In an effort to be a more responsible digital citizen, I have started to think about my own backup procedure. I must admit that I have been lax about keeping backups in the past. I once had a hard drive that was faulty and failed. It was ironic that my backup drive failed. I stayed up hours late to try and recover what data I could. I got most of it. That experience put me off having a backup for a while.
Backups have always been an annoyance. Tools like Time Machine exist for Mac but I’ve never had any interest in going through configuration options and determining how my data should be stored in backups. I “risked it for a biscuit,” as you would say in the UK, and have went without backups.
What changed my perspectives on backups was reading about all of the links that die on the internet. Link rot is a serious problem. It’s not a problem for the average internet user but it does have historical ramifications. There is no guarantee that when you cite a resource on the internet that it will be around next time you go to visit it. In ten years, it’s unlikely that website will still be around. My investigation into Geocities and the ’90s web illustrated the extent to which this is a problem.
Archiving efforts go a long way but it is impossible to keep track of everything that goes on through the web. The Internet Archive could not possibly track every single change made to websites.
If so many sites are losing their histories, I thought to myself: where does my technological history stand? What would happen if, one day, my computer stopped working? It is a distinct possibility because I do not want to upgrade my computer. It’s battery needs to be replaced and it does not operate like it used to but I am generally skeptical of the latest and greatest tech. I’m happy with my 2014 or 2015 Macbook Air (I can’t remember which one it is).
This slowly made me consider backing up data as something that I should do.
My Backup Setup
I have developed a relatively unsophisticated method of backing up data. The main data that I back up is contained within the folders that I use most for personal data storage on my computer. Every so often I will back up my data to a flash drive (when I remember, that is).
I have used Dropbox for file storage in the past but I am reluctant to outsource something I can do for free. I don’t need to pay for my flash drive on a monthly basis. It only cost me $15 and it should last me for quite some time. That’s much better than anything Dropbox could offer me.
Storing data on my own flash drive is both cheaper and more secure. I do not need to transmit sensitive information into the cloud. It all stays on my local computer and my flash drive. This makes me feel a lot more comfortable about backing up my financial information and other files that I don’t want going over the internet.
In addition to the flash drive backup, I am going to set up an FTP server on the Raspberry Pi I recently purchased. I bought the Pi without any specific intent. I realized that my old ones were no longer working. I think it was due to where they were stored, and because they were not used for a while. When I got the Pi I wasn’t sure what to do with it. The Pi has been sitting on my desk ever since.
I am not going to keep this server running 24/7. I am going to use the Pi for data storage and only plug it in when I need to use it, or when I need to access a file. It is a secondary backup.
I know that I should have some kind of off-site backup of my data and that is something that I am actively thinking about. Should I ask someone to keep a flash drive with my data on it? I’m not confident in doing that. I would encrypt all the data but there is something about handing your data away to someone else that rubs me the wrong way. I considered starting a cloud server and setting it up with FTP but I have similar concerns.
A New Era of Responsibility
I am going to be more responsible with my digital data going forward. When I create an important file, I intend on backing it up. I cannot set automated backups on my flash drive as far as I can tell. I may add a note to my to-do list that reminds me to back up my files every so often. I’ll see what works for me. Seeing how my computer could stop working at any moment, it’s crucial that I have a backup in place. I recommend that if you do not have one, you create one. I feel a lot better now that I know that I have copies of my data.