10 Ways to Create Backups and Prevent Data Loss

10 ways to backup data

The first of each month is what the genealogy community knows as Data Backup Day – a day when we commit to making sure all our research data is safely backed-up in case something goes wrong.  What could go wrong? Well how about:

  • hard drive failure?
  • fire or water damage to home office and computer?
  • theft?
  • website or blog failure?

I’ve been beset by each of these predicaments in the past and the only thing that saved me and my years of genealogy research data was a series of carefully planned backups of data. In recent months, I’ve ramped up the process to not only backup data locally to an external hard drive, but also to an online site – sort of a “backup to the backup.”  And I’ve also expanded the types of data I backup to include bookmarks, blog posts, blog templates, emails, etc. These are all important components of my research and I’d have a difficult time recreating such data and some of it would just be lost forever if there were no backups.

A Variety of Data Backup Methods

Here’s how you can get started on a sound backup plan with the following resources:

  • Flash Drive: Flash drives come in a variety of sizes up to 128GB and now with USB 3.0 becoming the new standard they are faster than ever.  Check out the reviews over at CNET and go to Amazon for some of the best prices.
  • External Hard Drive: I am still amazed at the fact that you can now get a 1 TB (terabyte as in 1,000 GB!) external hard drive for as low as $69.  Check out the wide variety available at Amazon.
  • Data Backup Services: There are a myriad of websites that allow you to backup your data, some even have free allotments (as much as 100GB for free!).  Check out the great comparison chart over at about.com. I am a big fan of BackBlaze which takes the hassle out of backing up your data. Set it and forget it!
  • Cloud Storage Sites: Which cloud storage site is best for you? Dropbox is the most popular with genealogists due to its ease of use and free 2GB data allotment. Check out this recent article at CNET to determine which cloud program is best for you and your data.
  • Photos: There are photo repository sites such as ImageBam which has no limits besides a 3MB file size limit per photo and lets you select multiple photos. If you have a Picasa account did you know you can send photos there via email? Also don’t forget you can store images in Evernote as well!
  • Internet Explorer: It seems like there’s a handy – and free – web application for everything right?  Yes, even for your Internet Explorer!  Check out Internet Explorer Backup to preserve your settings including favorites, proxy connections, security zones, cookies, user preferences, history, and more!
  • Blogger: For a time many Blogger users were frustrated with the inability to backup their posts as well as their templates – to the point that many created private WordPress blogs and imported their Blogger data. That has all changed and you can now use Blog Tools to back up your Blogger posts. And don’t forget to backup your Blogger template especially before you make any customizations.
  • WordPress: Using the BackUpWordPress plugin you can backup not only your posts but most other settings for your WordPress blog.  This neat accessory also lets you schedule your WordPress backups.
  • Google: Backup not only your Google Reader settings but almost all your Google applications including Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar with the great list of resources over at lifehacker.
  • E-mail:  besides checking out the great list of 5 Ways to Keep Your Emails Backed Up over at makeuseof, Thunderbird is a free application that lets you backup almost any e-mail system.

Data Backup Resources

GeneaBloggers has developed a resource list of data backup methodologies and solutions. Click here to learn how you can backup almost every aspect of your blog, your browser, your computer – even Macs!

Also, don’t forget to shop here at Amazon for some of the best deals on data backup software, external hard drives and more!

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

IBM PC Debuts – A Walk Down Memory Lane

ibm pc

The IBM PC, IBM’s first personal computer, was introduced today in 1981. If you were to purchase this revolutionary computer on August 12, 1981 you would have paid $1,565 USD (equal to $3,000 USD today) for a basic configuration with 16K RAM (that’s kilobytes . . . not gigabytes!) and no disk drives.

Not only did the IBM PC change the landscape of the business world, it also impacted the home life of millions of Americans as well as people around the globe. The IBM PC also impacted genealogy and the way in which we not only tracked our research, but years later how we found records and information via the Internet.

My First Encounter with the IBM PC: It Changed My Life

In 1984 I was working at the US Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC and one day someone placed this unusual machine on my desk. They said, “Here. You have the first IBM PC in the department. I want you to learn how to use it and then start teaching everyone else in the department how to use it.” That’s how I got started in the emerging Information Technology field – as an “accidental trainer.”

Within a year, I was proficient in not only all the basics of the IBM PC, its DOS operating system, but also programs such as Lotus 1,2,3 and WordPerfect. Here I was with a liberal arts degree from a private university working with computers. It’s funny how life takes a different direction than you had planned!

Primitive Personal Computing – 1980s Style

In recent discussions with colleagues in the genealogy field, I’ve been taking a walk down memory lane thinking about how we used the IBM PC. I’m sure to the Millennials and the younger generation how we worked seemed downright primitive.

  • Most IBM PCs had one disk drive, but eventually I worked with version that had two disk drives, allowing you to copy disks.
  • Speaking of disks, they were 5 1/4” floppy disks that came 10 to a box and had to be “formatted” in order to be used. Remember the labels you would use to designate what was on the floppy disk?
  • We kept floppy disks in large plastic filing containers, some of which had a lock and key.
  • Monitors displayed neon green text and in future years, many migrated to the “amber” monitors that were easier on the eyes.
  • Speaking of monitors, you tried not to leave the monitor on too long since you could “burn” an image into the screen. Thus we had “screen saver” programs . . . Flying Toasters anyone?
  • You had to be proficient in DOS and using the c:/ command prompt in order to run a directory listing and to copy and delete files.
  • The first spreadsheet program I used was Lotus 1,2,3 and then I used a program called Symphony which had a separate word processing program. Still, my favorite program was WordPress with its “reveal codes” and simple way of composing documents.
  • Software manuals were hundreds of pages, came in boxes with small two or three ring binders and no one seemed to ever use them.
  • We printed quite a bit with those early PCs didn’t we? The printers were dot matrix, with paper that came in a box and had holes one each side. And those printers were LOUD . . . so loud that you bought a separate noise cover so you could work in the same room!

What I realize most comparing today’s move towards “virtual” documents and apps is how much “work” it was just to use a computer. There were so many peripherals and things you had to buy. It all seems so wasteful now but that was the generally accepted practice of being on the cutting edge of computing.

And genealogy? My first genealogy software program was Family Tree Maker sold by Banner Blue software! I also remember later using Prodigy, CompuServe, and eventually the Internet to connect with others in genealogy.

What Do You Remember?

So when did you get your first personal computer? Was it an IBM PC? An Apple? Perhaps a Commodore 64 or an Osborne? What programs did you run? And what about genealogy . . . what was the first program you used for tracing your family history and keeping track of information?

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Domain Name Issues for Bloggers – Part Two

Domain Name Issues for Bloggers - Part Two

[Editor's Note: Here is a continuation of our series on domain name best practices. Click here to read last week's entry entitled Domain Name Issues for Bloggers - Part One.]

Domain Name Privacy

Many registrars will offer a way for you to protect your identity and personal details used when registering a domain. Normally, anyone can use the WHOIS database to look up a domain and determine the owner or registrant. But with privacy protection, which is offered for free or a small price by registrars, you can “hide” your details. There are plusses and minuses of using privacy protection:

  • Plus: Your home address and phone number are not searchable on the Internet.
  • Plus: Domain name scammers can’t get your contact information and send you fake renewal notices or try to “slam” your domain (see Beware of Domain Name Scams! below)
  • Minus: The cloak of privacy makes your domain name and site seem less reputable.
  • Minus: If your registrar goes out of business, it might be difficult to prove you own your domain.

Personally, I don’t use the privacy controls offered by my registrar; I also use my business address and phone number instead of home address, etc.

Forwarding Domain Names

I highly recommend that you reserve any domain name that you feel might become popular or attractive. And once registered, forward that domain name to your main domain name.

Here are some examples using my own domain names, of which at any one time I may have 15 to 25 registered.

  • One of my marketing brand names is “genealogy ninja” so I registered genealogyninja.com when it came on the market (it had expired). I have the domain forward to my main business site, High-Definition Genealogy.
  • I registered the domain name geneaguides.com which forwards to my Author page on Amazon. The main reason: the URL “geneaguides” is easier to remember than the long URL that Amazon offers up.

Consider registering different domain names depending upon trending product names, etc. and then have them forward to your main domain. Also check your traffic each year before renewing this domains and see if the renewal price is justifiable.

Renewing Domain Names

When you purchase a domain name, the standard period is for one year; however, registrars will offer an discount incentive to register for more than one year. In addition, many registrars will default your domain to “auto renew” meaning it could renew as many as 90 days before the expiration date and your credit card or payment method will be automatically billed.

Here are my recommendations on auto-renewing domains:

  • For a new main domain name, select a two-year registration at maximum. Who knows if you’ll keep the blog or website two years from now. Also, will your registrar still be in business two, five or ten years from today?
  • Never enable auto-renew features – just make sure you are adequately notified of an expiring domain name. I usually wait until the last two weeks prior to expiration before renewing.
  • Check your renewal price! Many registrars will renew a domain as much as five times the initial price! Call or email the registrar and tell them you plan to transfer your domain to another registrar. It is likely your current registrar will offer a discount and refund the difference to you.
  • For domain name variations, renew on a year basis, after you’ve checked the traffic and can justify maintaining the variant name.

Transferring Domain Names to a New Registrar

There are times when you may want to move your domain name to a different registrar: your current registrar is forcing you to renew at an exorbitantly high price or your registrar goes out of business. Here are some issues to consider when transferring domains:

  • If you’ve just purchased a domain, there is a 60-day waiting period before it can be moved to a new registrar. ICAAN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) controls what domain registrars can and cannot do, and this is one of several restrictions.
  • To start a transfer, basically shop around for a registrar much like you did when you initially registered your domain. Many registrars offer an incentive to transfer, such as $1 the first year. Check for coupons and promo codes.
  • Most registrars will outline all the steps needed to transfer your domain once you’ve made the transfer purchase at the new registrar. You will need to complete an Initial Authorization for Registrar Transfer form so your current registrar knows that the request is coming from you and is legitimate. You may also be asked by your current registrar to confirm or prove your ownership of the domain name being transferred.
  • Watch out! Some registrars are now charging a fee to transfer a domain to a new registrar and this is permissible under the ICAAN rules.
  • Once the transfer has been processed, you may need to update nameserver locations etc. – your new registrar should outline all these procedures for you.
  • You may encounter some “downtime” at your site or blog during the transfer; communicate pending outages and changes to your visitors before and after the transfer.

Consult the ICAAN FAQ page on domain name transfers here for additional information.

Beware of Domain Name Scams!

A domain name is a commodity – and a pricey one depending upon the domain name. The amazon.com domain name is currently value at $3.2 billion USD; even my geneabloggers.com domain name is currently valued at approximately $73,000.

Just like any valuable, you need to keep it secure and watch out for scammers. Here are some tips and some scams to watch for:

  • If your domain registrar offers a “lock” provision on your domain, make sure it is enabled or enable it now! That means someone needs your login and password at your registrar to make any changes to your domain name registration.
  • Make sure your domain registrar has your correct e-mail address for notifications; also make sure that these emails don’t end up in your spam or junk e-mail folder.
  • Scam: you receive an email from a company stating that your WHOIS info is missing and offer to fix it. NEVER click a link in these emails; login at your domain registrar and correct any name, address, or telephone info manually.
  • Scam: you receive a renewal notice in the mail for your domain. Verify the sender – very often it is another company attempting to “slam” your domain and get you to unwittingly transfer the registration to their company. Again, always check at your registrar’s website to verify any mailings or information.
  • Scam: you receive an email from China which starts with “We are a Network Service Company which is the domain name registration center in ______, China . . .” which goes on to say that another person or company wants to register your domain name in China. Again, the company is attempting to “slam” your domain and trick you into transferring the domain name registration to their company.

Summary – Domain Name Issues

  • Keep your website or blog hosting service separate from your domain registrar; don’t be tempted by bundled offers with a domain name purchase.
  • Order variations of a domain name only for one year; then review and see if you still want to keep the variant name.
  • Consider all the implications of changing a domain name, especially impact on SEO and site traffic.
  • Leverage forwarded domain names to your advantage for marketing purposes.
  • Transferring a domain to a new registrar is a complicated process; make sure you think through all the steps and requirements.
  • Watch out for domain name scams and periodically sign in at your domain name registrar’s site to ensure that your domain is in good working order.

Resources

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.