The past 12 months will be noted for many things. One of them being the digital disaster (s) that fell upon our household within a very short period of time. Within about 24 hours I lost all of my digital files – twice. Learn from my experience with what not to do, as well as 10 steps to prevent losing all your digital files.
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Warranties? Are They Worth It?
I learned a lot of useful and interesting information in my university statistic class. One of those is that many products are only made to achieve between 85-95% of said product to last until the warranty expires. Thus, it’s can be worth it to pay a little more for a product if it has a longer warranty – I’ve used this knowledge many a time in the years since. Unfortunately, technology often has a minimum warranty period, which tends to be a year, as is required by EU regulations.
The warranty on my external drive had expired just two months after the warranty expired. To send it in to see if they could retrieve any files would cost me £650, with no guarantee of success. That was not going to be a viable option for me.
Thankfully, I had purchased an extended warranty on my laptop so I was covered there, and they basically replaced everything but the case. Without the warranty I’d have been up the creek as it was only a couple of weeks outside the original warranty.
Backups? Not When Those Also Fail
I did have more than one backup for most of my files, but as I was transferring files from my laptop on to my backup drive they both crashed – first one and then the other. Many of those files I did lose entirely because they could not be recovered from my external drive, nor from any cloud backups. I was heartbroken as Tristan lost most of his photos from our Canadian holiday and he had many great shots.
Thankfully, this had happened after we’d returned from our trip to Regina as I had backed up everything from my laptop and external drive onto a second external hard drive for good measure so that I could take a drive with me on which to download photos, but should something happened to that, I was still have all my files at home.
However, because not everything had been transferred from one to the other yet. We did lose half of Tristan’s photos from Canada, including many wonderful ones from Toronto of the architecture and industrial areas we passed on the train, as well as his first impressions of landing in Canada and seeing the CN tower from his perspective.
I can’t tell you the state that I was in at the time. I had lost files with clients’ work, photos that could never be replaced, blogging files of edited photos and all sorts of other things.
This has taught me a lesson – the hard way, of course. And I am taking steps to help prevent this from happening again in the future.
One thing I discovered, however, was that there were files in many places, and I didn’t actually know all the places I had files stored.
Too Many Storage Places
There were files in Dropbox, which can store them locally or cloud only, or both, and our internet provider’s cloud, iCloud, OneDrive, Google Drive, other clouds, different devices such as laptop, old laptops, PCs, external drives, and more. It was such a mess, trying to recover these and organise them for when everything crashed a second time. Good grief, I couldn’t keep track of anything.
When we tried to restore the backups, again, this resulted in having up to seven duplications of files, all saved at different times and versions, which was frankly a nightmare.
I am still going through files a year later. Because of the way that they were automatically backed up at different times and locations, the most recent file may not actually have been the most updated file. So I have been crossing my fingers for the most part that the correct ones are being deleted.
I am now able to go through and see that a lot of the documents and ebooks, I have purchased, downloaded, and saved over the last eight years no longer apply to current times. What was applicable to Pinterest in 2013 really doesn’t have any bearing on how things are now, so that could go. This was an opportunity for me to clear my clear my files up, save some space, and make things easier and more organised, even if it is going to take months and months and months to do.
And although there are cloud options, I prefer to have my own storage so as not to be back in the same position again as data storage centers are running out of space and do cause environmental harm as the energy taken to run them is immense. I don’t want to risk having a ‘secure’ centre having a meltdown and losing all of my files.
Ten Things I’m Doing Now To Prevent Another Digital Disaster
1. I’m organising with better, more consistent file names.
2. I am putting things into more appropriate folders. I am archiving those things that I no longer need easy access to. I still need to keep things such as blog posts and photos original and edited ones. I don’t need them now, but I may need them at some point in the future.
3. I’m checking file names and when applicable, adding the year it relates to and putting them into a specific archive folder.
4. I am setting up new passwords for everything. This is a good opportunity to do that. We all know some passwords should be changed frequently, but it is not always done.
5. I am updating and organising the bookmarks on my laptop. A large number of them are also duplicated and years out of date.
6. I am beginning to create a flow for the work that I do.
7. I have a new hard drive to use as a second backup and schedule in monthly transfers of files so that it stays current.
8. I am going to use a thumb drive so that I don’t lose so much information at once, should something go wrong. It’s much easier to transport, as well.
9. When I am done a project, I will delete all the cloud files and save the files to my backup so that they are current.
10. I am going to password protect important personal files so should my anything happen to my laptop no one will have access to personal files.
Things To Be Aware Of
One thing to be wary of with cloud files, is that if they are not synced it may just upload your files, and it may not upoad the newest version. You may delete a file off your laptop and it will still stay in the cloud. So then later, if you need a backup, you will have all sorts of information that is out of date.
With GDPR, comes more responsibility on taking control of your files and ensuring that you do not have anything accessible to anyone who should not have access to it.
If you use Dropbox you may want to consider keeping it cloud-based only, otherwise you may end up with everything in the cloud, as well as the whole entire storage system on your device, taking up a huge amount of space, and not necessarily updating itself. Don’t ask me how I know this.
No Easy Answer
There is no real finite easy answer to this. to protecting all your files in an age where things are supposed to go paperless and everything is meant to be digital and online. This brings its own concerns and worries, as well.
Nothing is necessarily easier, just different. Technology expands and our knowledge base grows so we need to keep in mind how to keep our own files under control.
What strategies do you use to keep your files and documents safe, secure, and current? Let me know in the comments below. Perhaps I can learn something new, or a better idea of how I can improve my own system before I finish this digital disaster cleanup.