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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Can we rely on the internet?

I received the following comment to a recent blog post.
While not disagreeing with the point of your posting I would question the wisdom of the way the computer industry is going. 
On a much more disturbing note than whether a single program will work on a modern system is the dangerous reliance on cloud storage and on line programs.
Many might see this as progress but really it is a regression to a time when only huge companies controlled computers. 
The problems with Rootsweb and indeed Ancestry’s frequent other problems highlight the dangers of relying on the internet and such problems are going to get worse.
Yes people who use old computers and old programs may have a few minor problems as you have described but those are nothing compared to the enormous problem caused when online provision fails. 
The local problems can normally be quickly solved, even if this means resorting to a saved back-up but when the on line program or storage fails even the back-up may be inaccessible. 
Perhaps someone will explain to me what protection is in place for when the next Carrington Event hits. Most people using old fashioned computers will be safe as it is likely their computers could be switched of at the time, but on line servers may be subject to a disastrous failure. 
Don’t misunderstand me I am not saying do not embrace the new technology and online services but rather do not rely on the internet to store what you think important.
Ensure you are responsible for that by having the equipment and storage of your data under your control locally.
This longer comment includes references to several modern issues including the reliability of online data storage, catastrophic world events and the viability of the internet. Taken to its extreme, the position taken by this comment reflects the rather extensive "prepper movement" currently very active in our society today. I am certainly not saying that the commentator is a "prepper" but the idea that vast networks including food distribution, power grids, and other such failures require us to be "self-sufficient" is not just an idea limited to backing up our data on our computers. Here is a short definition of the trend from a Wikipedia article entitled, "Survivalism."
Survivalism is a primarily American movement of individuals or groups (called survivalists or preppers) who are actively preparing for emergencies, including possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales from local to international. Survivalists often acquire emergency medical and self-defense training, stockpile food and water, prepare to become self-sufficient, and build structures (e.g., survival retreats or underground shelters) that may help them survive a catastrophe.
Hmm. Given that definition, I have been a survivalist for a very long time. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which I am an active member, has long urged its members to store a supply of food and essentials in the case of a disaster or other problem. During my own life, our family has always had some long-term storage and during times of limited income, have benefited from always having sufficient food and other essentials. The Church uses the term "self-reliance" and includes basics of education and social and emotional strength.

As the comment points out, it is not a good idea to rely on one form of backup for any computer related data. The people who rely on an old program such as Personal Ancestral File either to store their data or for current work are counter-survivalists. They are ignoring the very real danger that they will lose valuable data. Worrying about the viability of the internet and then telling people to continue to use an abandoned software program makes no sense at all.

There is an interesting reference to the Carrington Event. Here is a Wikipedia quote from an article entitled, "Solar storm of 1859," explaining what happened.
The solar storm of 1859 (also known as the Carrington Event)[1] was a powerful geomagnetic solar storm during solar cycle 10 (1855–1867). A solar coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetosphere and induced one of the largest geomagnetic storms on record, September 1–2, 1859. The associated "white light flare" in the solar photosphere was observed and recorded by British astronomers Richard C. Carrington (1826–1875) and Richard Hodgson (1804–1872). The now-standard unique IAU identifier for this flare is SOL1859-09-01.
Why would "old-fashioned computers" be exempt from the damage from such a storm. The accounts of the storm indicate that some telegraph traffic was interrupted. The question is what would have to your computer if there were a world-wide catastrophic disaster? Well, there would be a lot of damage and running PAF on a Windows XP machine is not a solution.

I do rely on the internet to store what I think is important. But I also store all my data locally on three independent 8 TB hard drives. I also rely on programs such as and other online databases with their own backup programs to protect my data. I the parable of the wise man who built his house on the rock and the foolish man who built his house on the sand applies to this situation. Using PAF is definitely building on the sand.

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