Among the worst moments in a writer's life is that second of horrifying clarity when you realize: Oh no. I just deleted/saved over/lost a file. (If you are me, this realization is followed with a string of expletives.) Frantically assessing the damage, trying to figure out how many words you've lost while you make contingency plans to throw yourself off a bridge... it's not a good moment.
It's really easy to avoid that moment, though. Here are a few different ways to back up your files that are all relatively painless-- especially compared to the excruciating experience of losing 8,000 words. Not that I've ever done that or anything.
Email: Just email the file to yourself periodically while you're working. Also a handy method because you can access your file from any computer with internet access.
Jump drive: So inexpensive that companies hand them out like pens now, and so small it fits on your keyring. Just be sure you're saving the file somewhere else too, in case something happens to the jump drive. Like say, losing it in your purse for a year. Not that I'd know anything about that either.
External hard drive: A larger and more expensive version of the jump drive. I have one that holds 1 TB of information and holds all of my enormous Photoshop and Illustrator files for work. We also back up our family photos and music there.
CD/DVD: You can always burn files to a disc, but it's not a good option for multiple back ups per day. Unless you're made of money. I sadly am not.
Slightly More Difficult But Just At First
Dropbox: I love Dropbox. Go to their website, download the program, and run the easy install. Save your work to a file in your Dropbox folder, and when you close the document, it automatically updates the file on their server too. Also very cool for working in tandem with other people.2 GB of storage is free, and additional storage is inexpensive.
MediaFire, Fileden, Rapidshare, etc.: Also a good free option for storing files online and exchanging with other people. However, most make you wait 20-30 seconds to download a file, and the ads make me crazy.
Slightly More Labor Intensive But Pretty Darn Safe
Freezer: My advisor in college was fond of telling us how he typed his entire dissertation on a typewriter, patiently redoing a page every time he found a typo, and stored the whole thing in his freezer in case of fire. I know most people work electronically now, but you might have some handwritten pages or illustrations you'd like to keep.
Fire safe: Not all that expensive if you only need a small one, and less risk of condensation ruining things than in the freezer.
Mom's house: If you just need to save an extra copy, you can always leave one in the safekeeping of someone else-- parents, friends, work, etc.
Safe deposit box: I know nothing about them except that they exist.
Free and Easy but Not Terribly Effective
Prayer: I mean, I'm not knocking the power of prayer in general, but much like its role as birth control, it's probably a good idea to supplement it with another method.
What did I miss? How do you back up your files?