Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, September 11, 2015

Struggling to Stay Online -- Back it up or lose it

I was talking to a friend today and he mentioned that his email was not working. He said he had tried to instal a new program but he was unable to get it to work. I offered to help and he declined and said that his neighbor was going to help him. This is an interesting scenario. If this person had somehow "lost his mail" in the old days, it would have been an entirely different situation and I am afraid that the neighbor would not have been much help. This situation points out the dependency we have on technology and our own vulnerability.

Recently, I have watched those around me send "text" messages to family and friends. I ask them why don't you just dial the phone and talk to them. There is really no answer except that phoning is too intrusive. I could point out that texting is more intrusive because it goes on day and night. Every time a text comes in, the phone beeps. Which is worse, talking to someone for a few minutes or looking at a cryptic message. I got a text today and all that was attached was a phone number. The sender assumed that I knew who he or she was. I knew the answer to the question, but I still don't know who I was talking to.

Into this strange mixture of familiarity and confusion, we toss all of our years of genealogical research. We depend on man-made contrivances that are uncaring and unpredictable. At any moment, years of work could disappear, like a non-functional email account or a text from an unknown sender. We even have programs that are designed to communicate and then automatically erase the message after a few seconds. We can now make threats with impunity.

For the past thirty years or so, I have been immersed in an electronic world. I live with both the convenience and advantage of being able to access vast libraries of information. I have dealt in that information now for over 40 years and the now I can almost instantly acquire information that would have taken me days or weeks or months or years to accumulate. The tradeoff is that all of it can disappear in a heartbeat.

I could place my confidence on online storage. But then I would be a mercy of a missed payment or a forgotten password. Some nameless person a half a world away could destroy all my accumulated data by "hacking" into a server for no reason at all other than the satisfaction of doing it. So, I have backups of my backups. Meanwhile, my 4 Terabyte hard drives are filling up. Soon, I will have to migrate to 8 TB drives. Fortunately, I may not have to pay as much for the new 8 TB drives than I paid for the 4 TB drives I am using now. If I buy an 8 TB hard drive, I can get a program that will let me automatically backup my mobile devices to my hard drive or to online storage (the cloud).

What about DVDs or CDs? Definitely out-of-date. I have nearly 3.5 TB of data. It would take over 470 high capacity, 8.5 GB DVD-R DLs to make one copy and some of the files would be too large to fit on one DVD.

What about flash drives or other flash technology (thumb drives etc.)? The largest flash drive is presently is a 1 TB drive that costs more than 3 times as much as an 8 TB hard drive. But the price has come down from $2,310 to $774.95. By the way, the current price for an 8 TB hard drive is $249.

Most genealogists would likely spend the rest of their life trying to fill up a 1 TB hard drive. The point of this post is simple. Even a few Gigabytes of information can be the results of years of work. The cost of purchasing more than one backup hard drive and using them regularly for all your work is nominal when compared to the cost of time and effort it would take you to reproduce all that information. Back up everything. Verify that the copies that you have made will work. Don't procrastinate. Tempus fugit.

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