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Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Apr 8, 2006

Is Your Family History Data at Risk?

There are few things that cause greater stress than finding that your Family History data, which took 25 years to assemble, cannot be accessed due to some computer failure. How can you evaluate if you have sufficient backups of your data? And what is the risk that the backup will also be readable and contain all of your data? There are so many factors to consider when calculating the risks of data loss: computer hardware, computer programs, storage media, virus vulnerability just to name a few. Click here to view a chart of the symptoms, causes, and solutions for different data loss event types.

According to insurance claim statistics, hardware failure is the number one cause of data loss. It accounted for 42% of the data loss incidents reported. This included losses due to hard drive failure and power surges. Human error accounted for 30% of data loss episodes. This statistic includes accidental deletion of data, as well as accidental damage to the hardware (like damage from dropping your laptop). Software corruption accounted for 13% of data loss incidents. Surprisingly, computer viruses only accounted for 7% of data loss incidents. Theft accounted for 5%. And lastly, hardware destruction, (which included damage caused by floods, lightning, and brownouts), accounted for 3% of all data loss incidents.

Recently there have been many calls to MyTrees.com from panicked patrons. We hear the same story again and again, "My computer has crashed and I have lost all of my family history data and my backups don't seem to work either." Fortunately they can recover from this disaster if they have uploaded their family history file to MyTrees.com. They can download their file from MyTrees.com at any time. See the "ask us" article in this issue for a complete description of how to upload your family history data including pictures and other documentation to MyTrees.com. This has always been a free service no matter how much disk space your family history records use.

The most reliable way of protecting your family history data is to make a habit of backing up your data. A backup is an extra, current copy of your family history files stored in a place separate from your computer. That means if your Family History software has an auto backup built into its save routine you should choose a separate device to which your files will be backed up.

In deciding how best to backup up your family history data you will need to ask some key questions.
1. What should I backup?
2. How often should I make a backup?
3. Where should I store the backup?

1. What should I backup? Backup any files, that if lost, could not be easily recovered. That usually means that you will not backup files that are part of your operating system or part of the programs that you use, because you will need to reinstall those programs anyway when you get a new hard drive. This brings up the importance of storing the physical media that comes with your software programs and your operating system -- disks, licenses, and manuals -- in a safe and accessible place.

Any program or other file that you have downloaded from the Internet usually does not need to be backed up because you can return to the original source and download the file again. Temporary files created by your browser or other programs do not need to be backed up. The files you will want to backup will most likely be documents that you have created with your word processor, or spreadsheets you have created, or genealogy files your program has created. Don't forget to backup photos you have scanned or other digital pictures you have saved from your digital camera. It is easier to backup the files you have created if you have saved them to a single master directory like the "My Documents" folder on the Windows Operating system or in a subfolder of that directory.

There are a few other files that you may want to backup, like the bookmarks from your browser, your address book from your email program, and saved emails but this article has been written only to discuss the genealogy files you will want to backup.

Each genealogy program usually uses a single file to hold the data you have input into it. To back this data file to some other media, like a flash or zip drive or floppy disk, first try using the backup function that is part of the genealogy program you use.

For PAF click "File" and then click "Backup". Select the drive and directory where you want the backup to go and click "Backup". The file that is created has the same name as the data file you are backing up but it has a .zip file extension.

For Legacy click "File" and then click "Backup Family File". Select the drive and directory to which you would like to backup the file. Click "Save". The file that is created has the same name as the data file you are backing up but it has a .zip file extension.

For Family Tree Maker click "File" then click "Backup". Click the "Change" button on the "Backup Family File " box that appears. Select the drive and directory to which you would like to backup the file. Click "OK". The file that is created has the same name as the data file you are backing up but it has a .fbc or .fbk file extension.

Some genealogy programs also have a built-in option to backup media files. Media files include digital pictures, sound, and video. Only the media files that are referenced in your genealogy program will be backed up with the media file backup option.

2. How often should I make a backup? Backup your genealogy data whenever you have added data or made significant changes to your data. If you are actively entering data or merging data into your file, backup the file on which you are working before you start the merge and then backup again every couple of hours and when you are ready to stop for the day.

3. Where should I store the backup? The following table lists the available options for backup storage along with their advantages and disadvantages.

Type of Media Size of Files that can be stored Ease of backup procedure Ease of restoring files Reliability Main Advantages and Disadvantages
Internet Storage at MyTrees.com No size limitation Easy to upload file and then re-upload to replace backup at regular intervals. Customer service can walk you through it by phone Easy to download file to restore on your computer. Can restore your file to any computer that has an internet connection. Customer Service can help you. Very reliable, MyTrees.com stores the data on two on-site computers and at two off-site locations Advantage:free, Easy to backup and restore, no file size limitations, grandfathering of files, files saved in off-site location, redundancy of backup, file available for family members to view.

Disadvantage: Must learn to make GEDCOM file to initiate upload. must upload photos separately

Another Hard Drive no size limitation Backing up is very easy just select the drive and directory Restoring is very easy but only to the machine on which the hard drive is installed Very Reliable Advantage: Easy to backup and restore, no file size limitations

Disadvantage: hard drives are expensive as compared to other media. You still risk data loss from fire, theft, or storm damage unless you are using an external removable hard drive

Diskettes (Floppy Disks) 1.4 MB Easy when you are only backing up a few small files

Hard or impossible if you have many files or the files are large.

Difficult or impossible if machine to which you are restoring does not have a floppy drive Diskettes are an unreliable backup medium because they can become damaged too easily as compared to other media types Advantage: cheap, can store disks off site

Disadvantage: unreliable, limited storage capacity, few machines today have floppy drives

Zip disks 100, 250MB Easy to copy files including large files to Zip disk

Can copy whole directory structure if necessary

Difficult or impossible if machine to which you are restoring does not have a zip drive Zip disks are a proven reliable backup media, however at $10 per disk they are expensive. Advantage: reliable, easy backup, can store disks off site

Disadvantage: expensive, few machines have Zip drives.

CDs 640 MB Burning a CD is not as easy as copying a file and there is a chance the copy process will fail so you must test the disk on another machine before assuming the backup was successful Restoring files is very easy if the CD is created successfully

Most computers have a CD drive to read the backup.

This media is very stable, so once the backup succeeds, you can count on the ability to restore the files easily. Advantage: cheap, high-capacity, reliable, most machines have CD drives, can store disks off site

Disadvantage: creating the backup disk is a little more complicated than with other media and you need to check the disk on another computer to verify the backup succeeded.

Flash drives 16 to 1000 MB Files easily copied. Requires USB port which most machines from the past few years have. Will need extender cable to connect flash device to some computers. Flash devices appear to be reliable. Advantage: easy to use, can store disks off site.

Disadvantage: expensive, accessing USB port is sometimes hard. Files can become corrupt if flash drive is removed from the USB port unexpectedly

Backing up your genealogy files may take a little time but it doesn't have to cost money and it is your best insurance against potential data loss. Hopefully, you will never need those backup files, but if disaster strikes, you will be glad you chose to make them.

Copyright : 2011 Cindy Carman. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Apr 8, 2006

Is Your Family History Data at Risk?

There are few things that cause greater stress than finding that your Family History data, which took 25 years to assemble, cannot be accessed due to some computer failure. How can you evaluate if you have sufficient backups of your data? And what is the risk that the backup will also be readable and contain all of your data? There are so many factors to consider when calculating the risks of data loss: computer hardware, computer programs, storage media, virus vulnerability just to name a few. Click here to view a chart of the symptoms, causes, and solutions for different data loss event types.

According to insurance claim statistics, hardware failure is the number one cause of data loss. It accounted for 42% of the data loss incidents reported. This included losses due to hard drive failure and power surges. Human error accounted for 30% of data loss episodes. This statistic includes accidental deletion of data, as well as accidental damage to the hardware (like damage from dropping your laptop). Software corruption accounted for 13% of data loss incidents. Surprisingly, computer viruses only accounted for 7% of data loss incidents. Theft accounted for 5%. And lastly, hardware destruction, (which included damage caused by floods, lightning, and brownouts), accounted for 3% of all data loss incidents.

Recently there have been many calls to MyTrees.com from panicked patrons. We hear the same story again and again, "My computer has crashed and I have lost all of my family history data and my backups don't seem to work either." Fortunately they can recover from this disaster if they have uploaded their family history file to MyTrees.com. They can download their file from MyTrees.com at any time. See the "ask us" article in this issue for a complete description of how to upload your family history data including pictures and other documentation to MyTrees.com. This has always been a free service no matter how much disk space your family history records use.

The most reliable way of protecting your family history data is to make a habit of backing up your data. A backup is an extra, current copy of your family history files stored in a place separate from your computer. That means if your Family History software has an auto backup built into its save routine you should choose a separate device to which your files will be backed up.

In deciding how best to backup up your family history data you will need to ask some key questions.
1. What should I backup?
2. How often should I make a backup?
3. Where should I store the backup?

1. What should I backup? Backup any files, that if lost, could not be easily recovered. That usually means that you will not backup files that are part of your operating system or part of the programs that you use, because you will need to reinstall those programs anyway when you get a new hard drive. This brings up the importance of storing the physical media that comes with your software programs and your operating system -- disks, licenses, and manuals -- in a safe and accessible place.

Any program or other file that you have downloaded from the Internet usually does not need to be backed up because you can return to the original source and download the file again. Temporary files created by your browser or other programs do not need to be backed up. The files you will want to backup will most likely be documents that you have created with your word processor, or spreadsheets you have created, or genealogy files your program has created. Don't forget to backup photos you have scanned or other digital pictures you have saved from your digital camera. It is easier to backup the files you have created if you have saved them to a single master directory like the "My Documents" folder on the Windows Operating system or in a subfolder of that directory.

There are a few other files that you may want to backup, like the bookmarks from your browser, your address book from your email program, and saved emails but this article has been written only to discuss the genealogy files you will want to backup.

Each genealogy program usually uses a single file to hold the data you have input into it. To back this data file to some other media, like a flash or zip drive or floppy disk, first try using the backup function that is part of the genealogy program you use.

For PAF click "File" and then click "Backup". Select the drive and directory where you want the backup to go and click "Backup". The file that is created has the same name as the data file you are backing up but it has a .zip file extension.

For Legacy click "File" and then click "Backup Family File". Select the drive and directory to which you would like to backup the file. Click "Save". The file that is created has the same name as the data file you are backing up but it has a .zip file extension.

For Family Tree Maker click "File" then click "Backup". Click the "Change" button on the "Backup Family File " box that appears. Select the drive and directory to which you would like to backup the file. Click "OK". The file that is created has the same name as the data file you are backing up but it has a .fbc or .fbk file extension.

Some genealogy programs also have a built-in option to backup media files. Media files include digital pictures, sound, and video. Only the media files that are referenced in your genealogy program will be backed up with the media file backup option.

2. How often should I make a backup? Backup your genealogy data whenever you have added data or made significant changes to your data. If you are actively entering data or merging data into your file, backup the file on which you are working before you start the merge and then backup again every couple of hours and when you are ready to stop for the day.

3. Where should I store the backup? The following table lists the available options for backup storage along with their advantages and disadvantages.

Type of Media Size of Files that can be stored Ease of backup procedure Ease of restoring files Reliability Main Advantages and Disadvantages
Internet Storage at MyTrees.com No size limitation Easy to upload file and then re-upload to replace backup at regular intervals. Customer service can walk you through it by phone Easy to download file to restore on your computer. Can restore your file to any computer that has an internet connection. Customer Service can help you. Very reliable, MyTrees.com stores the data on two on-site computers and at two off-site locations Advantage:free, Easy to backup and restore, no file size limitations, grandfathering of files, files saved in off-site location, redundancy of backup, file available for family members to view.

Disadvantage: Must learn to make GEDCOM file to initiate upload. must upload photos separately

Another Hard Drive no size limitation Backing up is very easy just select the drive and directory Restoring is very easy but only to the machine on which the hard drive is installed Very Reliable Advantage: Easy to backup and restore, no file size limitations

Disadvantage: hard drives are expensive as compared to other media. You still risk data loss from fire, theft, or storm damage unless you are using an external removable hard drive

Diskettes (Floppy Disks) 1.4 MB Easy when you are only backing up a few small files

Hard or impossible if you have many files or the files are large.

Difficult or impossible if machine to which you are restoring does not have a floppy drive Diskettes are an unreliable backup medium because they can become damaged too easily as compared to other media types Advantage: cheap, can store disks off site

Disadvantage: unreliable, limited storage capacity, few machines today have floppy drives

Zip disks 100, 250MB Easy to copy files including large files to Zip disk

Can copy whole directory structure if necessary

Difficult or impossible if machine to which you are restoring does not have a zip drive Zip disks are a proven reliable backup media, however at $10 per disk they are expensive. Advantage: reliable, easy backup, can store disks off site

Disadvantage: expensive, few machines have Zip drives.

CDs 640 MB Burning a CD is not as easy as copying a file and there is a chance the copy process will fail so you must test the disk on another machine before assuming the backup was successful Restoring files is very easy if the CD is created successfully

Most computers have a CD drive to read the backup.

This media is very stable, so once the backup succeeds, you can count on the ability to restore the files easily. Advantage: cheap, high-capacity, reliable, most machines have CD drives, can store disks off site

Disadvantage: creating the backup disk is a little more complicated than with other media and you need to check the disk on another computer to verify the backup succeeded.

Flash drives 16 to 1000 MB Files easily copied. Requires USB port which most machines from the past few years have. Will need extender cable to connect flash device to some computers. Flash devices appear to be reliable. Advantage: easy to use, can store disks off site.

Disadvantage: expensive, accessing USB port is sometimes hard. Files can become corrupt if flash drive is removed from the USB port unexpectedly

Backing up your genealogy files may take a little time but it doesn't have to cost money and it is your best insurance against potential data loss. Hopefully, you will never need those backup files, but if disaster strikes, you will be glad you chose to make them.

Copyright : 2011 Cindy Carman. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Apr 8, 2006

Is Your Family History Data at Risk?

There are few things that cause greater stress than finding that your Family History data, which took 25 years to assemble, cannot be accessed due to some computer failure. How can you evaluate if you have sufficient backups of your data? And what is the risk that the backup will also be readable and contain all of your data? There are so many factors to consider when calculating the risks of data loss: computer hardware, computer programs, storage media, virus vulnerability just to name a few. Click here to view a chart of the symptoms, causes, and solutions for different data loss event types.

According to insurance claim statistics, hardware failure is the number one cause of data loss. It accounted for 42% of the data loss incidents reported. This included losses due to hard drive failure and power surges. Human error accounted for 30% of data loss episodes. This statistic includes accidental deletion of data, as well as accidental damage to the hardware (like damage from dropping your laptop). Software corruption accounted for 13% of data loss incidents. Surprisingly, computer viruses only accounted for 7% of data loss incidents. Theft accounted for 5%. And lastly, hardware destruction, (which included damage caused by floods, lightning, and brownouts), accounted for 3% of all data loss incidents.

Recently there have been many calls to MyTrees.com from panicked patrons. We hear the same story again and again, "My computer has crashed and I have lost all of my family history data and my backups don't seem to work either." Fortunately they can recover from this disaster if they have uploaded their family history file to MyTrees.com. They can download their file from MyTrees.com at any time. See the "ask us" article in this issue for a complete description of how to upload your family history data including pictures and other documentation to MyTrees.com. This has always been a free service no matter how much disk space your family history records use.

The most reliable way of protecting your family history data is to make a habit of backing up your data. A backup is an extra, current copy of your family history files stored in a place separate from your computer. That means if your Family History software has an auto backup built into its save routine you should choose a separate device to which your files will be backed up.

In deciding how best to backup up your family history data you will need to ask some key questions.
1. What should I backup?
2. How often should I make a backup?
3. Where should I store the backup?

1. What should I backup? Backup any files, that if lost, could not be easily recovered. That usually means that you will not backup files that are part of your operating system or part of the programs that you use, because you will need to reinstall those programs anyway when you get a new hard drive. This brings up the importance of storing the physical media that comes with your software programs and your operating system -- disks, licenses, and manuals -- in a safe and accessible place.

Any program or other file that you have downloaded from the Internet usually does not need to be backed up because you can return to the original source and download the file again. Temporary files created by your browser or other programs do not need to be backed up. The files you will want to backup will most likely be documents that you have created with your word processor, or spreadsheets you have created, or genealogy files your program has created. Don't forget to backup photos you have scanned or other digital pictures you have saved from your digital camera. It is easier to backup the files you have created if you have saved them to a single master directory like the "My Documents" folder on the Windows Operating system or in a subfolder of that directory.

There are a few other files that you may want to backup, like the bookmarks from your browser, your address book from your email program, and saved emails but this article has been written only to discuss the genealogy files you will want to backup.

Each genealogy program usually uses a single file to hold the data you have input into it. To back this data file to some other media, like a flash or zip drive or floppy disk, first try using the backup function that is part of the genealogy program you use.

For PAF click "File" and then click "Backup". Select the drive and directory where you want the backup to go and click "Backup". The file that is created has the same name as the data file you are backing up but it has a .zip file extension.

For Legacy click "File" and then click "Backup Family File". Select the drive and directory to which you would like to backup the file. Click "Save". The file that is created has the same name as the data file you are backing up but it has a .zip file extension.

For Family Tree Maker click "File" then click "Backup". Click the "Change" button on the "Backup Family File " box that appears. Select the drive and directory to which you would like to backup the file. Click "OK". The file that is created has the same name as the data file you are backing up but it has a .fbc or .fbk file extension.

Some genealogy programs also have a built-in option to backup media files. Media files include digital pictures, sound, and video. Only the media files that are referenced in your genealogy program will be backed up with the media file backup option.

2. How often should I make a backup? Backup your genealogy data whenever you have added data or made significant changes to your data. If you are actively entering data or merging data into your file, backup the file on which you are working before you start the merge and then backup again every couple of hours and when you are ready to stop for the day.

3. Where should I store the backup? The following table lists the available options for backup storage along with their advantages and disadvantages.

Type of Media Size of Files that can be stored Ease of backup procedure Ease of restoring files Reliability Main Advantages and Disadvantages
Internet Storage at MyTrees.com No size limitation Easy to upload file and then re-upload to replace backup at regular intervals. Customer service can walk you through it by phone Easy to download file to restore on your computer. Can restore your file to any computer that has an internet connection. Customer Service can help you. Very reliable, MyTrees.com stores the data on two on-site computers and at two off-site locations Advantage:free, Easy to backup and restore, no file size limitations, grandfathering of files, files saved in off-site location, redundancy of backup, file available for family members to view.

Disadvantage: Must learn to make GEDCOM file to initiate upload. must upload photos separately

Another Hard Drive no size limitation Backing up is very easy just select the drive and directory Restoring is very easy but only to the machine on which the hard drive is installed Very Reliable Advantage: Easy to backup and restore, no file size limitations

Disadvantage: hard drives are expensive as compared to other media. You still risk data loss from fire, theft, or storm damage unless you are using an external removable hard drive

Diskettes (Floppy Disks) 1.4 MB Easy when you are only backing up a few small files

Hard or impossible if you have many files or the files are large.

Difficult or impossible if machine to which you are restoring does not have a floppy drive Diskettes are an unreliable backup medium because they can become damaged too easily as compared to other media types Advantage: cheap, can store disks off site

Disadvantage: unreliable, limited storage capacity, few machines today have floppy drives

Zip disks 100, 250MB Easy to copy files including large files to Zip disk

Can copy whole directory structure if necessary

Difficult or impossible if machine to which you are restoring does not have a zip drive Zip disks are a proven reliable backup media, however at $10 per disk they are expensive. Advantage: reliable, easy backup, can store disks off site

Disadvantage: expensive, few machines have Zip drives.

CDs 640 MB Burning a CD is not as easy as copying a file and there is a chance the copy process will fail so you must test the disk on another machine before assuming the backup was successful Restoring files is very easy if the CD is created successfully

Most computers have a CD drive to read the backup.

This media is very stable, so once the backup succeeds, you can count on the ability to restore the files easily. Advantage: cheap, high-capacity, reliable, most machines have CD drives, can store disks off site

Disadvantage: creating the backup disk is a little more complicated than with other media and you need to check the disk on another computer to verify the backup succeeded.

Flash drives 16 to 1000 MB Files easily copied. Requires USB port which most machines from the past few years have. Will need extender cable to connect flash device to some computers. Flash devices appear to be reliable. Advantage: easy to use, can store disks off site.

Disadvantage: expensive, accessing USB port is sometimes hard. Files can become corrupt if flash drive is removed from the USB port unexpectedly

Backing up your genealogy files may take a little time but it doesn't have to cost money and it is your best insurance against potential data loss. Hopefully, you will never need those backup files, but if disaster strikes, you will be glad you chose to make them.

Copyright : 2011 Cindy Carman. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

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