I have written many times about the need for genealogists to frequently back up their data. Making frequent backups prepares you for data disasters, such as crashed hard drives, broken water pipes, human errors, hurricanes, fires, or most anything else that can destroy a computer and the data it contains. Data losses can even happen to anyone and this week I experienced a minor problem. Luckily, I didn't lose any data.
I have been traveling for about three weeks but returned home Saturday evening. On Sunday, I notice my desktop computer was spitting out some errors about incomplete backups. A quick investigation showed that the external 1.5 terabyte disk drive plugged into my computer's USB port was dead. It is the hard drive that automatically backs up every file on my computer's internal hard drive. The Time Machine backup software runs all day and all night, making backup copies of any newly-created or newly-modified files within seconds after they are first stored in the computer's internal hard drive. I spent a bit of time powering external hard drive off and back on, unplugging it and re-plugging it in, and I also muttered a few magic incantations. Nothing worked, the external hard drive was as dead as a doornail. I wouldn't even power on.
Admittedly, this was not a great disaster. First of all, I still had all my original data on my computer's internal hard drive and it appeared to be working normally. I hadn't really lost any data. Only my level of insurance had gone down a bit.
Next, I keep at least two copies of all my most important files in two different backup services in the cloud. Those cloud-based services were unaffected: they continued to be available at any moment, should I need them.
NOTE: I normally back up EVERY file on my computer's internal hard drive to the external hard drive that sits beside my computer. That is cheap and easy to do. However, I only back up my important files to the cloud-based services because they cost money for storage space and the backup processes run a bit slower. After all, if I lose a copy of the computer's operating system or of Microsoft Word, I can always get another copy at the local computer store. The only thing that concerns me is backing up my DATA as I cannot purchase another copy of that anywhere.The "solution" to my problem was simple: I went to a local computer store and purchased a new external hard drive. Luckily, the prices on these things have continued to drop. I purchased a 3 terabyte-hard drive for less money than I had paid for the 1.5-terabyte drive I purchased a couple of years ago. The backup software ran overnight and this morning I have a full backup of all the files on my hard drive stored on the new plug-in drive plus two copies of all the important files that are stored on two different cloud-based backup services. Obviously, I also have the original files stored on my computer's internal hard drive as well. I feel that I can now relax.
In short, I suggest that everyone should not only make multiple backups and store them in different locations, but to also check occasionally to make sure those backups are still working the way you think they should.
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