Safeguarding your Digital Life: Archiving Your Data
The topic of “data archiving” is, at first glance, mind numbingly boring.
That being said, it’s a topic to take note of and here’s why: If you’re currently reading this blog, that means, well, that you read blogs; and if you read blogs, then you’re probably a person that does many other things on a computer as well. You may not be a tech-nerd or a data-geek, but I’d hazard to guess that at this very moment, you’ve got a sizeable collection of photos, songs, videos and documents floating around. If this is the case, then consider this point: Your favourite music, those videos of your baby, the photographs of your dog and the very last essay you wrote in college are absolutely the furthest thing from boring. They’re the opposite of boring and may have such meaning that you’d be distraught if they were ever destroyed. Even items like your old tax forms (if you filed electronically), along with invoices and project documents (if you use your personal computer for employment), while much less sentimental, are definitely important enough to keep secure.
So while the topic of archiving may be drier than popcorn fluff, the heart of the matter is that there’s an emotional and practical significance to protecting your personal data. All it takes to lose your data are some wilted flowers, as in, some wilted flowers knock over a vase and pour water all over a laptop. This is a true story. It happened to me. And I didn’t have my data backed up.
There are two general rules to archiving data: 1) duplicate it as many times as possible, and 2) duplicate it in as many different places as possible. Redundancy is the key. So with this in mind, I’d like to make three suggestions for keeping your digital files safe. If you can’t do all three, at the very least, do the first one:
1) Purchase an external hard drive. Buy one with a capacity larger than the hard drive on your computer. This way, everything that’s on your computer can be duplicated on the drive without worrying about storage space. To keep this as simple as possible, once a week, just before you go to bed, drag and drop your computer’s main system folder onto the external drive and let the data copy while you sleep. Doing this will help protect you, should anything unfortunate happen to your computer.
2) Purchase a redundant drive instead. A redundant drive is an external device with two identical hard drives housed within. These external drives duplicate your data twice, making a mirrored copy on each disk. If one of these drives ever breaks down, the other drive is ready and waiting to restore your data. The drives inside personal computers are workhorses and prone to failure, especially in laptops. As such, putting all your data on a redundant drive makes sense; it keeps it doubly safe and allows you to remove it from your computer, freeing up space and ending a reliance on its built-in hard drive.
3) Start archiving your data off-site. This means saving your data far away from any of the disasters that may strike your computer, your external hard drive or your home. This covers incidents like house-fires, floods, power-surges, burglaries, etc. External hard drives are fantastic but they’re no match to physical damage or theft. So how do you get your data to a “far away” place? You can do it by using a “cloud” based storage service. Most of the main email providers (Gmail, Hotmail/Outlook, etc.) now provide this service for free. Each company provides multiple gigabytes of storage space, which is enough to save your really important files but not your entire array of videos and songs. As time marches on though, these cloud services will grow in size, eventually allowing you to back-up all your data. To those who want to take an additional step in securing personal data, or for those that don’t trust their storing their data in the cloud, another way to archive is to use physical mediums like CDs, DVDs or Blu-ray discs. You can then take these discs and place them in a fireproof safe, a safety deposit box or even just give them to a friend to hold. If you do go this route, make sure to purchase metal-based CDs, DVDs or Blu-rays (instead of dye-based) as they last significantly longer.
If this is the first time you’ve considered archiving your digital data, then you’ve probably got quite a backlog to sort through. This may seem like a daunting task but don’t let it prevent you from starting. The best thing to do is just pick one singular ‘thing’ to archive – even if it’s only your 2012 vacation photos – and get it backed-up. Doing so will get the ball rolling and help you experience how simple and quick data archiving really is.