Saturday, January 30, 2010

Backing Up Your Genealogy Data

If tomorrow you lost all of your genealogy files - would you cry?  Or would you say, "no big deal" and then download your back up files?

If your answer to the above question was "cry", then it is time you change your ways.  It is time to make a plan to insure that your genealogy files are safe no matter what happens.  Adopting "better safe than sorry" as your motto is a must!

But how should you go about doing this?  Good news is that there are lots of options for all of your needs.

1.) Remote Backup Services:
A remote backup service is a great way to backup your files.  In this type of backup service, you select the files on your computer that you want to be backed up and how often you would like your files to be backed up.  The files that you selected are then backed up to a remote server.  If you need to use your back up, you can easily download your files from the remote server.
There are two popular companies that do remote backup services: Mozy and Carbonite.  I am a user of Mozy and I really love it.  I started off with a free account that gave me 2GB of space and I fell in love.  Once my needs increased, I upgraded to Mozy's $4.95 a month unlimited plan.  I love that Mozy provides me with peace of mind for very little money (which is important to a broke college student like me!).  I've also heard really great things about Carbonite, but I've never used the service so I can't personally recommend it.

2.) Flash drives/CDs
Using a flash drive or CD to backup your files is another popular approach.  I use a flash drive to backup my files once a month.  This is also really useful if I want to take my genealogy files with me without lugging around my laptop.  Since I use RootsMagic4 and have the RootsMagic To-Go program also on my flash drive, it is really easy to show my ancestors to anyone, anywhere, at anytime.
CDs are also a very popular way to backup your genealogy files.  It is extremely easy to do and the CDs are pretty cheap to buy.  Plus, the CDs are portable and can be sent to a friend or family member so that you have an offsite backup.
However, the downside with this method is that you have to manually back up your files - this can take time to do and can cause inconsistent back ups if you aren't careful.

3.) External Hard Drive
Using an external hard drive is another easy option to back up your files.  An external hard drive is an easy place to back up your genealogy files.  You can schedule to have your files automatically backed up to your external hard drive.  Another plus is that the costs of external hard drives has dropped over the last few years.  For example, you can get a 1 TB external hard drive for under $100 bucks.
However, the downside here is that the external hard drive is not away from your house.  If a tornado strikes your home and your external hard drive is destroyed, then you no longer have a backup.  Or if your house is robbed and your external hard drive is stolen, then you once again no longer have a backup.

But What Should You Back Up?  Everything that relates to your genealogy.  Therefore, that includes your database files, pictures, documents, bookmarks of your favorite genealogy websites, your blog and blog template, your notes - everything that relates to your genealogy.

Data Back Up Day is on the first of every month.  It is so easy to back up your files these days - so there is no excuse.  Back up your files!


arshad said...
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Unknown said...

Elyse - a nice post!
I backup in two ways - first I have a dropbox ( wich works really smooth with autosync a folder to my backup, everytime I change something it is backuped and they keep a history of files, so I could restore any older versions of my files. AND - there is a iPhone version of dropbox and I could access my files from everywhere - for free ...

And ofcause - the second complete backup is on a harddrive wich is stored at my work company to ensure it is save when my house burns or something like that :)

regards Timo!

Cyndi Beane Henry said...

A wonderful post! Three years ago I lost EVERYTHING [or so I thought] when my computer had a LITERAL meltdown. The fan went out on my laptop, and my hard drive melted. A geek who was ex-CIA used a program that he'd used in that service, and was able to retrieve my data. Cost me over $800! [Ouch!] It was an expensive lesson, but one I learned well!
Fast forward from 2006 to 2010 - and I have an external hard drive, I use Mozy, and all of my photos and genealogy are backed up nightly on a flash drives too.
I'm triple saving, I know. But I won't ever have to worry as I did before. Talk about a panic!!! You have no idea!!!
Keep up the great posts! You rock!

Katrina said...

Texicanwife - when my sister lost her computer to a fan failure, it cost her a grand to get her data off the hard drive. She didn't even blink -- it was years and years of her writing.

And in case people are silly like me and don't back up their data even though they know they should...I've written an article at Geneabloggers on how to recover once the inevitable happens.

Elyse said...

@Timo - great point about DropBox. I totally forgot about that! Maybe I'll have to do a follow up post that links to some Dick Eastman articles on Dropbox (he explains technology so well!)

@TexicanWife - Your horror story of losing your data makes any genealogist want to cry. I really feel that often times, we don't think of backing up our files until we hear about something tragic. I'm glad you were able to get your data, even if it did cost you 800 bucks.

@Katrina - Thanks for the reference to your article. I just hope that all of us back up our data so that we don't have to go through all the trouble (and money) of trying to get our data back.

Thanks for the comments everyone!

Michelle Goodrum said...

I love your blog! I came over here from Amy Coffin's, We Tree, Follow Friday entry.

I look forward to following your posts!

Michelle Goodrum