20 April 2009

NO, It Can't Wait! (Backup now)

DearREADERS,
On Facebook this past week, one of Ol' Myrt's southern California genealogy friends was lamenting the process of attempting to access her data files on her old computer which was barely limping along -- a problem that had necessitated the purchase of a new computer.

This points up the importance of backing up all our data files on a regular basis.

We never know when our trusty computers will decide to hiccup and fail.

THE IMMEDIATE FIX FOR MYRT'S FRIEND
Ol' Myrt's suggestion was to remove the hard drive from the old computer and insert it in a case that has two cords, one to power the hard drive and a second to attach to her new computer via an USB port. Tiger Direct has a variety of such hard drive enclosures, that range from $14-$70 depending on the size and number of bays.

Of course, this solution only works if the problem with the old computer ISN'T the hard drive. What usually fails on my computers is something like a defective mother board, or a bad power supply. I've only had a hard drive fail once since the late 1980s and I did have copies of all my data files except for the previous three days' work.

PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE
Carol Richey is a freelance writer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who learned about the importance of making frequent backups the hard way. She suggests "Follow the "Rule of Two" and choose two backup options to protect your research. Don't wait until its too late!" See Carol's article "Not it Can't Wait" in Discovering Family History, Jan/Feb 2009. Pages 49-51. Carol looks at choices from CDs and DVDs to online backup solutions. (Ol' Myrt's stuff would never fit on even the currently largest available flash drives.)

So Ol' Myrt's question for her DearREADERS is what backup strategies have you instituted in case of computer failure to either backup or copy the document files, photos, scanned images and genealogy data files on your existing computer system?

Post your comments in reply to this blog entry, and let's see what ideas are working for you.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
DearMYRTLE,
Your friend in genealogy.

12 comments:

Robert (Greg) said...

I back up my system to an external hard drive and all of my geni data to 2 differnt thumb drives. I take no chances with this data as I don't want to type it ever again.

Myrt said...

I agree that the "typing it all in again" from scratch isn't something Ol' Myrt would like to do either. THANKS, Robert for sharing.

Eric Kraus said...

I also do the same as Robert (Greg). I back up all my data to both an external hard drive and a thumb drive. I recently bought Rootsmagic 4 and with its new feature of "Roots-to-go" it makes backing up to externals and thumbdrives a snap, plus it gives you the ability to go to a different computer without the RootsMagic program and continue your work. Very convenient.

The Twenty Minute Genealogist said...

It seems like this is a common topic lately. Cina, on the Ohana Insights Blog, just wrote about the same thing. As for me, I have start using Heritage Collector for backing up pictures and archiving. The program lets you save onto CDs or a hard drive. Then later you can search for any file (even if it is on a backup CD in the closet), and it will tell you exactly where to find it. This is SOO helpful. I had already lost hundreds of photos due to a computer crash before I started using it.

Myrt said...

Hiya 20Min!

THANKS for sharing. Isn't it amazing what Bruce Buzbee has done in the new version of RootsMagic? He has provided a much needed method for copying our genealogy data (typed info, notes, and attached documents).

We've got to also back up all our Word docs, and .pdf files of Digital Genealogist, email, and all those photos we're not attaching to ancestors.

Ol' Myrt here was just thinking today, after posting the blog entry, that I have created a lot of documents with my new work as 1st Vice President of the Utah Genealogical Association.

I wouldn't want to lose those.

In fact, some of the forms I created in Word when I served on the Board of the Manasota Genealogical Society (in Bradenton, FL) are now being repurposed in my UGA work. Thank heavens I had copies of those old things.

So a global backup or copy must be considered.

It all depends on what tasks a person uses his computer for. I have a friend who uses his old one only for QuickBooks. So in that case, the built-in QuickBooks backup would suffice.

malcolm said...

All my genealogical records were stored on three hard drives all housed in the same computer. I backed up from one drive to the others religiously. This worked well until one day a burst water pipe leaked through the ceiling and the computer which was sighted below the burst and fifteen feet to the left of it got wet. the smell of burning electrics told a sad tale as motherboard, CPU, and hardrives all erupted. The controlers on each drive blew and the drives subsequently became unaccessable. All data may still be on there but I can't reach it. The moral of this story is back up to another location away from the original computer. A friend of mine now stores backups from me on his computer and I have his on mine. We also back up onto memory sticks and CD. It's too late once it's happened so beware.
Kind Regards Malcolm

Myrt said...

DearMALCOM,
Your story is heartbreaking.

Thank-you for pointing out the importance of storing a copy of our backup "off site" so that if one place is is wiped out, a copy elsewhere survives.

When my father was alive, I sent backup discs (later CDs then DVDs) to him. I lived in Florida, he lived in Washington state.

I figured if we both got wiped out, we'd have angels to fill in the blanks on our pedigree charts.

Later, when I became Dad and Blanche's care giver during their time on hospice, I found all those backup discs neatly filed in a drawer in dad's computer room, most recent in front.

Dad always said he didn't know what he'd do with them, but he understood the necessity of having a copy of our genealogy elsewhere in case of disaster.

By the way, in Florida the major highways have signs that read "hurricane evacuation route" that our friends within harms way had to use during "Andrew" and "Charlie".

Fortunately, we never had to use the similarly signaged "Earthquake Evacuation" routes in Washington State.

Myrt :)

Patti Hobbs said...

I don't have a backup plan. Unfortunately or fortunately, I've had the same experience as you, Myrt, that I've never lost a hard drive. You can even get OS software corruptions and be able to access the data. I do have almost all my stuff on an external hard drive because that's where I save a lot of it eventually. It's not an official backing up process, but just as I "organize" things, I end up duplicating them elsewhere in the more organized place. However, I had heard about and wanted to investigate the free backing up software that I've heard about but have also forgotten the exact name of. If you have your own web hosting service, which I do, there's no point in paying for an online back up service. I think this software has some sort of file structuring which then allows you to upload that structure regularly.

Myrt said...

Hiya Patti,
Ol' Myrt here misses the ProGen2 Study Group. You are a strong leader there.

Glad you found me on this blog over here.

You are right to consider the unused space on your web server.

However, be sure to place your files in a "private" folder, and activate a robot that does not permit Google and other search engines to spider those pages.

It simply wouldn't do for my personal memoirs to be discovered by Google. Those stories aren't going to be published until long after I've gone to the other side.

Thanks for the feedback, and for moving the "backing up" conversation forward.

Myrt :)

Lee said...

I good backup choice is online backups. The backups are done through the internet essentially as the files are changed, automatically though the internet. Versions are kept typically for 30-45 days. Carbonite and Mozy are both good choices, and cost $5/month or less.

Myrt said...

THANKS for your posting Lee. Peace of mind is certainly worth $5 per month.

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