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Posts Tagged ‘external hard drive’

The Graphic Details: I’m backed up. What about you?

February 9th, 2009

Lately, I’ve had multiple friends lose bunches of files — accidentally trashing folders, not being able to find elements of projects, computers crashing… So this post is not specifically about any graphics program but, rather, about how to organize and keep your files as safe as possible; this might be helpful for anyone who’s a freelancer, or if you have a lot of precious files.

Two pieces of advice for keeping your files safe.

1) Get an external hard drive.

The picture above is of my super-cute (though now antiquated) Western Digital 500 GB “My Book”. I think I’ve recently seen ads for 2 TB drives (four times the capacity!) for the same price I originally paid… Ouch.

For a lot of these, you can automate back-ups. Personally, I’m finicky about how things are organized, so I back my files up manually every week or so — just a simple drag & drop, and it takes minutes each time. The HD is always plugged in and sits on my desk, ready to use when I need it (whether to unarchive something from two years ago or to do a back-up).

I cannot stress enough how great these puppies are. They can save you a LOT of heartache. If all your music, work, photos, etc are only on one machine, I’ll find it hard to feel very sorry for you when things hiccup (and they will), and you lose everything; it’s fully preventable these days.

2) Get your info off-site.

In case anything happens to your home, or if there were a robbery, it would be ideal to have yet another copy of your files somewhere else. You can buy server space online these days, I’ve heard. If you do this, then you simply upload your files to somewhere remote.

I go the old-fashioned route and burn DVDs of everything. Basically, as I wrap up projects, I put them in a “Burn” folder, and when there’s enough to fill a disc, I burn one, which I then eventually bring to my parents’ house. Chez Bob & Loretta, there is a shoebox that contains over 70 CDs and DVDs of projects and photos that date back to 2001. Especially if this is your livelihood, it is worth the trouble.

A few other tips for how to keep things organized and prevent “Oh NO!!” situations…

  1. The importance of a smart naming convention. When you’re naming your files, if you make sure they make sense and will land in the correct order within a folder, life will be much easier. For my work projects for 2009, each docket begins with “09″, then whatever numbered project it is, then the client, then the project. So for example, “09-001 Y_WomenOfDistinction” was the first docket I opened this year, it’s for the YMCA-YWCA, working on the Women of Distinction Awards. As I do this, the projects always stay in order and are clear.
  2. Trash nothing. If you’re about to open a file and work on it… STOP. Make a copy of it first, change the name, THEN open it and do your work. Keep all your old versions in an “Old” folder within the project folder. You can always trash this stuff after the project is finished. Too often, clients will come back and say “Let’s go back to mock up 2!” **And for any projects where you convert text to outlines, ALWAYS keep a text version of the file too! I promise, you will kick yourself if you don’t!**
  3. Folders are your friends. I use them like a mofo. All my active dockets are directly in my Freelance folder. But then I have folders for “Awaiting feedback”, “Burned to CD” (for files I think I might need to access soon, even if they’re backed up), “Done (Unburned)” (stuff that needs to be invoiced and burned), etc. This helps me keep track of the flow my my process and priority-making.
  4. Project organization. For each project, I use folders for: 1) Final print/production files (I asterisk these so they go to the top of the list); 2) old files that will eventually be trashed after the project; 3) PDF or JPG proofs; 4) received (any files the client sends me); and 5) working files (if I do any photoshopping, this keeps all my layered docs in one place).
  5. Protect your computer. Apparently, now that there are more Apple-users, there are also now more Mac-targetted viruses; this means getting anti-virus software for the first time. If you’re on a PC, you should already be using this. And, as always, be smart about what you open or click on.
  6. Do preventative stuff. On my Mac, I try to do the Disk Utility > Repair Permissions thing every month or so (look in Applications > Utilities). In lay-terms, this basically does an overall clean-up for when your machine is doing its thing. I also use MacJanitor, which is a free download. It’s a quick version of a cleanse, and often solves mini-hiccups I’m having.

I’ll stop here — you’re already a trooper if you’ve made it this far. If you have anything to add though, please do so! This kind of info is invaluable; I wish someone had told me about it instead of having had to fumble my way through.

The next couple of tutorials will be about masks in Photoshop. I’ll do a beginner, then an more involved one… starting next week!

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