I recently ran across this article regarding data storage safety. The author recounts a stressful close-call with hard drive failure:
"Last week, one of my son's friends lost a summer of work he'd done filming a documentary. It was a crucial college project for which he'd solicited and received considerable financial support via Kickstarter. He'd backed up months of footage garnered from extensive travel and interview to an external hard drive. Secure that he had a backup, he deleted the source data to gain more room on his Mac. It wasn't until the external hard drive failed that it dawned on him that a backup isn't a backup if it's your only copy."Luckily, for the student of the article, all the data was able to be recovered with a little forensics, but one cannot count on being so lucky if your hard drive unexpectedly fails. The author has a few very simple points of advice for safe backup practices as the school year begins once again:
- Backup regularly to a drive that won't be lost or damaged with the source
- Periodically confirm that what you backup is present and recoverable
- Never carry your backup media in the same backpack or bad as your computer.
I echo all this advice. If you don't have an external backup drive, get one. Nowadays, storage devices are very spacious and are relatively inexpensive for the security they provide. Ideally, backups should be stored in a different physical location from the source drive. That way, if one gets damaged, there is a greater chance that the other copy will survive unharmed and recoverable. I'd like to strongly emphasize that backing up must be a regular activity, like doing laundry, balancing the checkbook, or going to confession. Otherwise, you're more likely to end up with several weeks, months, etc. of lost work.
On a similar note, if you have not already done so, it is a good idea to take an inventory of just where all your data is on the web. Where do you have accounts? What are the usernames and passwords? How much data are you sharing, and when did you last use an account/service? Organizing all this information can help you mitigate personal data needlessly floating around cyberspace, and will make you more conscious of your information-sharing habits on the web.
It is important to think of managing personal digital assets and data in the same way as we care for other non-static organisms. More helpful resources for personal digital archiving from the Library of Congress can be found here.