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When disaster strikes.

For those of you that don't know, I live in North central Alabama, a little south of Birmingham. If you to take a map and draw a line from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham, you would have a map of "tornado alley".

A tornado near Seymour, Texas
Image via Wikipedia

In the last 15 years, 2 devastating F5 tornadoes have traveled this path, leaving complete devastation behind. Lives, homes, possessions gone forever. I used to live on that line. An F5 tornado barely missed my home 14 years ago. Last year, it destroyed that same home (I moved several years prior). It destroyed the entire neighborhood as well. And a friend of mine survived last year only because he had taken a chainsaw and tools into the storm shelter with himself and his family. When Tuscaloosa was destroyed, he was able to cut his way out of the shelter and bring his family out safely. Otherwise they would have been trapped for days and may not have survived.

This morning – as I write this – I'm looking at an unseasonably warm late winter day. The weather forecast is for severe storms through this area and, as a trained tornado spotter, I know the potential for what may happen.

English: The aftermath of a tornado that destr...
Image via Wikipedia

And in case you're wondering what this has to do with genealogy, I pose this question. If a disaster such as a tornado, wildfire, flood, earthquake, mudslide were to affect you, would your research and family history be gone forever?

Hint: backup your data!

As a person who's lost his genealogical data twice due to computer failures, I have become a firm believer in backups.
I also believe that unless your data exists in at least three separate places, you don't have a backup!

Let's say your data exists on the computer and on a backup drive at home. If your house is broken into, or burns to the ground, or a tornado hits (and in Alabama, we know about tornadoes!), then your data is gone.

BUT, if that same data exists on your computer, a backup drive, and an off site backup (i.e. a different physical location), then any disaster that strikes your home would not affect your off-site backup. Conversely, a disaster at the off-site backup would not destroy all the data because of your computer and your home site backup.

I also believe that frequent backups are the lifeblood of any backup strategy! A data backup that is even one month old, if you are creating a new data daily, is almost worthless.

Backup Backup Backup - And Test Restores
Image via Wikipedia

Works for me.

Let me step you through my backup strategy. It works for me and is only an example. Your needs may be different.

At home I have 2 large external hard drives for backup, as well as a pocket-sized external drive. I backup to the small external drive and 1 large drive at least daily, sometimes several times a day if I'm entering a large amount of information. The second large external drive is connected twice a week for backups, then stored on-site in a fireproof safe.

The program I use for on-site backups is called Goodsync. It's a small, modestly priced program  that is very configurable. All my genealogy databases, forms, templates, correspondence, photos are backed up. I also backup my documents folder, downloads folder, music folders, and all my other photos (which now total around 7000 photos). In essence I backup everything except the Windows and programs folder. That would have to be reinstalled anyway. All installation instructions, registration numbers, and serial numbers to reinstall the software are in a data file which is backed up.

For off-site, I use a service called Crashplan. Competitively priced, it also includes a free software installation which allows you to make a duplicate backup to an external hard drive. You can even back up your laptop to a folder on your desktop, and then back information up off-site.

Image via Wikipedia

My photos are also uploaded to to serve as a secondary off-site backup. And for my genealogy data, since I use RootsMagic5 with its built-in "RootsMagic-to-Go" function, I have a complete copy of my genealogy on a thumb drive that hangs around my neck all the time.

A good resource for information about backing up your data is this post at 

This may seem like paranoia, but I have seen firsthand the devastation of  tornadoes twice in my adult lifetime. I've had friends who have lost everything in house fires. And one reason I have so little from one branch of my family is the fact they lost everything in a tornado decades ago.

I'm sorry if this post is depressing. I hope it encourages you to take action and backup your data.

Now, time to get busy. I have some preparation to do;  just in case.

Copyright 2012 Randall E Dickerson. All rights reserved.

{Disclaimer; I have no fiduciary interests in any products or services mentioned in this post. Any services or software I use was purchased at full price. I have received no payments or other considerations for writing this blog entry.}

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