Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Will Your Work Survive the Digital Age--Refreshing and Back Up

I have been working on my "Will Your Work Survive the Digital Age" lecture for the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. The second of our five digital archiving solutions is: Refreshing and Back Up.

You could say a million things about refreshing your information and making sure it is backed up. Let me just say this: Think B drives, 4 and 1/4 inch disks--really not that long ago. Though you can still find machines with them, 3 1/2 inch floppys are now obsolete. They aren't on any new computers. Just keep those in mind while you are burning CDs CD’s are inexpensive but really don't hold much by today's standards. Re-writeable CD’s (CD-RW) deteriorate faster, but are easier when you need to recover lost data. Archival CD companies say they can last up to and beyond 20 years depending on quality. You get what you pay for. We have done well with Mitsui Gold or Delkin e-Film Archival Gold, but the inexpensive CDs we bought at the after-Thanksgiving sale lasted less than a year. If you are relying heavily on CDs to back up your data, make a plan to migrate everything on to new CDs once a year. And make several copies of the same CD so that you have another chance if one goes bad.

Travel (Flash, Jump) drives that use USB ports are all the rage with genealogists. They are easy, small, and can have lots of memory. But again, you haven't archived anything. USB has been the standard for about 8 years, will eventually go the way of serial and parallel ports. Blue Tooth and Wireless stand ready to make USB ports obsolete. A couple of years ago, I lost one in two feet of snow. We found it when the snow melted a couple of days later and it still worked but you can bet I didn't rely on it for anything. And I've seen several fall apart and stop working just from constant use. They are best for transfering files and temporary storage.

A better backup option for the regular genealogist is an External Hard Drive. They can come in various sizes and have USB ports that can share among several computers. You can just plug in a backup drive as another drive, or use it with backup software that will automatically evaluate what has been changed and make copies accordingly.—If you really want to go all out, Magnetic Tape Drives are also an option. They are more expensive, usually for businesses, where they are used often and stored in several off-site locations. (Library of Alexandria Rule.)

There are also several online Back Up services that can help. Like:
  • is a $50 per year service (any amount of data) that will back up and encript your data so that no one else will have access to your data
  • Many Photo Repositories: Smug Mug, PhotoMax, even Costco, Facebook, Blogs, Family Link, anywhere that will take your files.
  • Genealogy Databases, anywhere that will accept your files and keep them in a format where you can retrieve them.

With all of these options, there is one all-encompasing rule. Akin to the Library of Alexandria Rule. DON'T RELY ON ONLY ONE BACKUP SYSTEM. Choose a couple that are easy enough to you that it will get done.

Previous Posts in this series:

Will your work survive the digital age--the Digital Dark Age.

Will your work survive the digital age?

Will your work survive the digital age--Dissemination

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