Sunday, November 1, 2009

Data Backup Day - My Story

Several years ago, I had a catastrophic computer crash. It happened during the summer, in July. I lost a lot of data, most importantly the records I kept in my genealogy database software. I was able to reconstruct most of it from documents and printouts I had made and stored in the family binders on my bookshelf. as I tend to hang on to paper far beyond those documents which I will part with only when my will is probated and the documents are either passed on in the family or donated to the Southern Genealogists Exchange Society. The next summer, again in July, my computer crashed again. I took two actions: (1) I bought a new computer, and (2) the next June 30, I tunred my computer off, and didn't turn it on again until 1 August! Yeah, as the daughter of a naval aviator -- they being a superstitious lot -- I have my own quotient of superstition!

These days, I have generally been backing up my data, my photographs, genealogy database information, and other files onto CDs. My husband, a former civilian computer programmer for the Navy, supplied me another forum for backing up. He bought each of us an external hard drive which is constructed to Department of Defense specifications for ruggedness and durability. These are the kinds they are using in combat zones. You can run over it with a Hum-V and it will keep on ticking. You can jump out of a helicopter with one strapped to your back, land on it, and it will keep on ticking. Not sure it would stand up to an IED, but it will generally stand up to whatever I might do to it, up to and including running over it with my Chevy Tracker. That's where I keep my data.

One problem that we need to address concerning backing up to CDs is: when is the technology going to change again -- and it is going to change again -- and what are we going to do about it? One consideration in migrating to new technology for backing up data will be cost -- will we have to buy some sort of equipment? Inevitably we will -- some sort of writer/reader to create and use the data backup format, whatever it may be. I don't see an immediate prospect for that happening, as CDs seem to be a rather stable and dependable means ot storage.

What I think may change sooner than the physical format is the virtual format -- the programs we use for putting the data on the CDs and for reading it off the CDs. Will these be able to read older CDs which were created using older programs? And how about the operating systems? Will Windows 7 be able to read the CDs I created using Windows 98? Or even my current OS, Widows XP Professional? This is the nexus at which we need to be aware of changes, and keep "migrating" our stored data to the newer virtual formats. Microsoft has not been noted lately for its conscientiousness in providing "backward compatibility" through the various iterations of Windows.

So it's time for me to do some more CD backups . . .

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