Always have a backup

Last week my computer locked up in the middle of an update.  My computer is my right hand. It holds over 40 years of genealogical research, the chapters I’ve written on the book I’m doing for the Maine State DAR, all my columns, a photo collection and my online banking, among other things.  

I tried all the tricks to get it to close down and it just sat there as frozen as our driveway right now.  I finally resorted to unplugging it and letting the battery go flat, until it turned off automatically. Then I was able to turn it on and the first thing it did was the update which ran fine.  When our computer guru got a chance to return my call he told me he’d been inundated with frantic calls from customers whose computers froze just like mine. That relieved me, knowing my machine wasn’t at fault.  

In all this, I wasn’t worried about losing my data.  I have a cloud backup that automatically backs up all my files and those of my husband’s.  For those non-techie types who wonder what the “cloud” is but are afraid to ask, it’s an online internet storage facility that holds copies of your files in case something happens to your computer.  If you need to restore files you can do it, either to an existing machine or a new one. It lets you sleep at night. Which leads me to ask a question to all of you genealogists who use computers: are you backing up your files?  

We genealogists know that over time our genealogical software, records, photos, etc., grow like mushrooms in August or snow totals in northern Maine.  I’m always astonished at the number of folks who confess they don’t bother with backing up because they consider it a nuisance or a time waster. They tell me they’re sure nothing will happen.  But what if it does? Computers crash all the time. Is your priceless research backed up?

Don’t take chances on losing all your data and photos.  There are some good cloud backup companies out there who will restore your information when needed.  Charges vary but they’re worth every penny. Also, you can backup manually using a CD, assuming your computer has a CD slot, or to an external hard drive, or a flash drive, which you may call a thumb drive.  And consider keeping a manual backup offsite in case of a fire or some sort of disaster.

Since it’s now 2019, if you haven’t made resolutions, backups are one you need to make.  Also, for genealogists who are still using paper copies only, do you have photocopies of what you’ve created, all those pedigree charts and files?  It’s worth your time and effort to consider using your camera to copy records, scanning them to a form of backup, or photocopying them and storing a set somewhere else.  

It’s a nightmare for genealogists to even think of data loss, so it’s always best to be safe rather than sorry.

Columnist Nancy Battick of Dover-Foxcroft has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society. Reader emails are welcome at nbattick@roadrunner.com. Her semimonthly column is sponsored by the Aroostook County Genealogical Society which meets the fourth Monday of the month except in July and December at the Caribou Library at 6:30 p.m. Guests are always welcome. FMI contact Edwin “J” Bullard at 492-5501.

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