Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Only Safe Storage is L.O.C.K.S.S.

Are your family history documents/photos etc. safe in case of an emergency?

The following article is from Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter and is copyright by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author. Information about the newsletter is available at

A friend wrote to me about the situation with Megaupload, an online file storage service. He knows that I am interested in making sure everyone performs sufficient backups to protect genealogy data and other data from hardware failures, software failures, and human errors.

Megaupload was recently shut down by the federal government. The company provided file storage services and had a great method of allowing one user to share files with others. The problem was that Megaupload had both customers who used the service legally as well as some customers who used it illegally. Some unscrupulous users found that Megaupload was a great way to share movies, music, and other files that were protected by copyright. Despite repeated warnings from the government, Megaupload ignored the problem and allowed all users to share files as they wished, both for legal and illegal purposes.

I won't go into all the legal issues with Megaupload as there are hundreds of detailed stories already available on the web that describe the company's difficulties in detail. There's no sense in my duplicating the hundreds of articles already available. Start at to learn more about Megaupload's services and legal problems.

With the service shut down, no Megaupload customers can retrieve their files, not even those who used Megaupload for purely legitimate purposes.

In his email, my friend suggested that cloud storage is not to be trusted. My friend's attitude of "I won't use it because it might disappear" reminds me of an old folk tale about throwing the baby out with the bath water.

In a way, he is right. Indeed, no ONE method of storing files should ever be trusted to remain available forever. Megaupload, Mozy, Carbonite, Backblaze, Google Drive, Amazon S3, and any of the other cloud-based storage services could disappear at any time. Of course, so could your hard drive or the external drive you use in your home or office. Any method of storing files is subject to all sorts of problems.

There is an easy and effective solution, however: L.O.C.K.S.S.

L.O.C.K.S.S. is an acronym for "Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff Safe." I know of no requirement that says we must preserve information on only one copy. In fact, with today's ridiculous cheap prices for hard drives, it doesn't make sense to me that anyone should ever trust one copy. Or two copies. Or even three copies.

We are free to make all sorts of copies, something that is easy and cheap today. Even better, we can store those copies in all sorts of locations: in the closet, in the basement, at a cousin's house, or in data centers in Rio de Janeiro, Capetown, and Mumbai. In fact, we can store any file in seven or more different data centers in seven or more different locations around the globe. What are the odds that ALL the copies will be destroyed? The price for all this? Peanuts.

I don't hesitate to store my backups in the cloud. However, I will never store my only copy on one cloud service. All my important files are backed up on at least two different cloud services (and three or four would be better) as well as additional copies on my computer's hard drive, an external hard drive, various flash drives, and whatever storage media is available, both at home and in the cloud. I also keep another copy on a laptop computer stored in my motor home. If I had a separate workplace, I would also store a copy of my personal files there, probably on a CD or DVD disk kept in a desk drawer or something similar.

Who cares if one storage service gets shut down by the government or is destroyed by an earthquake or flood or hurricane or other disaster? Who cares if my local copy is destroyed by a defective hard drive or by a burst water pipe in the upstairs bathroom?

L.O.C.K.S.S. will always preserve your data in any situation. "Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff Safe."

Happy Searching!

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