Shawn Douglas

Thursday - Apr 26, 2012

Back up your data!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.

Online profiles
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.

Legacy information
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