Everyone who uses a computer needs to make periodic backups. It makes no difference if you use Windows, Macintosh or Linux; you still need to make backups. Every computer will crash and lose data sooner or later. It will lose your genealogy work, your electronic checkbook, all the letters you have written with your word processor, and all of your stored e-mail.
For reference, I'd suggest that you ask Pam Cerutti, the lady who edits this newsletter. Last week the hard drive in her computer started making "strange noises" and a few hours later refused to function at all. The computer was dead.
I went to a local computer store, purchased a new hard drive, and installed it in Pam's computer. She then spent several hours restoring data from the last backup, which had been created about 3:00 A.M. the night before the failure. While the hard drive failure was inconvenient and required several hours of labor to get everything repaired and restored, not one single byte of important data was lost.
Luckily, there are several easy methods of making frequent backups. In fact, it can be a simple process, and you can automate it so that backups are made in the middle of the night with no human interaction. Pam backs up her computer nightly to another PC by using her in-home network that ties several computers together. If you do not have multiple computers and a network, you can take advantage of the Internet to back up your data in a similar fashion.
Last week I wrote about Family File Saver, an automated method of making frequent off-site backups of your Family Tree Maker database. I strongly recommend Family File Saver to all Family Tree Maker users. It is the easiest method I know of to ensure that your Family Tree Maker data will always be available to you. See my earlier article for details. However, if you use a different genealogy program or you wish to also back up your e-mail, checkbook, word processor documents, tax records and more, you have numerous other options available.
One method that appeals to me is an online service called Xdrive. This is an off-site storage system; you back up your files across the Internet to Xdrive's secure servers, which are maintained in a state-of-the-art data center with emergency power and all the other security arrangements you would expect. Xdrive helps protect your data from system crashes and from future virus infections. Xdrive works with Windows, Macintosh, or Linux. All you need is a Web browser and an Internet connection.
Xdrive also lets you share files with others. You can create user IDs and passwords for others and allow them to view any parts of your data that you wish; they do not see everything you stored unless you deliberately give them access to everything. Shared online access to data can be very helpful for group genealogy efforts; you can all share the same data or even the same database, as long as you all use identical genealogy programs. Of course, you can also store (and optionally share) any kind of computer file, not just genealogy databases.
For Windows users, Xdrive offers two different methods of accessing stored data: the Xdrive Web Interface and the Xdrive Desktop Software. The Web Interface uses your web browser to access your Xdrive data anytime, anywhere. For example, you can access the data when traveling and using someone else's computer, even a public computer in a library or Internet café. Conversely, the Desktop Software installs onto your Windows computer and allows you to automatically connect to your Xdrive whenever you start your computer and to access it directly from Windows Explorer. You can also use both: the Desktop Software when at home and the Web Interface when traveling.
The Xdrive Desktop Software creates a logical network drive on your computer. It appears in Windows Explorer and other programs as Drive X You treat Drive X the same as any hard drive on your computer: you can drag and drop files and entire folders from your local and network drives to your Xdrive. You can read and write files to and from Drive X in the same manner as Drive C or Drive D. The only differences are that Drive X resides in Xdrive's data center, not inside your PC, and reading and writing data to the remote Drive X will be somewhat slower than the same operations on an internal drive. The speed primarily depends on the speed of your Internet connection.
Macintosh and Linux users can use Xdrive's Web interface but not the Desktop Software.
I have been using Xdrive for some time and find it to be an easy way to back up data. It does not include any automated backup software, but such programs are easy to find online. Some of them are even free of charge. My favorite is Karen's Replicator, a free program that copies entire subdirectories automatically at predetermined times. You can tell Karen's Replicator to copy your genealogy program's database to Drive X every morning at 3:00 AM or any other time of day or week that you wish.
Xdrive is a bit expensive: For $9.95 a month the company will store up to 5 gigabytes of your data. That is sufficient for most genealogy databases, tax records, and much more, but it will not allow for backing up an entire hard drive. Most people only want to back up data; so, 5 gigabytes seems sufficient for most. If you happen to have a lot of data, Xdrive will store 10 gigabytes of data for $19.90 a month, and more storage is available at correspondingly higher prices. While ten bucks a month is expensive, it is probably a lot cheaper than the steps required after losing your data. How much would it cost to rebuild all your genealogy information from the beginning?
Xdrive offers a 15-day free trial; so, you can try it out for yourself to see if it fits your needs. For more information or to sign up for the 15-day free trial, click here.