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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Dataset sharing and preservation strategies at Rutgers
Mar 17th, 2011 by Isaiah Beard

As of January 18 of this year, the National Science Foundation has enacted policies that ensure researchers take seriously the need for data sharing and dissemination.  According to the new mandate:

Investigators are expected to share with other researchers, at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time, the primary data, samples, physical collections and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of work under NSF grants. Grantees are expected to encourage and facilitate such sharing. See Award & Administration Guide (AAG) Chapter VI.D.4.

To that end, researchers are now required to submit a Data Management Plan with their grant requests, detailing how the project will comply with research sharing guidelines set forth by the NSF.

These requirements leave researchers with a choice: either come up with a plan on their own, or seek help from their institutions on a comprehensive data sharing and preservation model.  Fortunately, the resources and tools exist at Rutgers for its researchers to easily take the latter route.

In anticipation of these data sharing requirements, the university has setup a site to guide researchers through the ins and outs of data sharing.  The Rutgers University Research Data Archive site clearly explains the importance of sharing and preserving research data, and details some of the current offerings for researchers who need a platform to share their research data to comply with NSF guidelines.

It goes without saying that one such option listed on the site (and the platform I recommend) is the Rutgers University Community Repository.  In anticipation of this need, the RUcore team has developed the RUResearch Data Portal, a section of our digital repository meant specifically for serving research data needs.

Already trusted by faculty members to store their academic publications, and the mandatory platform for Theses and Dissertations in the Graduate School of New Brunswick, RUResearch is a natural extension of RUcore’s mission to preserve and make accessible the university’s academic output from a centralized resource that adheres to established digital preservation standards.  With RUResearch, you can not only be assured of meeting NSF’s requirements on paper, but you will also have the security of knowing your research data is truly safe and preserved.

More information on data preservation services can be found on the Rutgers Libraries Website, including dates for in-person presentations on the services we offer the academic research community.  And, if you are a researcher interested in how RUcore and the RUResearch platform can help you, contact our Data Services Librarian, Ryan Womack, and he will be able to give you the information you need to get started.

Lessons Learned from Google’s temporary Gmail loss
Mar 1st, 2011 by Isaiah Beard

GMail kept users notified through a status page of their ongoing recovery efforts.

This past week offered up a little dose of panic to an estimated tens of thousands of users to Google’s free Gmail service, when they logged in to discover that all of their e-mail was missing.  According to Google:

We released a storage software update that introduced the unexpected bug, which caused 0.02% of Gmail users to temporarily lose access to their email. When we discovered the problem, we immediately stopped the deployment of the new software and reverted to the old version.

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