Paranoid ...


everal years ago, in one of those freak accidents that your friend the computer guy has nightmares about, my hard drive went completely belly-up with no warning whatsoever.  One moment, it was humming along like it should; the next, it was grinding to a rather ugly-sounding stop.  It made me very unhappy.

Luckily, I had just prepared a copy of my genealogy database for my mother.  What I didn't have was a handy backup of my media files: hundreds of document scans gathered from years of trips to archives, transcripts of interviews with relatives (some deceased), and a very large number of census and other images downloaded from online repositories I no longer had memberships to.  Like I said ... VERY UNHAPPY.

So I bought a new laptop, made a few phone calls, and sent a lot of emails.  It was a great opportunity to touch base with people I hadn't talked to for a while and to catch up on how their research had progressed (or stalled) since the last time we talked.  It took a little time to rebuild all those files, and turned out to be a very "lemons to lemonade" kind of experience, but not one that I ever want to have again.

Since then, I've learned a few things about data recovery:

  1. Backups are cheaper than repurchasing everything you lost
  2. Backups are easier than relocating everything you lost
  3. Backing up your backups isn't as crazy as it sounds

I'm sharing this because, as of last night, my file server ist kaputt.  But I have backups ... lots of 'em.  So, this trip down data recovery lane should be pretty smooth.  In case you're curious, here are some of the tools I use to keep my dead relatives nice and safe:

RootsMagic - It comes with a great feature, RootMagic-To-Go, which allows me to maintain a fully-functional copy of the program, complete with updates, on a thumbdrive (which is in my pocket almost all the time).  It also synchronizes my database files for me, which is quite handy.

SyncToy - This little Microsoft "power toy" is a beautiful thing.  I set up a sync job between my thumbdrive and my laptop to monitor all those photos and documents and, if anything changes on either of them, it gets copied to the other.  It's not automatic, but it's easy.

TrueCrypt - If your going to pack your database around in your pocket, be sure to encrypt anything sensitive (info on living people, your grandma's peanut butter cookie recipe, those kinds of things).  Be careful about encrypting everything though, some libraries don't allow you to run the decryption software on their computers.

ADrive - The cloud is your friend.  Seriously.

I also keep a portable hard drive attached to my home network that I copy files to on a less-than-regular basis (also using SyncToy).  I'm setting up CrashPlan this weekend though to automate those backups, it looks pretty handy.

It's possible I might be a little paranoid about my backups.  It's also possible that I'm not paranoid enough.  After all, that giant solar flare might come along and fry all of my electronics, leaving me with whatever paper copies I still have tucked in those file boxes I rarely open.  Maybe I should buy some ink for my printer ...

Posted in Genealogy