That brings us to the issue of photos on Google's Picasa and data in Ancestry's Family Tree Maker. Fortunately, the photos identified in Picasa that reside on your desktop computer are not at all affected by the loss of the Picasa program. In any event, it is likely that the desktop portion of the program will continue to function for some time and although I regret the loss of this useful program, it will not affect my photo archive. Family Tree Maker is a different problem and more akin to the problem caused by the discontinuance of PAF. Family Tree Maker has been "sold" or licensed to MacKiev.com and there seems to be a good chance that the program will be updated and maintained for some time in the future. But users of the program certainly need to re-evaluate their use of that program or any other.
We are all in the same metaphorical boat here. We all rely on some disk drive or program or service to preserve our genealogical digital data and every other sort of data for that matter. The choices we make can have serious consequences as to the longevity and preservation of our data. If what you have gathered as your family history is almost exclusively copied from others, you have little to worry about. But if you have spent time doing your own research and accumulating a significant amount of data, then you have serious cause to worry about what will happen to all that data.
Even if you take the time and make the effort to "back up" your data to hard disk drives, flash drives, online back up services or all of the above, there is no guarantee that your heirs and assigns will take care to further preserve your data. The constant loss of accumulated genealogical data, whether on paper or electronically stored, is one of the great tragedies of our particular pursuit. I happen to live in an area where there are older people. I have a number of friends right now that are facing life threatening illness. Being so painfully aware of the transient nature of life on this earth gives more than adequate cause for reflection on the issue of data preservation.
My own strategy involves online storage, several high capacity hard drives and a lot of paper files. What would most likely be lost, at any one time, would be the accumulated knowledge of all that stuff in my brain (and your brain).
There are four main areas of concern:
- Hardware obsolescence
- Software obsolescence
- Product abandonment
- Old age and death
You really can't do anything about product abandonment, but you can diversify and, as I just wrote, never rely on a single program to maintain your genealogical data.
The last problem is, by its nature, something we do not want to think about. But long before we become incapacitated, we should be considering where our data will go when we can no longer manage it.
I will be writing more about these subjects in the near future. Stay tuned.