After twenty years of genealogy research, I have learned a few things about the fragility of the valuable data and files we work hard to accumulate. In response, I have worked hard to develop some good habits when it comes to protecting genealogy data and files.
Some of the issues I’ve encountered in the past are:
- Sudden corruption of files.
- Malfunction of hardware including CDs, flash drives and both internal and external hard drives.
- Accidentally overwriting files.
- Spontaneous software shutdowns, computer seizures or crashes prior to saving of files.
Following are some key rules that will protect against technical, software and hardware problems; viruses and malware; and deliberate or accidental interference.
- My first and most basic rule when working with data and files is ‘SAVE OFTEN‘! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost data when my computer has seized or crashed prior to saving work.
- Keep two copies of all data and files, one on the computer you use and another on an external hard drive. External hard drives are getting larger and less expensive all the time. It’s well worth the cost. Once you start using an external hard drive, be sure to eject it properly before unplugging the hard drive to avoid damage.
- To secure against more extreme events, upload to an online server or cloud drive. This will safeguard against more extreme damage that can be caused by fire, theft, flood, etc. in one’s own home, possibly damaging or destroying everything in the home.
- Keep your backup copy current by conducting daily backups of all data including media, sources, and software files to the external hard drive or cloud server. Some will tell you to use DVDs or CDs or flash drives for backup copies, but I’ve learned the hard way – DO NOT trust CDs, DVDs or flash drives except for transport of data. They are easily corrupted and/or damaged.
- Always password protect genealogy software, directories and hard drives to safeguard against accidental and deliberate access by unauthorized persons. It is best to use a unique password for your genealogy data.
- In a case where there is no backup and damage or loss occurs, it is possible to take your computer/hard drive to a knowledgeable technician to attempt data recovery. There are never any guarantees to this and the likelihood is that if anything can be recovered, it will most likely only be a percentage. Full recovery is very unlikely. The one time I had a hard drive recovery done was about five years ago and it cost me $99.