How to Backup (and Protect) Your Genealogy

dropbox

Today’s genealogy involves a lot of digital data.

You may have scanned documents, birth records, saved webpages showing your lineage, and perhaps most importantly, photos of your ancestors.

Yet in an instant, it all could be lost.

Hard drives crash. Files get deleted. Computers are stolen.

To protect your files, you want to make sure you’re using a reliable backup strategy. The best way to do this is with a combination of backup software and online (“cloud”) storage services.

The best part? You can do it completely for free.

Dropbox: Backup to the Cloud

Dropbox is an amazing service that offers you 2GB of free cloud storage space. By storing your data in the cloud, it protects your data from fire, theft, and other disasters a traditional backup can’t protect you from.

To use it, you’ll need to sign up for an account and download the Dropbox client. Once installed, this will integrate with your desktop and put a Dropbox folder on your hard drive.

Any files you put into your Dropbox folder will instantly sync to the cloud. Think of it as your own personal cloud drive.

Dropbox also lets you:

  • Access your files from any device
  • Easily share files
  • Rollback changes to files, with a 30 day version history

Version history is one of the most underrated features Dropbox offers. Basically, you can “undo” any deleted or changed files from the past 30 days. You can access it either from the web interface in your Dropbox account, or by right-clicking on any file stored in Dropbox and selecting “Previous Versions.”

Dropbox does everything: backups, sharing, and syncing. It’s one of my favorite and most-used tools; I use it almost every day.

It works on just about any device and operating system, including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and even Linux.

Backup to a USB Hard Drive

Keeping backups in multiple locations is always a good idea. That’s why I recommend people backup to an external hard drive in addition to the cloud.

There’s a lot of free backup software out there. Windows even comes with built-in utilities for backing up and restoring your data.

However, one backup program stands head and shoulders above the rest: EaseUS Todo Backup Free.

It can backup your files to just about any media, including:

  • Local drives
  • External hard drives
  • Network drives
  • CD/DVD

Not only can Todo backup individual files, but it can also backup your entire hard drive.

It does this with “full disk imaging” which allows you to restore your computer to the exact state it was in when the backup was made. How awesome is that?

The software supports scheduling, so you’ll never miss a backup again. It can also do incremental backups, which only backs up changes since the last backup (saving you hard drive space).

EaseUS Todo Backup is by far the most versatile, free backup program out there.

Need More Space?

Sometimes, the 2GB offered by Dropbox just isn’t enough.

If you have lots of photos, files, and other data you want to backup, it’s time to upgrade to a dedicated online backup service.

The two services I recommend most are CrashPlan and Backblaze. They both offer unlimited online backups for about $5 per month, per computer.

Online backup services are “set it and forget it” – once the software is configured, any changes to your files will be backed up continuously throughout the day.

It’s also ridiculously easy. There’s no need to connect a USB hard drive. No CDs or DVDs to deal with. As long as your computer is connected to the internet, your files are backed up 24/7.

At about 20 cents per day, it’s a small price to pay for the ultimate peace of mind.

Protect Your Files

Backing up your files is important for any computer user. However, it’s especially important for genealogists because they store so much important, historical data.

Losing any amount of data is a bummer, but losing your family’s genealogical history is a tragedy.

Just as paper documents should be stored in a fireproof safe, your digital data should be be protected, too. So make sure you’re backing it all up.

Your future generations will thank you.

[Editor’s Note: Geoff Akerlund of Backup Review provided GeneaBloggers with this guest post – thanks Geoff!]

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