October 2nd, 2013

Be Sure to Backup that Valuable Data!

We spend hours, days, weeks, months, and years accumulating our genealogical data. It would be a shame to see all of that hard work wiped out by a single computer or other hardware failure. I back up my research data regularly, and not just in one place! As easily as a main computer could crash, so could an external hard drive fail, so I use an online storage facility to save my work as well.

I am still using an Edge DiskGo as my primary backup source. I have had it for eight years now, and as modern technology goes, it’s quite the dinosaur! I bought my Edge in 2005, it has 75GB of storage space, and file transfer is fast and easy. The same company makes flash drives in 8, 16, and 32GB sizes, which has won the Silver Award by TopTenReviews.com. Of course there are many newer and more modern external drives that are faster and have more space, it doesn’t matter which one you use; just that you use one.

I backup my work manually, but there is also software such as TimeMachine for Mac, and if you have Windows 7 or Vista, you already have a fairly decent backup program on your computer. Windows XP also has a built in backup program, but I have heard horror stories about people trying to recover that data when they switch to an updated Windows program, so I can’t recommend using it. The great thing about automated programs is that you can just set it and forget it, and your backups occur regularly.

The fact is that a fire, flood, or other disaster can not only destroy your computer, but the external hard drive attached to it. It is somewhat risky to have only a single, physical backup, so I backup my data online as well. There are as many options for online backups as there are for physical ones, but sites like Mozy and CrashPlan are popular options for many genealogists. They are easy to use, though they are pricey compared to services like Amazon’s Glacier and S3. The Amazon services are effective, but very complicated to set up and use, so I can’t recommend them for the average user.

Dropbox is another effective program to use. It is very convenient, and I send copies of all of my documents to it. What’s more, it’s free! Basically Dropbox serves as a home for all of your documents and photos, as well as any other files, and it automatically displays on all of your computers and phones. Alternatively you can access your files on the Dropbox website. The only downside, if you can consider it one, is that whoever you want to share your files with needs to have Dropbox installed as well. The initial free version gives you 2.5GB of storage, but for $8.25 per month you can get 100GB of storage space.

Don’t forget flash drives as an option. They come in a variety of sizes, take up little space, and can be easily transported if you want to share your genealogy data with others. The key is to always have at least one backup, and to backup your work regularly.