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Chillicothe News - Chillicothe, MO
Opinion from the technical trenches.
Backup and Storage (1)
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About this blog
By Robert Handley
Kirksville native, laborer, filmmaker, sailor, technologist. I've had an interest in how things work since childhood and today making things work is my job description. I'm an IT generalist/consultant and database developer, and for the last ...
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Kirksville native, laborer, filmmaker, sailor, technologist. I've had an interest in how things work since childhood and today making things work is my job description. I'm an IT generalist/consultant and database developer, and for the last several years I've concentrated on simplifying and securing small business technology. I intend that complexity stay inside the machine, and that your experience outside it be productive and pleasant. When you make technology decisions there are many sources for information and advice, but it's sometimes overwhelming to sift through. So I'll render fact, opinion and personal experience into palatable portions that I hope you'll find helpful. I'm not a tech evangelist, rather I play a balancing act, because it's easy to collect a closet full of expensive, planet killing junk. Please stay tuned...
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June 22, 2012 12:01 a.m.



My daughter (Erin) is a full time 7th grade math teacher, supermom of three, wife of one (thankfully), attends graduate school, lives on a small farm with real livestock and still tries to have a life.  She's attentive to all these responsibilities (I have no idea how she manages) so I attempt to ease her load by maintaining the family computers.  Recently she's been running out of space on her laptop hard drive, making it difficult to add new stuff and make backups in the event of catastrophic failure.  



Erin doesn't have unusual or capricious computer habits.  She adapts easily to device idiosyncracies, notwithstanding her denial of technical matters.  Her daily use includes backing up an iPhone (with its considerable accumulation of pictures, music and apps), school papers (indispensable, no excuses), research, bookkeeping (Quicken) and other familiar apps... normal stuff.  She's been using this laptop for just over a year, and despite its ample hard drive size she's pushing the limits of available storage capacity.



 




To be fair, I carved out about 60% of her drive for backups, and there's a reason for that; every minute of her life is booked, so computer failure, or any other, out of schedule, time-consuming incident, is not an option.  Any time, for any reason, I might need to restore her laptop to the last moment a backup was made.  I probably can, because there's an app for that, and I know how to use it.  Most manufacturers provide some option to refresh a computer after catastrophic failure, but such an action can trash the unique (read most important) stuff, so informed tactics are necessary.  




 




Who can forget the tornado that blazed through Joplin in 2011?  Who can remember the maudlin television interviews wherein victims expressed their loss of unique family history in the form of visual artifacts?  The day before they were normal Missourians, then they were homeless Missourians, starting over, picking through rubble even as the front loaders and dumpsters arrived.  Problem is, most of their valuables, including but not exclusive to computer stuff and pictures, were blowing around in the stratosphere or smashed to bits, lost forever.




 




Many will dismiss the importance of stuff kept in their computer or other connected device. They'll gin up all manner of excuse for not keeping backups, in spite of how easy it is in Windows and Apple environments.  Manufacturers will admit the need for defensive behavior grudgingly, because acknowledging a possibility of failure might impugn their carefully crafted brand impression. 




 




I predict without righteousness that most of us will suffer some data catastrophe, whether locally or globally, whether by power failure, software crash, hardware damage, solar flares, the delete key, or cyberwarefare. The wise minority who backup their stuff are always envied by the majority who don't. 




 




Find below the last of an email thread I sent to Erin in the context of reducing her picture library to a manageable size:




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Erin,




 




The simplest first step will be to delete the pix that are unimportant, same for documents, downloads… anything that really isn't going to get used.  Be honest and ruthless in your assessment, one can't keep everything forever, but the important stuff can be preserved.




 




It's far easier to take pix than to keep them, and in a few years I suggest that the B grade and lower won't be missed or remembered.  When i was a professional cinematographer I would take about 8-30 times the footage that made the final cut, the rest was trashed forever.  When taking still snapshots that ratio (taken/kept) might be lower, but when shooting still pix for weddings the ratio could easily grow to 50/1, or more.  If the scenes before my lens are unique, fleeting and important, I won't worry about taking too many, but dispassionate housekeeping is mandatory.




 




Snapshots are easy to manage; usually there are just few keepers in any batch an no consultation is necessary.  I try to make time for an initial cut asap, because waiting means the chore will loom larger over time.  Usually I don't remember or miss the outtakes, I don't even look at the keepers that often, except the pix I have of you, those are precious and printed.




 




Oddly, for still photos, an old fashioned print still rules for longevity and will outlast digital media by many years.  Some printer manufacturers claim a 100 year shelf life for prints kept in ideal, climate controlled conditions.  Some of us will discover (the hard way) that manufacturer claims were, shall we say, exaggerated.  In any case, pedestrian digital storage (hard drive, DVD, USB stick) isn't acceptable for archives.




 




None of the device manufacturers (phones, cameras) or big box stores will mention that you'll run out of room eventually, it's not in their best interest to encourage a reality check.  In fact they anticipate, salivate and wait, then offer up a paid storage solution when you run out.  They won't mention that contemporary digital storage is impermanent and volatile.




 




For now, I am backing up your entire computer.  That includes pictures, music, documents and the operating system with all programs and personalization.  Eventually, backup iterations will overwhelm your current storage space.  If picture and documents are culled with care the backup iterations can be tidy and manageable.  




 




The need for redundancy is immediate and need for expansion is just a matter of time.  So I'm going to send you an additional external drive that will make more space available, and we'll need it eventually.  Your collection will only grow, whether discipline is applied or not.  Plus, no matter our caution, your laptop hard drive will fill up, and, eventually, every hard drive will fail!  They're just temporary, human-produced mechanical devices, but if discipline is applied, all or most of the important stuff should be recoverable.  The question of long term archiving is still being discussed.




 




I'll keep an eye on your usage and do the best I can, but for now please begin by deleting the pix with poor focus, bad composition, odd facial expressions... the stuff you really don't care about or will ever look at again.  Usually discipline and good taste will regain a significant chunk of otherwise wasted space.  You're an excellent photographer, so the decision might be difficult if you have too many keepers, or easy if you can spot the groaners without effort, pick your poison.




 




BTW, I’ve been searching for a blog idea all day, and this is it, hope you don't mind that I've plagiarized myself.




 




Love you...




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Next up (I think):  More Storage and Backup...




 






Feel free to offer topic suggestions.  Commenting on the blog would be great, let’s get some discussions going.  Or, if you don’t want to comment and have a topic suggestion, please email: kdegeneralist@gmail.com




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