My laptop must be three weeks out of warranty and suddenly it’s falling apart. The screen is literally falling off its backing. Or vice versa. But anyway, it got me thinking about all the information I have stored on it. What will happen if it does break properly and I can’t access my files?
It’s happened before too. Not the same, exactly, but a few years ago, during a big clean-up, I came across a box of floppy disks. Remember them? Well, I’d labelled them reasonably well, so I had a good idea of what was on them, but I didn’t have a floppy disk drive – probably hadn’t for a few years by then – so I couldn’t access the files. In that case, it wasn’t too much of a loss, but now I store so much more stuff on my computer or on a USB or in some way, digitally. Even last year, somebody gave me some photos on a CD and it was quite a struggle to find somewhere to play it.
I’d like to say these experiences have made me quite rigid about backing up my information regularly, or at least made me conscious about the need to do so occasionally. But I can’t. Not really. There are a few things that have changed that perhaps make me feel like I don’t have to worry as much.
The cloud. As far as my research goes, most of it is stored in the cloud. Like so many others, my family tree is stored on the website I have subscribed to. That makes me feel like it is fairly safe. As far as my poetry goes, I tend to print a copy, so if everything went south, I would at least be able to type it back in (possibly an older version, but something nonetheless), though I only do this because poetry is short and each poem takes up just one or two pages. Family photos and copies of certificates shared by others? This is something I should be more careful about. Even the ones in my personal collection that wouldn’t be lost, I’d hate to have to spend all that time rescanning them.
The cloud is not without its own issues though. For one, everything is password protected. So, if I want anyone to be able to access my research after I’ve gone, then I need to make sure there’s a copy of my password somewhere. On one hand, this might seem fairly easy, but not so if it’s a site that makes me change it every few months. There’s also the question of security, though I don’t think I’d be too bothered if someone hacked my family tree!
In some ways I think maybe I’m a little better off – as far as accessing my information goes – than if I’d started researching my family history back before almost every household had a computer. I’d hate to think what I’d do if I’d spent years researching and then, during that big clean-up, came across that box of floppies, knew it contained all/most of my family history/research on it, yet couldn’t get in!