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It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
12-16-2018, 11:36 AM
Post: #1
It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
While talking via private messages with a member of this forum, we talked about the sad loss of documents. I believe sharing the tip with everyone could help.

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First, I am sorry. I remember when recently I got mailed the hard disk with a lot of pictures of me and my brother from 2009. Unique ones, irreplaceable. The package was poorly made and the HD got quite some blows. While I was seeing the pictures the HD died, and with it all those pictures that will never come back.
There is still a small possibility to send the HD to a professional service paying 400€ euro, but I don't have much hopes.

With that said, it is another sad trend of digital technology. Work on paper can surely disappear, with a fire, a flooding or with careless people that throw away important documents. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernhard_R...Sautoy_7-0 "Meanwhile, in Göttingen his housekeeper discarded some of the papers in his office, including much unpublished work. Riemann refused to publish incomplete work, and some deep insights may have been lost forever."

Nonetheless I am increasingly thinking that digital work is even more fragile, especially if one is unaware of the quirks that may happen. In most of the cases the hard drive dies, or the format cannot be read anymore because too old, or the file is corrupted, or by mistake one deletes the file, or the medium were the files are is not readable anymore (a CD rom, and old HD, etc..), or a virus encrypts the information (a ransomware) and so on.

Maintaining digital files over time is no joke, especially when their value grow in time.
For this, after having lost enough things, I started to work to lower he chances to lose important digital documents and I can see that it is costly in financial and temporal terms.

For example for the pictures of my daughter I bought a nas, with the HD in raid setup (so if one dies, the other is still there). But still there are risks. So what I am using, and I suggest it to you too (or to anyone else that has important digital files and some budget) is to setup a online backup. I use OneDrive but there are many (dropbox, backblaze, box, etc..).

With onedrive I pay 10 Euro/month and I have 5 slots (for 5 accounts) where I can save 1 terabyte of data for each account. The pictures and videos of my daughter for now are "only" 70GB, my documents 3GB. Another account is used by the mother to save the pictures she does.

It is useless to say that already losing the pictures when she was in the belly would be worth way more than those 10 €/month.

Why online backups? Because people setup those professionally, especially with redundant data, to lower the risk of losses. It can still happen, unfortunately, but it is more likely that my nas decides to corrupt the files rather than onedrive dying.
Of course I have a automatic routine that every week copies the data from my nas to the onedrive folder.

On a Pc you don't need such things, as one can install the onedrive app and setup it to synch files with a certain schedule. This would tend to save you from sudden losses. I guess you use, as many nowadays, a laptop as a PC. A laptop has no chances to have a raid setup, so the risk is higher.

Last but not least. For documents, that are not that big, another good medium for backups are usb sticks. Pick one to dedicate it only to backups. The quirk of the USB stick is that they need to be powered every now and then. So don't leave them unused for too long, but if you have a routine that backups your document to the USB is already a first level of security.

Also never schedule a backup to continuously synch the content, as a mistake in one place can replicate quickly on the backup (note: Onedrive as the versioning feature. For 60 days it keeps the old content, even if you deleted it. It is a godsend). Doing daily, weekly, monthly backups (in different folders) helps.

I hope it helps.

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12-16-2018, 12:34 PM
Post: #2
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
You allude to it but it is worth stating explicitly: a NAS is not a backup. (Because a NAS provides resilient access to the current version of any file. A backup provides access to previous versions.)

For most people, especially for photographs, I would suggest buying a cheap external USB hard drive (disk, not flash), copying all your photos onto it, and leaving it with a trusted relative. (They only have to put it in the basement or the attic - somewhere dry and relatively low humidity - in a plastic bag to keep the dust and insects out of the sockets.) Do this once a year. Don't re-use the previous year's drive. Just let them build up over time (because you may find that your 'master' copy gets corrupted without you realising and then you find you've dutifully backed-up the corrupt copy several times). Store all your previous photos plus all the new ones on each year's new drive. That way, if your house burns down or floods, at least you'll get most back.

One tip with photographs: go to a print shop and print the best ones from each event. Much easier to look through 10 or 20 good ones from a holiday rather than several hundred on disk where you never got around to weeding out the duplicates. Plus you can then write dates and names on the back.

On line services are great up to a point but remember that there is no significant contractual penalty on them if they lose your data. You'll get an "Ooops, sorry. We'll try not to lose it all again" message and that's it.

So, if you do use on-line only for your backups then use two different vendors and make sure they aren't both using Amazon (or whoever) behind the scenes.

Remember also with on-line services you really ought to be encrypting your backups which means you need to backup your encryption keys somehow as well. Otherwise you could lose those and lose access to your backups. It's a minefield!
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12-16-2018, 12:56 PM (This post was last modified: 12-16-2018 12:57 PM by pier4r.)
Post: #3
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
Really nice tips too.

I do agree that having a storage system with raid is not a backup (although you may save versioned copies). Rather it serves to lower the risk of failures.
And yes, having two copies on two different online services is even better.

It all depends on the budget (not only money, also time, willpower to pour in the maintenance and setup. The latter being the bigger part of it).

Only one observation about encrypting. Yes for increased security and privacy, you may encrypt them. I am already happy to have a copy, if someone from the service wants to have a look at it, be it (n1).

n1: I seriously doubt that the staff from onedrive or what you have goes through looking for petabytes (but even terabytes are enough) of data. They won't be able to do their work.

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12-16-2018, 04:36 PM
Post: #4
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
Hello!

While I don't care too much about losing normal documents from the computer I can get really "anal" about backing up my photos. These are the only personal records from the past which I do care about. With the current price of hard disks (3TB cost around 100 Euros) an extra backup is certainly not a luxury item. One of them I keep inside the washing machine, not to hide it from burglars, but because that is the most well protected place in our house regarding fire hazards. Another one lives in my mother's place in Italy. I only delete the photos from my camera when I have at least two copies on different hard drives.

Recently I attended a lecture of Prof. Harald Lesch (an astronomoer who has some popular science programs on TV in Germany) about the dangers of our digital future. One of his main concerns is the voracious demand for electricity of all those on-line cloud servers. Right now their power consumption has already surpassed that of the entire country of Denmark. This is one of my reasons for not using online storage, the other is my total lack of control. If the provider goes bankrupt, my data are lost overnight. My backup hard drives consume power for a couple of minutes every week and are off the rest of the time. I much prefer this.

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Max
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12-16-2018, 05:53 PM
Post: #5
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
Having gone 100% digital, I have battled what to do about backups. I have settled for offline storage. Separate drives at the house, another drive at my daughter, another drive at my sister in another state, and one master drive in a safe deposit box with my will and other documents. But I still worry.

A number of years ago, my daughter was getting her film (yes, film) developed my Kodak. They would return the negatives with the prints, plus create scanned images on their cloud server in your account. You could then create digital photo albums and send to your friends. You could print extra copies by Kodak if needed. My daughter thought this was perfect until...... one day Kodak sent her an email saying they were shutting the server down and she had two weeks to retrieve her photos or they would be deleted. After that, our trust in cloud servers became a little bit tainted. You are always at the whims of the company providing the services.

A bigger concern for me is that we no longer produce physical photo albums. We have digital ones, but very few of us takes the time (or expense) to create a physical album that can be passed down through the generations. I have albums from my mother and grandmother. True, they are starting to fall apart, but each photo has handwritten notation. To preserve them, I have scanned them in.

After my wife passed away last year, I realized that we had not created any physical albums. So I made myself a promise. I would create a digital scrapbook of Peg's life, have it printed and then give a copy to my daughter and each of my granddaughters. That way they would have something to remember her by. Just watching a slide show on the TV is NOT the same as setting down and flipping pages of an album. I freely admit that I am a long way from completing it. I have scanned in every photo I could find from anyone I could contact. I have scanned in Peg's writings that were on little post-it notes. These included bits of wisdom, recipes, and funny things our granddaughter had said, along with many other snippets.

My biggest concern is that, for many people, when they die, a large part of their digital life will also die, unless they have made plans for it. This is another concern with using cloud storage only. Will others be able to access it if something happen to you? That's why I have the hard drive in the bank safety deposit box.

One last comment. About four years ago, I had taken several hundred photos on Christmas. On Jan 1, my new year started off with me turning on my computer and finding out that the hard drive had completed failed. I panicked for a moment thinking I had lost the Christmas Photos. But then realized that after putting the new photos on the computer I had also updated the offline backup drive. With that experience, I increased my level of backups.

Sorry to ramble on.

Just wondering - What have you done to ensure that your digital life lives on past your death?

Bill
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12-16-2018, 06:30 PM
Post: #6
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
(12-16-2018 05:53 PM)Bill (Smithville NJ) Wrote:  Just wondering - What have you done to ensure that your digital life lives on past your death?

That's a good question, and I have to admit that I tend to play the numbers game sometimes a bit too much for comfort.

I have 3 hard drives onto which I store stuff I want to keep. They're all here, so if the house burns down, it's lost. On the other hand, I have no family to whom I can entrust an off-site copy (both parents have passed away and my daughter and her mother are no longer with us either). I can't leave one at work because someone will format it and use it. While you never can tell, I think the probability of the house burning down is lower than that of all three hard drives (plus the one in the PC!) breaking down.

Parallel to this I have two distinct cloud accounts that don't both end up in the same datacentre and are not run ultimately by the same people.

So, for my stuff to be destroyed altogether, it would take the demise of two distinct cloud accounts along with either the house burning down or four hard drives failing.

It's not perfect but it'll do for me.
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12-16-2018, 07:23 PM
Post: #7
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
(12-16-2018 06:30 PM)grsbanks Wrote:  I have 3 hard drives onto which I store stuff I want to keep. They're all here, so if the house burns down, it's lost. On the other hand, I have no family to whom I can entrust an off-site copy

I leave an off-site copy USB drive with a friend. Actually, I have two, and we exchange the latest every few weeks when we meet for lunch. The disks are full-disk encrypted, so doesn't matter if I leave it in the pub, etc. Encryption keys stored in two different clouds.

The above is a clone of my main server disk. Use rsync to keep the clone up-to date, doesn't take long. [Although there's a tiny chance of not detecting corruption this way, but unlikely]

For photos, I also (as well as above) have them in both Google Photos and Amazon Photos. Remember to select "original full-size image", which costs money, rather than any free heavily filleted option. And this makes them easier to share, view on the telly, etc.

Google Drive for other essential docs. LastPass for secure stuff.

You can't be too careful Smile

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12-16-2018, 08:56 PM (This post was last modified: 12-16-2018 08:57 PM by pier4r.)
Post: #8
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
(12-16-2018 05:53 PM)Bill (Smithville NJ) Wrote:  Just wondering - What have you done to ensure that your digital life lives on past your death?

This is a good question (also nice the observation about family albums).
I fear that many do not think about it and a lot will be lost (and then there will be an increasing awareness for everyone). I myself learned the hard way: losing data over and over, and I still lose bits here and there because I am not disciplined to check every backup.

My plan is: as I wrote in the first post, paper last longer. So at least for my digital documents I plan to print them regularly. Still easier than done though.

Multimedia, therefore pictures, is harder to save as it is expensive to print.

About online storages closing down. It is true, it can happen. My wiki built over time disappeared this summer. I have a backup but for the moment no one can reach its contents. The bet is to point on services that are too big to fail quickly. Furthermore at the same time doing, as other suggested: online copies in different datacenters and double providers. Still it is an additional maintenance cost that paper doesn't have. Not always at least.

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12-17-2018, 06:41 AM
Post: #9
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
Answering several things above without quoting them:

USB thumbdrives and and SD cards do not need to be powered up periodically. They store data in flash ROM, not battery-backed or capacitor-backed RAM that needs occasional recharging. Flash is a type of EEPROM, and its data-retention time is usually forecast to be a couple of centuries, unlike EPROM which was only guaranteed for a decade but I've never seen it lose data even after three decades.

Don't use home-writable DVDs. They don't last. I had heard this, but it really hit home in 2014 when I was reviewing two-year-old pictures of our son's wedding and found that some of them were already becoming unreadable. Right away I made sure to get the remaining ones onto a hard disc.

I do like the idea of printing the most special pictures (professionally, not on a home printer or 1-minute service at CVS which fades badly in only a few years). Our daughter-in-law's father is quite a shutterbug, yet when I asked if we could see pictures of our DIL and her siblings taken when they were kids, he had thousands of them and they were on drives here and there, unorganized, and it was difficult to find the good ones, so we didn't get to see any. A paper photo album would have been welcome.

If I were to use a cloud service to back up my stuff, I would definitely want to encrypt it so neither Big Brother nor anyone else can get nosey and label us one way or another, harrass us, limit our rights, whatever, for holding beliefs that "offend" some snowflake of BiBro itself.

Our DIL uses an external hard disc interfaced by USB to back up her laptop's hard disc.

At home, our son (not the one mentioned above) set up a server that automatically does a backup every day of all the PCs in the house that are on at backup time. The server has two identical 2TB hard discs, and the first one is backed up by the second. I don't know if that backup is every day, once a week, or what. When he was still living here, he would then back up the backup periodically with another hard disc in his room. The server is in the garage which is a separate building and far enough away that one building could burn down without affecting the other.

He also backs up my website (which is hosted thousands of miles away on a virtual server whose connection speed is at least a hundred times as fast as ours at home), and I occasionally back it up as well, even putting it on SD card.

When I'm done with a software project, whether for work or home, I always print out the source code. Then if everything digital were to fail, I'd have to type it in again, but that's way faster than developing it again.

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12-17-2018, 10:41 AM
Post: #10
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
(12-17-2018 06:41 AM)Garth Wilson Wrote:  Don't use home-writable DVDs. They don't last. I had heard this, but it really hit home in 2014 when I was reviewing two-year-old pictures of our son's wedding and found that some of them were already becoming unreadable. Right away I made sure to get the remaining ones onto a hard disc.

That may or may not be entirely true. I use "M-Disk", that is "guaranteed" for 1.000 years. Not that I believe they'll last that long (nor do I think I'll be able to verify that either), but those disks are much more sturdy, as the data layer is not dye based but "clay" based. Most (all) modern Blue-Ray writers will write to M-Disk and the disks is found both as DVD and BD writeables. As for myself; I backup to 3 HDD's and to M-Disk BD's.

I would never trust a "noname" optical disk for reliable backups.

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12-17-2018, 12:48 PM
Post: #11
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
Onedrive is owned by Microsoft who already has a history of loosing data (ex: hotmail), if I were to trust a cloud provider I'd use anyone but.

I run my own cloud server now (owncloud) and all my devices sync my most important files to/from it. So at any time I have multiple copies on multiple devices in multiple places.

I tried leaving an offsite backup at my parents home but had to explain every week that I intentionally left something behind so I gave up on that. My offsite solution is now to leave one of my backup drives in my safe and one in my truck in the driveway.
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12-17-2018, 02:01 PM (This post was last modified: 12-17-2018 07:17 PM by pier4r.)
Post: #12
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
(12-17-2018 06:41 AM)Garth Wilson Wrote:  USB thumbdrives and and SD cards do not need to be powered up periodically. They store data in flash ROM,

I had your same info, saying "well USB last forever". But then reading around people said, that at least with common flash drives one has to power them every now and then. Another thing I noticed working with them (in one company we used them to install the OS of thinclients) is that every now and then batch of them somehow got poor controllers. They keep themselves being readable but then refuse to allow write operations as if they were locked from inside.
One can fix this with some tools but then it happens again.

In any case, I have some USB disks with useful data on them and the oldest is from 2006. It still works, but anecdotal evidence may be misleading. (I have other USB that are older and they work too, but I didn't care about the data they hold)

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12-17-2018, 02:04 PM
Post: #13
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
For photographs: PRINT the ones you want to keep! And maybe even go so far as to keep them in a fire safe. Not only will this protect your precious memories, but future anthropologists/archaeologists will be grateful. In a couple hundred years, when all of our digital records are gone/obsolete, everybody will think our society just lost interest in photography and books...
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12-17-2018, 06:49 PM
Post: #14
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
I'd not trust USB memory sticks or SD cards as a sole backup. The flash memory may be good for decades, but the controllers and associated circuitry won't be. We've had several fail, here; no data lost, fortunately. Big names brands, e.g. SanDisk.

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12-17-2018, 07:18 PM (This post was last modified: 12-17-2018 07:19 PM by pier4r.)
Post: #15
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
(12-17-2018 06:49 PM)cdmackay Wrote:  Ibut the controllers and associated circuitry won't be.
This is a good point. Thanks for emphasizing it. (the same goes with circuitry of HDs or SDD)

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12-17-2018, 07:35 PM
Post: #16
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
(12-17-2018 07:18 PM)pier4r Wrote:  
(12-17-2018 06:49 PM)cdmackay Wrote:  Ibut the controllers and associated circuitry won't be.
This is a good point. Thanks for emphasizing it. (the same goes with circuitry of HDs or SDD)

hmm, well, I was trying to make the point that the electronics used in memory sticks and SD cards is not likely to last as long as those intended for heavier use, e.g. HD/SSD Smile

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12-17-2018, 09:11 PM (This post was last modified: 12-18-2018 12:50 AM by pier4r.)
Post: #17
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
But even if they are taken offline?

If they are online I have no doubt that USB, HD, SDD can last for a while (maybe the HD being the ones with shorter life spans. The average I have seen over time is around 4-5 years rotating 24/7 while used in raid systems). But offline I don't know.

Of course I am not thinking about proper packaging in electrostatic bags with anti-humidity bags and co. That would help a lot. I rather mean a simple action: take the HD/USB/SDD and put it in a drawer.

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12-18-2018, 12:24 AM
Post: #18
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
My method (not so good I think): I backup my phones to my PC every couple of months (I use SD cards on the phones in case phone dies, never the phone's flash memory, and I make sure new photos are saved to the SD card). I leave the copy on my PC every time, so I have up to 6 copies of the same file on the PC (pictures taken in January get copied in the Feb backup folder, then the April folder, etc., every time I do a full backup and don't erase the previous one). The PC has an SSD drive.
Every time a phone gets changed to a new one, I put a new SD card and the old one goes in my box of memories. I have lots of SD cards from digital cameras, camcorders and phones, I never delete anything.
I also have a NAS with 2 hard drives mirrored, everytime I backup the phone/camcorder I also copy onto the NAS, but this time I only leave one copy of each file (well, 2 because it's mirrored).
Then I also backup the PC up to Amazon Glacier, which is really inexpensive until you need to restore something. I pay less than $2 a month for almost 300 GB, but if I lose my PC AND my phones AND my NAS AND my box of SD cards, it will cost me $500 to restore everything.

My biggest weakness is that the NAS, PC and original SD cards are all in the same room, so fire would force me to recover from the online source at a great expense. But if my house catches on fire, I'm going to lose a whole lot more than $500.
I should mention (not really part of my digital backup strategy but I could say it is given my system's weakness) that I have one fire extinguisher in the kitchen, another one in the garage, and two more, one on each car, so if a fire starts while I'm there, I can stop it before it becomes bad.


PS: I had a few USB drives die in my hands, they aren't bad but not indestructible. I also had SD cards that become unreadable all of a sudden.
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12-18-2018, 02:18 AM
Post: #19
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
(12-17-2018 09:11 PM)pier4r Wrote:  If they are online I have no doubt that USB, HD, SDD can last for a while (maybe the HD being the ones with shorter life spans. The average I have seen over time is around 4-5 years rotating 24/7 while used in raid systems). But offline I don't know.

I had a USB stick fail after less than six months while left plugged in. The stick itself tended to run a little hot, and the area around the USB connector tended to be warm. I guess the daily power-up and content query by the host led to controller failure. Unless you leave your host on 24/7, I'd unplug the USB stick after each use.

I do think I'll look into M-disks, which I've never heard of before. Good to learn of new things from forum members...

~Mark

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12-18-2018, 08:22 AM
Post: #20
RE: It may be helpful. Consider online backups for your important digital documents
(12-18-2018 02:18 AM)mfleming Wrote:  I do think I'll look into M-disks, which I've never heard of before. Good to learn of new things from forum members...

~Mark

M-Disc on Wikipedia
You'll get them at Amazon and that auction site. Costs abt 30-50% more than "non-M" disks. I have bought the "Verbatim" branded disks.

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