Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Will Your Work Survive the Digital Age--When the Worst Happens

Well we are at another conference. And again, getting ready for the conference slowed down my blogging, but now that I'm here I can talk more. I love talking to people at the conferences we do. And I'm glad I have this extension of that.

I promised this last summary of my "Will your work survive the digital age" series. What options do you have when the worst happens and you lose your digital data? Again, this is a huge topic and even a huge industry that I'm going to try to squeeze into a blog post. Here we go.

In data recovery, the biggest point is to BE CAREFUL NOT TO WRITE OVER THE FILES. They are probably still on the memory device, you just may not be able to access them. There are programs that you can buy that will help you to recover data on your hard drive.—We have used File Scavenger (about $50) and it has worked well for us. New operating systems also sometimes have built in back up systems. Windows XP and Windows Vista have roll back capabilities if you enabled them. Or, you can also take your computer to a Data Recovery professional. These can get pretty expensive but are worth every penny when the data you need is priceless--which family history often is.

When the data is not on a hard drive but on an external device, like a CD or travel drive, recovery is sometimes easier. Again, File Scavenger can restore some external files. also has other file recovery utilities. Sometimes just trying another machine or cleaning might help. There are polishing tools that can help, or professionals may be able to remove scratches and make the tool readable. And again, Data Recovery Professionals can be lifesavers and worth every penny.

When you haven't lost the data, but just can't use it because your software won't read it anymore, you need Emulation. Emulation is re-establishing old computer programs. Many Libraries and Digital Repositories are working to save old computer systems and software so that we can revive old programs in the future. Family History Centers usually have old versions of PAF and other software, and old floppy disk drives. These serve a great purpose and can be really helpful when you need them. Hopefully they will always provide that service.

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
Will your work survive the digital age--Refreshing and Backup
Will your work survive the digital age--Replication
Will your work survive the digital age--Migration
Will your work survive the digital age--Naming, Tagging, and Filing.

Hopefully giving this a little thought will be helpful:
  • To avoid a Digital Dark Age in this generation, we must ensure that our digital records are accessible and useable for the future.
  • The way we manage the records we create has to keep pace with digital record creation.
  • You can make a difference in your family by doing your best to preserve your own documents.
  • With attention and a plan, we can preserve our records and not become the Digital Dark Age generation.

1 comment:

DearMYRTLE said...

Thank-you, Janet for this informative series. Good thinking!

All family historians must devise a plan for preserving the artifacts, photos and data they've accumulated for their family.