, DC. He covers books and the people who write them on Bidwell Hollow.