We all value our precious files. Well, maybe not the files exactly, but what they contain: images of our family and friends and our important documents. According to a survey completed by F-Secure ** 93 % of respondents agreed that preventing the loss of personal content is very important. Still we tend to think that only other people will ever have to deal with losing files.
So why worry? I didn’t, not until my home laptop started to crash. I was sure my unfinished thesis work and all the pictures of my loved ones were gone for good. I just wished I had been smarter and backed up my personal files. But I was lucky.
I was able to start my computer one more time and I copied all most of my files to a new external device. That’s the most common way to backup your files; according to another F-Secure survey* 54.4% people backup their important files to external hard drives.
External hard-drives may be good for transporting files but they aren’t the most reliable backup. My house could be robbed or I could lose my device. Even though unexpected things tend to happen to only other people, the other person could be you.
My good friends recently learned this lesson the hard way. One night they woke up to a sound of fire alarm and flames roaring inside their home. They had less than one minute to get out—no time to take anything with them other than their loved ones. Their house was gone for good. So were all of their belongings.
Later, I asked my friend what she misses most from that lost house. The answer was simple: pictures. Especially pictures of her child’s first year, the first steps and first birthday party. These memories were all in digital format, but not shared nor stored anywhere. The computer went up with the house.
Pictures, videos, the work you’ve done–you value them all. But you value them most when they are gone.
You should act before anything happens to you. We at F-Secure are very pleased to announce an effortless way to make backups and also share content with our new F-Secure Online Backup. It automatically makes backup copies of pictures, music and other important content saved on your computer and stores these backups on our secure servers.
You can get F-Secure Online Backup now at or through our global operator partners.
* F-Secure broadband subscriber survey, April 2011 (Brazil, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, 3,000 respondents in total).
** The survey was carried out by F-Secure via SurveyGizmo during April 2011. A total of 609 respondents were solicited from around the globe through F-Secure’s Safe and Savvy blog.
Our history is full of doomsday prophecies. Statistics show that they are wrong to about 100%, and that seems to be accurate as we still are here. :) Vint Cerf is not that pessimistic when predicting a digital dark age. His doomsday only affects our data, but that’s scary too. So what is this all about and how does it affect us ordinary mortals? Mr. Cerf is reminding us about one of the fundamental challenges in electronic data processing. The technology is still very young and sometimes unreliable. A special problem is the longevity of storage media. A traditional photographic print can last several hundreds of years and the oldest preserved writings are thousands of years old, but electronic data media longevity is measured in tens of years. And on top of that comes the rapid technology development that can make media incompatible before it breaks. Digital storage may become a black hole, you put things there but get nothing out. This could lead to a dark era from which we have almost no digital memories, according to him. But how realistic is this horror scenario? Let’s fill in some points that Mr. Cerf left out. The digital technology actually enables infinite life for our data, if used right. The old photograph starts to slowly degrade from day one and no copy of it is perfect. Digital info can be copied to a new media an infinite number of times without degrading quality. Any digital media has a limited lifetime. But the rapid technology development will silently solve this problem for most people. The computer becomes too old and slow before the magnetism starts to fade on the hard disk, and everything is copied to a fresh new computer. (* The need to regularly copy data to fresh media will also solve the compatibility problems. You will normally never need to access media that is more than some 5 – 10 years old. And media that young is still compatible. The floppy disks that usually are shown to illustrate incompatible media are over 25 years old. (* But what about the file formats? It will be easy to implement support for our current file formats in tomorrow’s computer systems. That will be done if there is a need for it. So don’t worry if you are using the common standard file formats like JPG-images, MS Word or PDF-documents. They will no doubt be supported for a long time. But this may be an issue if you are using some exotic and less common format. We are entering the era of cloud storage. Our data is transferred to professionally managed data centers that take care of both backup and periodical media renewal on our behalf. Sure, they can fail too. But they are in generic a lot more reliable than our own homebrewed backup procedures. The use of cloud storage introduces a new threat. How long will the cloud company be around? A good thing to think about before selecting where to store the data. Another big threat against our data is our own attitude. Handling digital data is very easy, including deleting it. We need to understand the value of our data to make sure it is preserved. Last but not least. A very big threat against all data, analog or digital, is inability to find it. My piles of old slide photo boxes are of little use as they only have some labels with year and place. Looking for a particular shot is a nightmare. But my digital collection can easily be searched for place, time, equipment, technical data, keywords, etc. The pre-digital era was really the dark age seen from this perspective! So to wrap up. Yes, the digital revolution brings new challenges that we need to be aware of. But luckily also good tools to deal with them. Digital storage will no doubt lead to personal data loss for many persons. Disks crash every day and data is lost. So there is a true risk that digital storage leads to a personal dark age for you, unless you handle your data right. But there’s absolutely no need to talk about a digital dark age in a broader sense. Historians will easily get enough information about our society. It doesn’t matter if some of us have lost our files, there’s still plenty to work on. Actually, data overload will be a more likely problem for them. Good news. The sky is not falling after all! Safe surfing, Micke (* This is assuming that you keep your files on the computer. These problems will become real if you archive files on external media, store it away for later use and remember them some 20 years later.
If you like sailing and tall ships, I can recommend this podcast about Pam Bitterman’s book Sailing to the far horizon. It’s a great story about the last years of the community-operated ship Sofia, covering both a lot of happy sailing and the ship’s sad end in the early eighties. But this is not about hippies on a ship, it’s about how we record and remember our lives. In the podcast Pam tells us how the book was made possible by her parents saving her letters home. Perhaps they had a hunch that this story will be written down one day. Going on to state that e-mails and phone calls wouldn’t have been saved that way. That’s a very interesting point that should make us think. At least it made me think about what we will remember about our lives in, say, twenty years? We collect more info about what we are doing than ever before. We shoot digital pictures all the time and post status updates on Facebook. We are telling the world where we are, what we are doing and what we feel. Maybe in a way that is shallower than letters home, but we sample our lives at a very granular rate. The real question is however how persistent this data is? If we later realize we have experienced something unique enough to write a book about, have our digital life left enough traces to support us? Pam wrote the book about Sofia some twenty years later. A twenty year old paper is still young, but that’s an eternity in the digital world. Will you still be on the same social media service? Do you still have the same account or have you lost it. Does the service even exist? And what about your e-mails, have you saved them? How are your digital photos archived? You may even have cleaned up yourself to fit everything into a cheaper cloud account. Here’s something to keep in mind about retaining your digital life. Realize the value of your personal records. You may fail to see the value in single Facebook posts, but they may still form a valuable wholeness. If you save it you can choose to use it or not in the future. If you lose it you have no choice. Make sure you don’t lose access to your mail, social media and cloud storage accounts. That would force you to start fresh, which usually means data loss. Always register a secondary mail address in the services. That will help you recover if you forget the password. Use a password manager to avoid losing the password in the first place. Redundancy is your friend. Do not store important data in a single location. The ideal strategy is to store your files both on a local computer and in a cloud account. It provides redundancy and also stores data in several geographically separated locations. Mail accounts have limited capacity and you can’t keep stuff forever. Don’t delete your correspondence. Check your mail client instead for a function that archives your mail to local storage. Check your social media service for a way to download a copy of your stuff. In Facebook you can currently find this function under Settings / General. It’s good to do this regularly, and you should at least do it if you plan to close your account and go elsewhere. Migrate your data when switching to a new computer or another cloud service. It might be tricky and take some time, but it is worth it. Do not see it as a great opportunity to start fresh and get rid of "old junk". If you are somewhat serious about digital photography, you should get familiar with DAM. That means Digital Asset Management. This book is a good start. Pam did not have a book in mind when she crossed the Pacific. But she was lucky and her parents helped her retain the memories. You will not be that lucky. Don’t expect your friends on Facebook to archive posts for you, you have to do it yourself. You may not think you’ll ever need the stuff, just like Pam couldn’t see the book coming when onboard Sofia. But you never know what plans the future has for you. When you least expect it, you might find yourself in a developing adventure. Make yourself a favor and don’t lose any digital memories. Safe surfing, Micke
Its summer and most of us are active. We are out having fun, attending events and going to new places. Its high season for losing things, like your smartphone for example. I’m not going to repeat the story about tracking services that can lock, wipe and locate your lost phone. That has already been covered. I’m also not going to talk about the black market for stolen phones, and the hilarious cases related to that. But I have started to think about how to manage if I lost my smartphone when away from home. How to recover and how to manage the situation without ruining the holiday? Here’s some of the problems that you may face if the phone is lost. You lose access to your contact register. At a time when you probably need some of the phone numbers badly. You may lose access to all your important communication channels at once, phone calls, mails, chat etc. You can’t look things up on the net and get help that way. You may have stored crucial info in the phone, like the address of your next hotel or electronic tickets. You lose your navigator that could take you where you need to go. Are you using two-factor authentication? That’s a good idea, but it makes your phone even more critical. You need it when logging in from a new location, like a hotel or an Internet cafe for example. And last but not least. Facebook!!! Hmm, yes. We seem to be quite dependent on these small gadgets. Sometimes I wish we could turn back the clock. Trash the gadgets, relax and let the journeys take weeks rather than hours. And ask strangers on the street instead of looking for directions in Google. But I guess that’s impossible so we have to accept that our smartphones are critical devices and mitigate the risk instead. (more…)