In light of the observance of Preservation Week, I want to shift gears a bit for this week’s post and talk briefly about a topic dear to me: saving your data.
The Internet age has brought with it many changes to how we use and share information. Rather than writing information in notebooks and letters, we now write digital books and e-mails. Additionally, media like music, photos, and videos are commonplace in the digital realm, replacing shoeboxes of photos and cabinets of VHS tapes and CDs.
What gets forgotten at times, however, is not only how easy it is to lose digital data, but also how quickly media formats change. With this digital revolution of information comes the need for a “preservation revolution,” one that allows us to easily and quickly store and convert digital media so it may live on as part of our rich digital culture.
That said, here are four groups of Internet services that are key to helping you save your digital data.
Online data storage
Relying solely on the hard drive of your computing device to securely save your data isn’t the best idea. Hard drives fail and data can become corrupted. Thus, a better storage plan is necessary to minimize the chances of losing your data. External hard drives and flash drives make for useful backup options. Another viable option is online data storage. Enter services such as Carbonite , CrashPlan, and DropBox.
The main idea behind these services is to allow you to upload your files and sync them to your computing devices. Say, for example, changes to a file on your home desktop are uploaded to one of these services. You then can go somewhere else with Internet access and access the file, update it, and have the file on your desktop at home also be automatically updated.
All three services have similar features, with some imposing different limits on file size and file type depending on what kind of account (free or paid) you have. I recommend comparing the prices and features of the services to find the one that suits your needs best. Having the peace of mind your files are backed up in an additional location is worth the effort.
Whether you’re new to the Internet and share information like hugs, or you’re a grizzled veteran of the online world and consciously limit your sharing habits, you’re likely to leave a digital “fingerprint” on the Web. That fingerprint may come in the form of shared photos, videos, and blog posts, or it may take the shape of anonymous posts on a private forum. And with the surge in number of social media tools, information sharing is occurring in ways previously not thought possible. Tweets shared on Twitter, conversations had on Facebook, contacts made on LinkedIn, and blog entries posted via WordPress: these all are examples of data you may wish to preserve.
Several catch-all options exist for collecting your online data from social media and e-mail accounts. Backupify allows users to back up and retrieve information via two separate plans: one for social media accounts (as well as Gmail) and another for Google Apps accounts. The social media plan has a free option for up to three accounts and one gigabyte of information, as well as several paid account options. The Google Apps option starts out at $3 per month, per user. Both plans allow users to back up their accounts on a weekly basis, browse archived content, and even download it for personal use. In some cases, data can also be restored. A competing service BackupMy offers similar services, though it’s not clear if they also allow you to download the archived information. BackupMy also adds blog and photo archiving services to the mix, with a free trial to all backup services.
Images and videos
When it comes to backing up your images and videos online — while also allowing them to be shared with the rest of the world — Flickr remains a strong option. The site is constantly evolving, allowing users to share and store their media in new ways with whom they wish. Yet even more sophisticated options exist in the form of 1000memories and LiveOn. Both sites are designed to allow users to archive their digital photos for family, friends, and future generations.
What makes 1000memories stand out is its “shoebox” feature, which allows users to group photos into definable themes, all for the low cost of free. Its downside for now seems to be that video uploads aren’t an option. As for LiveOn, in addition to free photo and video uploads, it gives users the option to create a “timeline” on their account, allowing for a more chronological categorization of content. However, I’m a little skeptical of how often they state they’ll guard your information “forever.” Nothing lasts forever, including businesses.
Speaking of things not lasting forever, we humans tend to have this habit of ceasing to be, sometimes without much warning. Enter online services which preserve and pass on your vital “information assets” to one or more beneficiaries. Usernames and passwords, financial information, and digital documents are all options for storing, not only for now, but also for a future when you may not be around. This also aids others who may need to tend to your online accounts after you die.
Two major online entities for these services are Legacy Locker and SecureSafe. Both have similar features and offer a free version as well as paid options. Legacy Locker seems to be somewhat less expensive though perhaps less comprehensive than SecureSafe. One interesting feature that seems to be exclusive to Legacy Locker is the “legacy letter,” one or more prepared letters or videos which can be sent to assigned recipients upon your passing. SecureSafe seems more formal, though it boasts iPad and iPhone support.
Photo via woodleywonderworks, Flickr Creative Commons
Back in March 2010, Learn the Net posted an article about internet activism, stating that despite criticism, e-activism “isn’t going to disappear.” The closing line of that article was: “Often it takes more than a few words on a blog or an e-mail to make a difference, but it’s a positive start.”
Fast forward a bit to December 2011, which saw a bitter debate erupt around the world over concerns that proposed U.S. legislation would potentially put too much power into the hands of the U.S. government to censor the Internet and bring many information sharing sites to a swift end. That legislation was introduced as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House of Representatives and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate.
The ruckus culminated in a massive Internet-based “blackout” on January 18, one that saw thousands of websites go dark in protest of the legislation. In fact, over 75,000 websites participated in a blackout through SOPA Strike, one of many online activists groups that tried to rally people to protest.
Many people were surprised to see the likes of Wikipedia, Google, and Craigslist either go dark or include website content that made users keenly aware something was not right. Many even stated they didn’t know what SOPA and PIPA were until they visited websites participating in the online protest, if nothing else proving that awareness was raised by the event. And Internet users shouldn’t be surprised to see similar actions (though perhaps on a lesser scale) in the future.
“Technology has grown as a part of our lives, and the companies now have something of value that they can withhold in terms of services, which is a shift in the overall political landscape,” Colin Gillis, a technology analyst at BGC Financial, told the L.A. Times. “Is this spawning a new level of activism? I’d say absolutely yes.”
While citizens continue to find new and interesting ways to better protest using the Internet and technology, it’s worth noting this “new level of activism” seen last week didn’t exclusively take place on the Internet. Protesters wrote letters to, called to, and even visited the offices of their representatives, frequently doing so on multiple occasions over a prolonged period of time dating back to 2011. Activists even pulled together to participate in rallies in San Francisco, New York, and other major U.S. cities, adding an additional discontented presence to the masses. Two days later, voting actions on the SOPA and PIPA bills were postponed indefinitely by House and Senate leaders for further discussion.
While it’s easy to argue whether or not this is truly an end to the legislation, what’s difficult to argue about is the role the Internet itself played in bringing the votes to a halt. Not only did activists use the Internet as a tool, but they also were essentially fighting for their right to continue to protest online without fear of having their voices censored. And while last week’s blackout wasn’t the first time hundreds of thousands of people have took to the Web during times of dissent, the blackout stands out as a sort of “high water mark” for what can be accomplished using the Internet.
It may be a while before we see online activism in such capacity again, but be certain that it will happen. As the concept of social networking continues to change and draw in new Internet users, new methods of bringing information to people from all walks of life will certainly appear. Additionally, as an increasing amount of business is performed and information is exchanged over the Web, look for online businesses and other entities to become more vocal, using their clout to help shift political and social thought. With them will come a continuing evolution in how people communicate, learn, and protest.
Photo via mangtronix, Flickr Creative Commons
With Yuletide songs, Christmas cheer,
and Auld Lang Syne whispering at our ear,
traditional holidays wave goodbye,
as the Internet becomes their new ally.
But how has the Internet
changed all that we know?
Does holiday celebration
now have a new beau?
Sit right back
and read what I say,
as for better or for worse
things are different today!
1. Organize holiday events using self-organization and social media tools found online.
Online social tools like Meetup.com and Facebook.com have made it easier than ever to make plans for holiday celebrations like Southeast Asia’s Water Festival or New Zealand’s Waitangi Day. Letters and phone calls may have once been the norm’, but now Internet-connected people can schedule events and invite people with only a few clicks of the mouse. St. Patrick’s Day party? Labor Day camping? Send off a digital invite in advance and get a better idea of who’s attending.
Truth be told, a phone call to family to organize a holiday event will always be in style. Just don’t be surprised if that phone call takes place over the Internet.
2. Feel a little closer to loved ones far away by streaming video from your web camera or placing Internet-streamed video calls.
It happens all the time: a life experience takes a loved one far away from friends and family. For those used to spending time with loved ones on holidays, the distance can be difficult to deal with. A phone call was as close as one could get. But with advances in how bandwidth-hogging media is transported over the Internet, making a video call or streaming live webcam footage online is now all the rage. Making video calls is easier than ever these days, making long-distance communication more intimate and engaging, and holidays a little bit brighter for many.
3. Book travel and accommodations to see family and friends during holiday celebrations from an Internet-connected device.
Say you want to fly from Paris to Baltimore to see your family for Christmas, but you also want the comfort of a dockside hotel. It used to mean talking to a travel agent or placing phone calls to make bookings. Today things are quite different. Whether you’re at a café or at home, as long as there’s an Internet connection you can go online to compare hotel rates, book plane tickets, and — for those who want to skip out on dirtying the kitchen — reserve a table at a restaurant. With this new technology has come fierce competition in the travel industry, in many cases driving down prices for travelers going home for the holidays.
4. Buy holiday gifts online, saving time and hassles in the process.
Searching for the perfect Boxing Day gift? Sending flowers to your beau on Valentine’s Day? People are increasingly turning to the Internet to accomplish these tasks and more. Earlier this month I mentioned that online holiday spending is seeing big gains this year. It won’t be surprising to see that trend continue, even beyond the hectic end-of-year holidays that so heavily involve buying gifts for loved ones. With a wealth of low-cost shipping options and online price comparison tools like Google Shopping, it’s little surprise to see the process of gift shopping go online. Even something as traditional as a Parents’ Day card is occasionally being replaced by an online interactive greeting card. One has to wonder, though, if such a digitalization threatens to remove the intimacy of the act.
5. Notice how the holidays seem more commercialized than ever with the advent of the Internet age.
While I’m not offering any hard facts to back up this assertion, it sure seems like the Internet is just another extension of an already increasingly commercialized take on official holidays. With the Internet, a plethora of advertisements and purchasable products is at our fingertips. Sadly, now we can’t even escape our own homes without being assaulted by online ads that beckon us to buy flowers for our Valentine or order that hip Charlie Sheen Halloween mask. Now we even have online shopping days like Cyber Monday set aside for us with the intent to get us to buy more gifts (and personal items) before Christmas. Next I’m sure we’ll be seeing “official” corporate sponsors for holidays worldwide. Joy to the world.
Photo via The Sean & Lauren Spectacular, Flickr Creative Commons