1.12 Backing up projects

Don’t be that person who loses hard won (and often expensive) data and analyses. Don’t be that person who thinks it’ll never happen to me - it will! Always think of the absolute worst case scenario, something that makes you wake up in a cold sweat at night, and do all you can to make sure this never happens. Just to be clear, if you’re relying on copying your precious files to an external hard disk or USB stick this is NOT an effective backup strategy. These things go wrong all the time as you lob them into your rucksack or ‘bag for life’ and then lug them between your office and home. Even if you do leave them plugged into your computer what happens when the building burns down (we did say worst case!)?

Ideally, your backups should be offsite and incremental. Happily there are numerous options for backing up your files. The first place to look is in your own institute. Most (all?) Universities have some form of network based storage that should be easily accessible and is also underpinned by a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. Other options include cloud based services such as Google Docs and Dropbox (to name but a few), but make sure you’re not storing sensitive data on these services and are comfortable with the often eye watering privacy policies.

Whilst these services are pretty good at storing files, they don’t really help with incremental backups. Finding previous versions of files often involves spending inordinate amounts of time trawling through multiple files named ‘final.doc’, ‘final_v2.doc’ and ‘final_usethisone.doc’ etc until you find the one you were looking for. The best way we know for both backing up files and managing different versions of files is to use Git and GitHub. To find out more about how you can use RStudio, Git and GitHub together see the Git and GitHub Chapter.