Today’s Public Service Announcement… It’s Data Backup Day! If you haven’t backed up your genealogical data in a long time, today’s the day to do it. Keeping digital records is as much of an added convenience as it is a headache. Computers are wonderful tools that can be portable and help make our research smoother, more concise, and more organized. But when the technology fails the results can be devastating. Without redundancy in our digital world we can lose years worth of research, photos, and documentation in the blink of an eye.
The methods of backing up your data are nearly as varied as the leaves on the trees. It’s all a matter of personal preference which you prefer. Some of the ways to backup your data are:
- External hard drives and flash drives (great for portability)
- CDs and DVDs (great for sharing small amounts of data)
- Online backup systems
External Hard Drives
I’ve had more than my fair share of external hard drives fail on me. The problem with these devices is that they’re small, portable, and have lots of moving parts! When the moving parts fail or get damaged then your data becomes impossible to recover without professional assistance. This can be incredibly costly! I recommend redundancy when backing up to an external hard drive. Make more than one copy. It might seem silly at the time, but you’ll thank your lucky stars when one of those drives starts “clicking” and refuses to register on your computer.
CDs and DVDs are limited storage options. They have a finite amount of data that can be stored and there are certainly errors that can be made in the copying process. Some people don’t realize that CDs and DVDs also have a shelf-life. That’s why it’s important to purchase archival quality discs if you will intend to use them for archival purposes. Here are two good articles that give some direction on archival quality discs:
Online Backup Services
I think that of these three options, online backup services are the safest. Many online services offer redundancy backups for your backups which is just what you need. A few years ago I switched to Dropbox for the majority of my documents. Dropbox is great for a number of different reasons.
- It offers 2GB with the free account
- Your files are accessible anywhere you go from any computer
- They support Mac, PC, and many mobile platforms
- They automatically store a 1 month revision history for all your files… if you mess up it’s simple to “undo” it.
In addition to Dropbox I’ve been using Amazon S3 for additional redundancy. I was originally drawn to Amazon S3 because it interfaces easily with the backup service I use for my blogs. However, I quickly became familiar with how easy Amazon makes backups and how inexpensive their service is. Amazon S3 also has a free tier for their backups, and what’s great is that if you exceed this you only pay for what you use… you d0n’t have to purchase an expensive plan with storage that you’ll never see.
As part of the AWS Free Usage Tier, you can get started with Amazon S3 for free. Upon sign-up, new AWS customers receive 5 GB of Amazon S3 storage, 20,000 Get Requests, 2,000 Put Requests, and 15GB of data transfer out each month for one year.
With these two online backup services, it’s almost impossible NOT to secure your data. Go out and try these today and make sure that your research is safe for generations!