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

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Reliability of the Cloud? FamilySearch Forums still down

Whether for reasons related to the collapse of the Amazon EC2 or otherwise, the FamilySearch Forums site has now been down for three days. Here is a screen shot showing the status with a link to the Amazon site:

Clicking on the Amazon link shows the following screen:

You can see the two arrows indicate that the hosting site for the Forums is still down as of April 23, 2011.  Although there are reports that the outage was only hours long, it is apparent that after three days the problem persists.

What would I do if my computer were down for three days? Well, the last time my laptop crashed, by that afternoon I had purchased a new laptop. My time and data are way too valuable to me to put up with simple hardware issues. Of course, the issue with Amazon is much more complex than simply replacing a laptop computer but the principle is the same.

I see the problem all of the time. Genealogists with all of their data on one flash drive or only on one computer's hard drive. This might be understandable in terms of economics if either computers or flash drives constituted major purchases in today's market. I didn't spend a couple of hundred dollars buying a new laptop but I could have. The purchase may have made a dent in my Social Security retirement income, if that were the only thing keeping me going. But even for lower income individuals, a new flash drive is the equivalent of meal at a fast food restaurant or less than a month of Netflix. A new computer may take a little more planning but if you cannot afford a $300 laptop then your problems are not confined to backups of your data.

I do not intend to berate or even make light of the fact that many genealogists (and in our society, people in general) find themselves in desperate economic conditions. That is not the point, the point is that for the average person in the U.S. backing up your data is not a major expense, no matter what your economic condition.

Now, back to the issue. Do I want to rely on storing my data online? Not if that is the only thing I am relying on. Storing your data online may give you an illusion of backing up your data, just like using a flash drive or a single hard drive can give the same illusion. As a responsible genealogist and technologist, I cannot recommend any ONE method of backup. I can only recommend using every possible and reasonable method available, ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

Do I use flash drives as backup?  Yes
Do I use multiple hard drives as backup? Yes
Do I use multiple computers as backup? Yes
Do I use the Internet as backup? Yes
Do I use CDs and DVDs for backup? Not any more.

Do I still worry about losing thirty years of research? Yes

This incident with Amazon should not just be shrugged off. I should be a wake up call to all of us to diversify our data storage.

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