Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's Data Backup Day!

The first of every month is Data Backup Day. So let's talk about backing up our genealogy data! I haven't been real good about this, to be honest. It was only a few months ago that I got back into genealogy, after years of university taking up all my time. When I started in high school, it was pretty much hand drawn family trees for me, along with piles of unorganised notes, and at some point I entered my info on a couple of online family tree sites (though I don't think I ever got everything up on any one site).

Now, I do most of my work on WikiTree, finding information online and putting it straight into my profiles. I hardly use paper at all, except for taking notes at the library. Unfortunately, this has resulted in me having most of my data either only on a website, or only on my computer, which is not a good state of affairs.

So, here are the things that I should be doing on a regular basis to make sure my data is all good and secure:
  • Back up my blog. This is an easy one, at least on Blogger. If you don't know how to export your blog, google it, with the name of your blogging platform. Lots of people have written about it. I think I'll start doing this once a month.
  • Back up my family tree. This one is huge. If all my online data disappeared tomorrow, I would lose pretty much everything. It would take me months to get back to where I am now. Luckily, most places that let you keep your family tree online (WikiTree, etc.) have an easy way to export your GEDCOM, so you can have a backup on your computer or some kind of external storage. I might do this even more than once a month, given how often I add to it.
  • Back up my scanned photos. Until a couple of days ago, my scanned photos, representing many, many hours of work, existed only on my desktop computer. I couldn't even copy them to my laptop, because I didn't have a flash drive big enough, and I was too lazy to do it in a bunch of chunks. Luckily, I now have a 32GB flash drive (omg it's so tiny!), which should take a while to fill up. I'll be backing these up every time I scan another batch.
  • Back up my bookmarks. Often, we bookmark sites we find that have goldmines of genealogical information on them. Luckily, this is an area I've had mastered for years. I recommend Xmarks, which is what I use, but most browsers also have their own built-in bookmark backer-uppers (yeah, I'm pretty sure that's a word). With Xmarks, every time I bookmark something, it gets automatically backed up to my online account. Another great thing about it is you can have multiple computers hooked up to the same account, so your bookmarks are synced between all of them! You can also access your bookmarks at the library just by going to your online account. This is all taken care of automatically, so I don't even have to think about it.
One thing to consider is that you should not only have two copies of your data, but those two copies should not be in the same physical place. One copy on your computer and one on the Internet is great. One copy on your computer and one on your flash drive that you keep at home is not so great. In the event of a fire or some other natural disaster, all copies could be destroyed at once. I'm a bit worried about this right now, since I also have original photos in my apartment along with the digital copies.

For data that you aren't backing up on the Internet, I recommend having a copy on a flash drive or DVD that you give to someone else for safekeeping. For example, when I'm done scanning all my grandma's photos, I'm going to give her a copy of the files on DVD. That way, a copy is always safe. Even if you just have a flash drive or external hard drive with a copy of all your data on it that you keep in your desk at work, that's providing another level of security for your data.

I hope this post hasn't been to heavy! Once you get into a routine, it's really easy to have all your data secured, and it can really put your mind at ease. What else do you recommend for genealogists' data backup routines?

1 comment:

  1. Creating a backup for your files is the best way to secure your files. It's always much better to have several copies of your files - hard copy, online storage; come what may, you'll never have to worry. Computer system can be unpredictable, and the only way we can safety keep our well-kept files is by doing backups.