Saturday, August 09, 2008

Backup and Security Plan for Genealogy Research

Back Up Your Data!

Protecting genealogy research that has taken years to gather is a must because, sadly, computers are vulnerable to hard drive crashes, viruses, theft and natural disasters. It's possible to lose all your files in an instant. Scary thought. We all need to have both a comprehensive backup plan for our digital research files and a security plan for our hard copies and photos.

Here is my Comprehensive Backup Plan.

First - An ounce of prevention. I want to do all that is possible so that I don't have a need to use backup. To protect my computers from virus attacks, I use e-trust Internet Security by Computer Associates. And since I live in the lighting capital of the world, I also have a surge protector to keep the insides of my computer from being melted if lightning strikes.

Backing up My Digital Genealogy Files

Hard Drive Backup

  • Every night, I automatically back up my genealogy data files and scanned images on the Iomega External Hard Drive I recently purchased. It has 500 GB and can be set to automatically back up on a regular schedule. It's easy to do and doesn't take any extra thought on my part. I set it to back up daily at 2 A.M.

    I didn't want to do a backup every night without knowing that the backups would restore correctly if and when I ever need them. I wanted to know for sure that the Restore feature works, so after my first backup after installation, I restored a file to make sure all worked as I expected. It did.

  • Because external hard drives can also fail (as I found out the hard way recently), once a month I verify the unit is still backing up and capable of restoring. I do this on the first day of the month as an easy memory aid, but I also have added this to my calendar as a to-do task

  • My laptop and desktop computer are networked together, so each time I save my genealogy program file to my laptop, I take an extra minute and save the same file to my desktop. Not only does it keep my data files in sync on both computers, it gives an extra layer of backup. This is something I have to remember to do, but after a few times of doing it, it became automatic.

Online Backup

Because computers and external hard drives can both fail, and would probably be destroyed together in a natural disaster, I want an online backup to my backup. Sound like overkill? Not if you have ever lost irreplaceable files. I live in hurricane susceptible area, so having an off site backup makes plenty of sense to me.

  • I have started backing up my genealogy files to Mozy, a secure online backup system that is inexpensive and easy to use. It gives 2GB of storage for free, so you can try it first to see if you like it.

  • I have begun to upload my photos to Google Picasa Web Albums as a backup. Easy to load and organize, the photos can be mapped and viewed by family.

CD Backup

  • Once a month, I burn my genealogy files to a CD. I alternate where the monthly copy goes. The first copy I keep in my bank safe deposit box, but after seeing hurricanes and subsequent flooding of bank vaults on TV, I realized this isn't as safe as I originally thought it was. Keeping a backup CD in a safe deposit box is no longer a full proof plan. So, on alternate months, I send CDs to other family members. This has the added benefit of keeping family members current on genealogy.

I have three layers of backup - an external hard drive, online backup and CD backup. Each one covers me in a different type of disaster. Now that I feel comfortable with my backup plan for my genealogy computer files, it is time to think about the paper records and photos.

Security plan for hard copies and photo.

Paper and photos are the real irreplaceables. If these are destroyed in a natural disaster, it would be heartbreaking. I feel, as the family historian, that it is my responsibility to do all I can to keep them safe. Since I know that safe deposit boxes are not flood-proof (and not fire-proof either), I believe that having these papers protected in my own house would be safer option for me.

  • Put all my photos in small acid-free boxes which I then line up inside large waterproof containers with a tight fighting lid. I don't think that there is such thing as a hurricane proof lid capable of withstanding 120 mile hour winds, but a tight waterproof fit is a good start. And the acid-free box will protect the papers from deterioration.

  • Keep all containers stored together, so that if a disaster requires evacuation, we can easily grab these irreplaceable photos and papers. I also plan to grab the laptop and external hard drive on the way out the door.

  • Scan the documents and photos as a backup so all is not lost should the paper be destroyed.

I've got the plan. Now I will start the implementation.

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