OMG! What happened to my family memories?

A decades-old survey has "photo album" topping the list of items Americans will take with them from a burning house.

With film-based cameras of yesteryear, you were limited to 24 or 36 shots per roll of film so you tried to make every shot your best composition. With the advent of digital cameras and innovations such as smartphones, more gadgets can take pictures and videos. "Memory cards" in those gadgets, akin to a roll of film, hold much more than 36 shots. Combine that with the instant gratification of reviewing your shots in seconds, not days, leading to propensity for multiple do-over shots culminating in exponential growth in the volume of your captured memories.

As you “transfer” those captured memories off to a computer, your computer essentially becomes the central repository, analogous to a photo album or a shoebox full of pictures, that keeps on growing. To some it may sound like a cliché but to many, as the survey results from decades ago imply, these memories are priceless. And the chance of computer malfunction is so much greater than the house fire.

Like the tires on a car constantly touching the road and wearing down, computers also have constantly moving parts and one such part is the "hard disk drive" where all your data are stored. Due to wear, many eventually malfunction. When it does you risk not being able to see those pictures from your whirlwind retirement trip around the world or your grandchild's first Halloween video footage. Can you risk that?

There's a relatively easy way to manage that risk, at least to minimize the chance of you screaming "Oh my God, what happened to my family memories?" when your computer, the central repository of your family memories, decides to go to geek-heaven taking all your pictures and documents with it.

I have four words for you: "back up your data." A cavernous external hard disk drive can be bought for under $100 and attaches easily by the USB connection on your computer. This empowers you to regularly make duplicates of those memories you transferred to your computer's internal hard disk drive to your external hard disk drive. It is important not only to make a backup copy of your "memories," but all of the documents on your computer that you don't want to lose. If your computer calls it quits, you won't be able to get that data back. A note to Windows users: if you are buying an external hard disk drive bigger than 2TB (read: two terabytes, a huge amount of space) make sure you ask whether it will work with your version of Windows.

Compared to the home and auto insurance you have to renew annually, probably at more than ten times the cost of a new external hard disk drive every three to four years, it is a bargain of a risk-management strategy. Computers can be replaced but captured memories, documents you create, and other "data" cannot be replaced; it cannot be put on your new computer unless you have backups. You invest in "home and auto insurance" so why not "data insurance"?

Next issue's topic: "The weather forecast calls for 'the cloud'"

Tak Sato

Business and technology strategist/consultant with 20+ years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As founder of geek with a heart, "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps Individuals, Seniors, Families, Small Businesses, and Non-Profits utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 5, Issue 22, Posted 10:14 AM, 10.29.2013