9.Keep Your Digital Memories Safe

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9.Keep Your Digital Memories Safe Powered By Docstoc
					               Keep Your Digital Memories Safe

        “Google is a library or an archive like a supermarket is a food museum.”

Do you value your digital stuff? Nearly everyone is creating things with computers, and some do
it without any concern for its value. Others recognise its current value, but think little about what
it could mean to them in the future, and either aren't aware or don't think that all of it could be
destroyed tomorrow. But hard drives die all the time, and the online services into which people
sink their time close with alarming regularity, taking the work of millions of people with it.
Here's how to preserve your digital memories.

   1. 1

       Make a quick backup now. If nothing else, get a cheap USB stick and drag-and-drop your
       documents folder onto it. Worry about the other things later. You should do more than
       this, but it's most important to take the most valuable, irreplaceable information from
       your hard drive and put it on a second medium to guard against hard drive failure, theft or

       Stop reading until you have done this and stop making excuses to not do it.

       Getting your most important stuff onto a cheap USB stick is a lot better than having no
       backups at all. Do it right now.
2. 2

  Decide what you value. Some questions to ask yourself are:

       o   Would you care if this was deleted tomorrow? For things like business accounts
           and documents, the answer is of course you would. This kind of thing should be
           your first priority.

           This could happen to you today. Back up your important stuff right now.

       o   Would you care if you had no record of this in ten years' time? Alternatively, if
           you're old enough to remember what happened a decade ago, What happened a
           decade ago that you wish you had a record of today? Your picture of your cat
           might not matter too much now, but you would probably think differently after
           your cat passed away.
    Your cat snapshots might not matter to you now, but what about in a decade's

o   How replaceable is this data? MP3s and movies you have downloaded are
    generally replaceable (even if it's a pain to do so), so it's not the end of the world
    if they get lost. Documents you have written or photos you have taken cannot
    easily be re-created.

    It's more important to back up some things than others.

o   How good are you at assessing the value of items? As human beings, our choice
    of things to back up will be fallible and probably short-sighted. Err on the side of
    backing up too much stuff; disk space is cheap and 23 cubic inches holds a
    fantastic amount of data.
              The shelves in the background of this photograph, taken at the offices of The
           New York World in 1909, are crammed with photographic negatives. These were
           all thrown away when the newspaper folded. Sometimes our judgement on what
           is worth saving and what is not is short-sighted.[1] If these were digital
           photographs, they'd probably fit on a single 3.5" hard drive.

3. 3

  Beware of sinking time, and data, into online services. This isn't to say that you must
  never post a picture on Facebook or say anything on Twitter; these things are fun. But
  remember that no online service should be considered an archive or a permanent home.
  Sometimes these services go down. Other times, your account there might be suspended
  or your data lost by accident.

  A tribute to the deceased web host Geocities, made with thousands of screenshots taken a
  few weeks before the service closed down.

       o   Never sink time into any service that doesn't give you an easy way to get your
           data out again. If it doesn't allow you to download all of your stuff as either a ZIP
           file or with some automated tools via an API, it's probably a bad idea to use it.
       o   Keep a current email address for any services you use in case the service goes
           down. If they give you any notice, it will likely be via email.
       o   Keep local copies of everything.Don't delete your local copies after you've put
           something online unless you are totally, 100 percent sure that you will never want
           to see it again.
       o   Watch out for signs of impending doom, either for your data or for the service as
           a whole. These are some of the signs that you should consider moving your data
           somewhere else and be doubly vigilant of having local copies of your work:
                 Unclear or unsustainable business model. Have fun with these services,
                    but as with any service, don't count on it being around next year.
                 Losing data or extended periods of downtime should make you consider
                    whether you want to continue being there at all. Fotopic was a fine
                    example of this; after suffering several periods of downtime, at least one
                  of them extended, people continued to put their photos on the site before it
                  was shut down, with no notice, in 2011.
                 Reports of deletion of accounts by staff of the site. One does not even
                  need to discuss whether they might actually have a good reason for doing
                  so to note that this happens rather a lot to people who are not expecting it
                  on many of today's social networking sites.
                 A buy-out of the service by another company that has no clear plans for its
                  future. In particular, beware of talent acquisitions which might leave the
                  service orphaned; the 2012 acquisition of Posterous by Twitter is a great
                  example of this, if you're good at reading between the lines.
4. 4

  Start making backups. Remember, something is better than nothing. Diminishing returns
  apply in backups as they do with everything else. The cheapest and simplest backup
  methods take care of an overwhelming majority of likely loss-of-stuff. Over-complicating
  your backup strategy is the biggest trap: the more complicated and expensive you insist
  on making it, the less likely you are to do it.

  Thus, while they have good intentions when they're not showing everyone else how
  awesome they are, people who tell you that you absolutely must go all-out with
  geographic redundancy probably do more harm than good to the extent that such things
  are necessary if you're going to have backups at all.

       o   First level: Buy a cheap USB flash drive and shove your documents folder onto it.
           You already did this in the first step; do it right now if you have not. This saves
           your most important data from the medium most likely to fail or be stolen.
       o   Second level: Once you have figured out what you value, buy a USB external
           hard drive and start copying more of your data onto that. Get into the habit of
           doing this at least every week. You'll have more space to play with, so you can
           copy the more replaceable stuff like your music collection onto it. You will also
           want to look into ways to download data from your online accounts (for example,
           backing up your blog, or using Facebook's export-to-a-big-ZIP-file feature) so
           you can back that up, too.
           An external hard drive like this is cheap and can hold enormous amounts of your

       o   Third level: Consider some automated backup strategy. This is worth it if you care
           to do it, but takes more time to set up well; a poorly-designed one will result in
           more of your data getting lost than a simple regular manual backup if it doesn't
           alert you to failures of the media to which you are backing up.
       o   Fourth level: Geographic redundancy, for stuff that you absolutely cannot lose.
           This takes care of, say, your house burning down. The diminishing returns are in
           action; this is a whole lot less likely than a hard drive dying, and of course if your
           house is destroyed, you're likely to be a lot more worried about finding
           somewhere to live and starting over again than you are about your cat
5. 5

  Use online backup services carefully. They have their place, particularly in the case of
  possible geographic redundancy, but never depend on them as your only backup source.
  Once again never delete your local copies of anything, and never use a service that does
  not provide you an easy way of getting your data out. Because of their widespread use for
  illegal purposes, "file locker" services are an especially bad place to house your data as
  they can disappear literally overnight.
  Megaupload was an online file locker closed down with no notice by the government of
  the United States. It is believed that it may have had millions of people using it for
  legitimate purposes.

6. 6

  Don't forget your mobile devices. For many people, they have supplanted or replaced
  conventional computers. Back up your photographs and video from your camera phone.

7. 7

  Consider licensing your work under a Creative Commons license, or otherwise providing
  an easily-downloadable copy for other people to archive. If your stuff is interesting
  enough, allowing other people to make copies will result in lots of copies of your stuff
  being out there.

  Many places will accept copies of Creative Commons-licensed content; Wikimedia
  Commons will accept any media you have created yourself if it's vaguely educational, for
  example. The Internet Archive at will also accept collections of
  digital artifacts. Consider contributing to these or another similar non-profit project.

8. 8

  Keep an eye on your storage media. If one of your backup drives fails, replace it
  immediately. "The universe tends towards maximum irony; don't push it." In the longer
   term, you'll want to move your data off various kinds of storage media as obsolescence
   sets in and move it onto newer ones once the newer technologies mature. Floppy disks
   went to the glue factory a decade ago, for example, and are quickly becoming unreadable.
   Writable CDs and DVDs are headed down this path; if you have data backed up on any
   of these, now is probably the right time to get it onto hard drives or solid-state media.

   The CD-RW is quickly going the way as the floppy disk, and USB will be gone one day,
   too. Move your stuff onto newer media as the newer media matures.

9. 9

   Consider how much of the digital record of you is other people's data, and consider
   preserving some of that. An old example of this would be your bookmarks; at the very
   least, keep a backup of your bookmarks file. In the Facebook era, many of your digital
   memories will have been made by other people; for example, photos in which you have
   been tagged, or tweets mentioning you. In many jurisdictions it is legal to make personal
   copies of other peoples' stuff provided that it is strictly for personal use.

10. 10

   Remember that your backups are only useful insofar as you have software to read it.
   Many people who used computers in the 1980s and 1990s have already experienced the
   pain of finding that today's software is unable to read their documents.
Will you still be able to read your files in the future?

   o   Beware of software that forces you to keep using it. An example would be a photo
       manager that wants to import your photo library but doesn't document how your
       files are stored or how to get them out again. Another example (fortunately
       uncommon these days) would be music download services that allow you to
       purchase tracks but use copy protection with the explicit aim of stopping you from
       making copies. This especially applies to backup software; if no other program
       can read whatever format in which it stores your files it's useless as a long-term
   o   Beware of proprietary or weird file formats. This is the more general case of the
       above: Some vendors do not document their file formats precisely because they
       don't want you to be able to read your own stuff with anyone else's software. If
       your software permits it, export a copy of your work to some open file format. If
       your software does not allow you to do this, panic and start using an open-source
   o   Stick to file formats that can be read by open-source software today.Open source
       software tends to stick around longer than closed-source software does, so even if
       you're using proprietary software you'll be able to open it in open source software
       long after the vendor of your software stops supporting it.

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