[Note: I use a Mac for all of my writing, so this post is geared towards Mac users. If you have a PC you need to find a replacement for Time Machine or SuperDuper — Windows Backup does not work well and I haven’t found a good enough replacement — but otherwise the rest of my post is still relevant to you.]
It doesn’t matter what you are writing, whether it’s a paper, article, short story or novel, if you are typing into a computer, you need a backup system.
Start out by investing in an external hard drive, one that isn’t a portable 2.5’’ drive (those are less reliable over time), but a full sized drive from a reputable maker (Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, Tanscend, Lacie, etc). Buy the largest HD that you can afford (4-5 TB should have you covered), and make sure that it connects to your computer via USB 3.0.
Then setup Time Machine and/or SuperDuper (if you are on a Mac) to backup your entire hard drive regularly. I scheduled Time Machine to backup my HD once an hour to my external Lacie drive. Over the years I have had a chance to restore my entire computer from it when my cat decided to take a walk all over my keyboard, causing a kernel panic and somehow corrupting my filesystem. This is the backup that you will use when you accidentally spill juice over your laptop, or have a HD crash, etc.
A local backup of your entire computer is great, but it isn’t very useful if your house burned down, if you had a power surge, an earthquake, tornado, etc. That’s what online backup is for, and for this I use Backblaze. For $5 a month you get unlimited, unthrottled online storage, and a nifty and very simple to use piece of software that flushes all of your files to the Backblaze severs. This is not a bootable backup, but a backup of all of your data. It’s for the I-lost-my-house-and-everything-in-it kind of scenario, where you have to buy a new replacement computer, but still want all the data that you had on your old computer. As an added bonus, you can access your Backblaze files from anywhere, so if you just want to checkout a file or two, or flush your photo library between computers, Backblaze can help you with that too.
Dropbox is not a replacement for Backblaze, because it’s not geared towards online backup (not in pricing nor in its interface and options), but it is a good file sharing and syncing service. Use Dropbox coupled with Scrivener’s “Backup” and “Backup to…” to create up to date backups of your current project that you can access and update from anywhere.
Finally, remember — if your backup system relies on you to remember to back something up, the it’s not a backup system.