If it all Goes Away – Saving Your Life Story “Plan B”
No longer does a biography need to be lost to time, now we can save your Life Story from all the things that can destroy it including time. In Episode 18 of Create Your Life Story we consider the different options and media for archiving our Life Stories and why.
We know why we need to record our Life Story. Initially recording your precious audio is the most important thing you can achieve for yourself and for the whole project of capturing a Life Story but if it’s not maintained and protected from the many forms of deterioration, the effort that you have gone to could be for nothing. We need to protect the audio from being lost over time. To archive it, so as to ensure that if one system fails there are back ups to recover the audio, text, images and video of this Life Story.
The great thing today compared to the past is we have our audio as a digital file and can copy it as many times as we like without the deterioration of the audio quality as was the issue with rerecording audio onto analogue systems such a tape. There is no harm in having multiple copies, in multiple formats scattered around to protect it from unfortunate events. It’s all digital and it’s all identical.
With some items in our lives there can only ever be one copy but that is not the case today with digital data. If it’s recorded or transferred to digital it’s then possible to have an unlimited number of identical copies. No longer do we have to grab the photo album in a crisis situation. If we have a copy off site we simply get it and we’re up and operating again, just like before.
We have to make copies and we have to keep them safe
We have already gone a good long way to having a permanent solution for archiving our digital data with our strategy of using stable, well regarded sites, to hold our data with WordPress.com and Archive.org. These organisations should be around for a long time and if they do decide to shut down we could expect them to give us timely opportunity to recover our data and transfer it to other places. However as we are not in control it’s prudent to make sure we also have our own copies. Additionally we also need to have back up data to reload onto their services if something should go awry with their equipment or if we have
issues with our back ups. The reasons for making multiple copies are:
- Hosting sites shuts down
- Physical disaster
- Original recording media deteriorates
- Playback technology evolves
In order to upload data to a hosting site you needed a copy on your own machine so you already have a personal copy with you to use if you need to update the hosting sites if something goes wrong.
Copy your site
In writing posts directly into WordPress or Archive.org it’s also important to recover a copy of the content.
There are two components of the content on your site. The actual content that we read and the data. Both need to be saved.
Download a copy of your WordPress.com site as it is, not the data of the site but the actual site using website to PDF conversion software like PDF Download. This software downloads a copy of your entire WordPress and Archive sites as a viewable and printable copy. Additional to keeping the PDF file also have a physical printed copy created. Best practice would be to not use your bubble jet printer as the final copy but have it laser printed to ensure that the colours in the ink don’t fade with time. Additionally copies of this can also be shared with people who aren’t computer savvy or included into a book.
The code that builds your entire site should also be backed up in case you ever need to move it to another platform by saving from your site’s dashboard. To export you site go to – Dashboard → Tools → Export → Download Export file.
Backing up your data
Now you have all your data both on WordPress.com, Archive.org and on your own machine but do you have additional copies of all this data with you. If you have Apple Time Machine running you will have an automatic back-up also. Other places you should consider making copies are:
- Backup Hard Drive
- USB flash drives
- Physical printouts
- Off site backups
All of these systems should be considered as possible options and use the ones that suit your needs. Off site back ups include systems where you upload your data to Internet based storage services such as paid services like Amazon S3, Carbonite or similar or free at DropBox for small amounts of data (2GB) with other advantages. Off site back up can also include giving a copy of all the data to a relative just in case something happens to the data that is in your home.
When you choose the systems that you are to use for your back up consider if the technology may be reaching it’s “used by date”, as is the current case for CD’s and DVD’s. One of the subtle things about the technology around us is the constant evolution and obsolescence that happens to once popular systems over time. In the last century many systems have ceased to be used.
Recording systems that are or soon will be out dated:
- Wax cylinder
- 78 rpm gramophones
- Pianola rolls
- Vinyl records
- Computer magnetic tape, punch cards & punch tape
- ¼” Magnetic tape
- 8 track cassette tape
- Cassette tape
- Mini Disk
- Floppy disks
- Video Tape – Betamax and VHS
- Various mini data cards for cameras and recorders
- Film technologies – moving and still
- Compact Disks (CD) & Digital Video Disks (DVD)
- Hard Drives
Very soon we will all be using systems to record data similar to USB flash drive then hard drives will start to become obsolete like floppy disks now have become.
The important lesson to learn with the evolution of technology is that in order to keep the information it must be be stored correctly so it won’t physically deteriorate and then in a timely manner, transferred to the more recent technology before the previous system becomes obsolete. An example would be transferring to digital your printed photos before the colours fade or you video tapes before the player disappears.
In time many of the original record mediums can physically deteriorate. The toughest, with a long history of survival is stone and clay for recording written text. Paper and even vinyl records last very well baring insects, water and physical damage but the data on magnetic tape (video, audio & floppy) can slowly deteriorate due to the Earths magnetic field. Audio and video cassette tapes can fail due to distortion of the tape or damage to the mechanisms. CD/DVD’s metallic coatings slowly corrode rendering them unreadable. One of the more stable systems are USB flash drives but as yet they are still relatively expensive for large amounts of data but reasonable for our purposes.
In order to protect our data from damage and evolution of technology we need to:
- Make multiple copies
- Share copies with friends and family
- Have copies stored on the Internet
- Create physical copies on archive quality materials
- Back up all resources onto alternate systems
- Continue to make additional digital back ups as new storage systems develop
My Suggestion – Gift Boxed Sets of Your Life Story
After the WordPress.com and Archive.org sites are complete I think the perfect combination of systems would be to copy the sites as digital files with all the edited audio files and images onto a back up hard drive, then:
- Transfer all digital data onto USB flash drives
- Print out the web sites on booklets of archive quality paper
- Print out any photos accompanying the sites, maybe consider a photo book
- Burn the files onto Archive Quality DVD’s
- Box all physical items into storage presentation boxes and share with a couple of family members
In preparing boxed sets of these Life Stories you have one of the most personal and intimate gifts possible of a persons life. Then it will be available to be shared additional to what is on the web sites.
Not only is this a great gift but also if anything goes wrong, with any of the other main archiving systems, there are multiple physical and digital copies still in existence, certain to live on somewhere. What a gift
- Back up as you record and as you produce new content
- Back up all your site information both physically and digitally
- Share copies with family and friends and on line storage
- Continue to copy onto more recent systems as they evolve
Let us all know in the comments below of any experiences that you have had with saving or loosing information over the years.
Like I mentioned in the podcast make sure you get your free e-Book Recording Life Stories to help you understand the process of Creating a Life Story by signing up on the side bar form.
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