Keeping Your Stuff Safe, Part 3: Your Files in The Cloud
Jan 19th, 2012 by Isaiah Beard

A cloud storage datacenter, housing multiple storage bays. Each red box holds 135 Terabytes of storage. Source: backblaze.com

 

Previously in this series, I focused on local storage; primarily, hard drives and similar media were discussed.  But a lot has changed since that last article was posted!  In particular, flooding in Thailand threatened to severely restrict the supply of hard drives, and retail prices had doubled and nearly tripled for the most common capacities and models.  Pricing for hard drives has begun to stabilize, but supplies are still constrained, and the situation is not expected to go back to anything resembling normal until March 2012 at the earliest.  For you and I, this means that the price of a hard drive, or even a new computer, might bit higher for the next few months and harder to come by, until the region can recover and production of hard drive components can resume.

And so, it makes sense to look at other solutions for backup strategies, with cloud storage being a lead contender.  Cloud (or online) backup services have become quite popular over the last few years.  They offer an attractive option for keeping your stuff safe: for a fee, you get the ability to send your files to a remote datacenter, where maintaining the storage and hardware required for backing up all of your data becomes the responsibility of the backup service you subscribe to.  They upgrade the hardware when it needs to be upgraded.  They fix and replace hard drives that go bad. The idea is to further simplify the backup process so that even buying hard drives and hooking them up to your computer aren’t part of the equation.

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Keeping Your Stuff Safe, Part 2: the Local Route
Sep 19th, 2011 by Isaiah Beard

An External Hard Drive: the easiest method for making a quick copy of your important stuff. Photo taken by flickr user Miss Karen

All, right, so you’ve heard it over and over and again, and you know it’s true: you need to make regular backups of your stuff. But how?  What options do typical computer users have?

In the past few years, the options for preservation and backups have expanded quite a bit, giving users an enormous array of solutions to choose from.  Of course, the diverse options can be confusing: what’s the best choice for you?

The backup options out there can be grouped into two major categories: local storage and cloud storage.  Each has their strengths and weaknesses, and will appeal to different users based on where and how they use their computers.  Some of the best and most secure backup strategies make use of both solutions… a backup-of-the-backup, so to speak.  I’ll discuss that further in a later write-up.

In this article, I’ll talk about local storage.  In the next article, we’ll go into cloud-based solutions.

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Keeping Your Stuff Safe, Part 1: Why you need a Plan B
Sep 16th, 2011 by Isaiah Beard

A hard disk drive with damaged platters, caused by a head crash. The data on this drive is not recoverable.

Whether we like it or not, those of us who rely on electronics to get our work done are guaranteed one thing: a data loss event.  This means that at least once in our  lifetimes (and sometimes more than that), every one of us who uses a computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone or similar device is going to one day stare at our screens and realize that the piece of information we expected to be there, just isn’t.

It can happen any number of ways.  Sometimes, we users make a mistake and accidentally erase something we shouldn’t have… or someone else might’ve accidentally deleted something of ours that they shouldn’t have. Other times, it’s the computer’s fault: buggy software might’ve claimed to save something but didn’t, or a 10-year-old hard drive finally decided to give up the ghost.  And sometimes, acts of nature (power outage, natural disaster, or other events beyond our control) will intervene and cause vital work to be lost.

Of course, we’ve all heard it time and time again: to protect your documents, photos, drawings, artwork, and other important data, you need to have backups.  Unfortunately, while we all have heard this before and know it to be true, we don’t always follow through.  In the past it’s been tedious to do regular backups; a chore we all dread.  And so, it always falls but he wayside, and often, we get back into a backup regimen only after something bad has happened, and it’s already too late.

But take heart.  A lot has changed recently.  There ARE personal backup solutions out there that are surprisingly easy… and even automatic!  keeping your stuff safe doesn’t have to be a tedious chore anymore… as long as you’re willing to invest a little time and effort at the beginning, and in some cases a small amount of cash on an ongoing basis.

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“Keeping Your Stuff Safe” – From Page2Pixel at Intervention 2011
Aug 25th, 2011 by Isaiah Beard

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about how to keep “big data” safe: research datasets, archival documents, that sort of thing.  But, the lessons we learn here are also pretty useful for smaller setups, artists, businesses… and people at home.  Everyone can benefit from digital preservation.  Everyone needs to know how they can keep their digital stuff safe.

And so, I’m partnering with Intervention ’11 to get the message out about how to keep your digital items of value accessible for the long run.  I’ll be holding a panel titled “Keeping Your Stuff Safe: Strategies for Preserving Your Digital Life.”  In that panel, we’ll be talking about ways to easily, affordably, and safely back up your digital media, for now and the future.

 What is Intervention?

Our goal is to bring together fans and different independent creators to party, educate, and appreciate the opportunities the Internet gives to all of us. We are similar to the Sci-Fi/Anime/Other fandom cons that we love so much, but we are focused on people who use the internet as the primary way to distribute their work and talk to their friends.

It’s a great event for geeks and non-geeks alike who do just about anything related to internet culture to get together for a weekend.  Feel free to give ’em a visit!

Civil rights and Activism in the Digital Age
Jan 21st, 2015 by Isaiah Beard

The recent Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, in juxtaposition with multiple civil rights-related incidents of the past year, have set the stage for people to discuss the civil rights landscape in the US, and debate our progress (or perhaps, lack thereof).  We are once again living in a  time of unrest, where racial divides are back in the spotlight. Further tempering the debate is the increasingly thorny issue of civil rights in the digital age. The unanswered question: Where does a person’s right to keep their data private end, and the government’s right to pry in the name of safety begin?

In the past, I have written about ways to “keep you stuff safe.”  At the time, the context was simple, and most users and data experts (myself included) remained relatively naïve about what that truly meant.  The discussion of data safety often revolved around making sure you didn’t lose your data; that it was safely backed up.

Now, “keeping your stuff safe” also refers to security: keeping the data safely away from hackers who might want to profit from your loss. And perhaps more controversially: protecting individual privacy from unwarranted state intrusion.

These issues – civil rights, privacy, race, and personal data – have collided pretty spectacularly of late.  Protests relating to various ill-fated run-ins with law enforcement are being talked about in parallel with the civil rights marches of old.  But, there is one major component that differentiates now from then: the prevalence of smartphones, mobile internet, and digital recording.

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