Living in Florida for the last 30 years has made me very aware of Mother's Nature wrath. Unfortunately the storms that hit Alabama and Georgia this week put it on the front pages.
I am going to try and help layout what 'data' you have and point out some of your options.
What is Data?
At first glance you might not think there is a lot of 'stuff' to loose on your computer. Think again.
What data do you have on your computer?
* Genealogy Database of your names, dates and places (e.g.Rootsmagic)
* Family Pictures
* Digital Images of Census, Death, Birth, Military & Marriage Records
* Address Book
* Audio Files - Interviews, Podcasts, etc.
* Gedcoms from other researchers
* Newsletters or Journals from Societies
* Articles and Presentations
I am sure this is not a complete list, but it covers the genealogy related items that I back up.
High Tech Back Ups
I research on two computers, my laptop and a workstation. While this is not always the most efficient method, it is what it is.
About 4 years ago I started using an online back up service called Carbonite. Carbonite is as simple as selecting the directories and/or files to back up and Carbonite backs it up whenever there is a change. If you buy a new computer or reload your current computer Carbonite will restore all your files with a click of a button. EASY!
Another online backup system is Mozy. Mozy is free if you only have 2 gig of data to back up. This can be an easy way to try it and see if you like it.
The best thing about either of these systems is that your data is 'off site'. If your home is damaged and your computer equipment is lost or damaged your data is safely stored on a server in a secure location and can be retrieved whenever you want it back.
Medium Tech Back Ups
Many people use external hard drives to back up their data. This can be an automated process or something that you do yourself periodically.
Here are a couple of examples.
Buying a hard drive such as ClickFree Automatic Home Backup will back up data as it changes. The only problem is that the harddrive is in your home, so if your home is lost, so is the hard drive backup.
Another popular product currently is Dropbox. Using Dropbox straight out of the 'box' allows you to share files by adding them to a Dropbox folder on your system. It will then copy or synchronize them to other computers you have designated. This is a manual process.
I did a little research and it appears there are some third party tools that can automate the process. On the plus side, your data is stored offline, so if your equipment is lost or damaged the data is not lost.
Google Docs, Flickr, and other online sharing sites might be an option for your family photos, Word files, pdf's and such. There are limits to the amount of data you can store, so be sure you will have the capacity you need. While it may take a while to upload the data it will be there waiting for you whenever you need them.
Low Tech Back Ups
One way to store your data off site is to simply make copies on either cd's, dvd's, or thumb drives and mail them to a relative in another state. This could be done once or twice a year for a minimal cost and accomplish 'off site' storage.
Before I used Carbonite I did this with family pictures I had scanned. I would bring cd's of the pictures with me when I visted my family in Illinois and leave them with my mom or sister.
No Tech Back Up
If you do not want to get involved with backing up, copying and such your options might be a bit limited.
In Florida where flooding is one of the biggest problems, storing your computers in water proof storage containers might be an option. There is usually plenty of time to prepare as we watch the storm system move towards the state.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for tornados or earthquakes, so some advance planning is needed. Printing out entire family trees with sources can be time consuming and the thought of rekeying them daunting.
So Now What?
I hope everyone who has read this article is thinking it was a total waste of time! Why, because they are already practicing good back up procedures.
If you are not backing up your data I hope this has given you some ideas of your options and you do some research.
Please leave comments on how you have accomplished this very important but often forgotten part of your genealogy research. I do not profess to be an expert on the subject, just someone who has tried a number of options and wanted to share them.