Monday, January 13, 2014

Common Genealogy Mistakes #2

Another common genealogy mistake is not backing up your genealogy often enough, and in the best way!

After attending a great webinar by Thomas MacEntee on Backing up Your Genealogy, I was inspired to rethink my data backup plan.

Sure, I have been backing up my genealogy data, including media about weekly. But I was using Legacy's backup, which means all my client work (research reports, notes etc) was not being backed up at the same time. Sure, every once in awhile I have backed up my folders, but with the number of hours a week I work on genealogy even the loss of one week would mean a great deal of loss.

If anyone should have data backup on their mind surely it is me.

A couple years ago, my laptop had the misfortune of having chocolate milk spilled on it. The motherboard was fried. It is not really cost effective to replace laptop motherboards as this often costs more than a new (likely better) laptop. Luckily, my brother is a bit of a computer tech geek, so he was able to transfer all my files, including data files off of the laptop hard drive and onto my new desktop computer.

It was a long process tho, and what if he had not been able to do it? What if I had been in Florida as planned when this happened?

I have regularly lost desk top hard drives but have never lost most of my data (usually a few days worth and easily replaceable data such as music and movies were lost).

A few ago my mother had a house fire which led to the destruction by smoke and water damage of the majority of the contents of her house.

A while ago we had a small kitchen fire in my house.

Think of all the times you have narrowly avoided losing all your precious genealogy data, not to mention family digital photos and so on.

I usually have used rather poor methods of backup. I usually have two or more hard drives on the computer so I copy important files once in a while to the other drive. Problem with this of course is that if the entire computer was destroyed in a house fire this would be little use!

I would also sometimes backup to DVD. Problem is I have a great deal of data and it takes about 5 DVDs to store it all. And of course, if there was a house fire, this wold also be of little use, as altho I always *intend* to take copies somewhere else, like my brother or sisters house, I really don't actually do so. And of course saving to 5 DVDS is not the fastest process so I tend to put it off.

Even if I did take the DVDs offsite, how often is this really realistically going to happen? Once a week? Once a month? What happens if the disaster that hits my home also affects the offsite location. Obviously, in order to be able to physically take the DVDs to the offsite location it will be nearby. If a disaster hit that affected the entire city (flood, earthquake etc), my data would be lost.

I have 6 children, plus 2 dogs and a cat in my household. I love my genealogy, but if there was a house fire, there would be no question of even trying to move the computer out.

I also tend to leave my computer on 24/7. My house could have a house fire that destroyed my computer when I was not even home or while I am asleep.

I had heard good things about Dropbox, and decided to try it. While they do have a 2 GB free plan, I have much more than that to backup, so I decided to go with the $9.99/mth 50 GB plan.

After moving over all the files I felt I had to have backed up, it appears I will only need about 25 GB.

While I signed up for Dropbox with the intention of using it for backup, I was delighted to discover it can do so much more. Thomas MacEntee had mentioned some of the features, but had remained focused on the backup features, as this was what the webinar was on. In his upcoming webinar I am sure I would have learned all about these features, but I didn't entirely understand them when I signed up.

Basically, once I put a file in the Dropbox, I can work on it on any computer, and it updates on ALL the computers and online. So, if I had a laptop, I could work on my genealogy file at home on my desktop, then grab my laptop and head to the library. At the library I could work on the file some more, and when I returned home all the new data would be on my desktop for me to continue there.

I now feel like I am ready to buy a new laptop!


  1. I keep my backup on a flash drive attached to my keychain in addition to having it on my hard drive.

  2. This would be scary. Not just for genealogy files, but personal files, photos, etc. Thanks for the heads up and advice

  3. I do a data backup to an external hard drive which, granted, just sits there by the computer, but in case of hard drive failure, would allow for restoring data while offline. I also use a cloud backup service (carbonite for one computer, mozy for another) for offsite backup in case of fire, flood, theft, etc.

    Both systems are set to auto backup, taking human "oh I forgot" error out of the equation. I would suggest not relying on just one solution-even a cloud provider-because even they can have failures.

  4. I agree, more than one method is ideal. If a cloud provider does fail tho, in order for someone to be affected, they would have to have a loss of data on their computer at the same time. Otherwise they just need a new method after the failure, or to re-upload their data if the failure appears to be short-lived.

    I also use other methods of backup, but its more of a bit here and a bit there (ie photos at Picasa, SkyDrive for certain other files etc) and they are prone to the "I forgot" error because they arent auto backup.