The world we live in is changing. We are subject to more frequent and severe natural disasters from hurricanes and tornadoes to earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions and mud slides. Wildfires run rampant on every continent and not just in the summer months.
When disaster strikes the first impulse is to save your life and the lives of your family, pets, friends and neighbors. The second impulse is to save property and “things”. When asked, most people admit that, in the midst of any kind of disaster, assuming that their family and pets are all safe, the first thing they think to “save” are family photos, videos and other irreplaceable keepsakes. Most other possessions are considered to be “just stuff” and stuff can always be replaced.
Saving Irreplaceable Family Treasures – The Proactive Method
By this point, anyone who has spent any time on the internet has heard the term cloud storage. For those not certain what cloud storage means it’s a simplified term for the complex practice of storing computer files and applications somewhere on the internet where they can be accessed by any computer anywhere in the world that has access to the internet, knows where these files are and has permission to access them.
Yes, this is a simplistic explanation that doesn’t take into account serious issues such as access control, security, maintenance, redundancy, data recovery and a host of others. All these issues, important as they are, are subjects for a later time. What concerns us in this moment is the fact that cloud storage allows you to place copies of what is irreplaceable in a safe and secure storage environment removed from your immediate location.
In other words, if your house, or even your entire town is destroyed, those records which most people consider important will be located in a safe place, well out of harm’s way, where you and your family can recover them at a later time. This frees you from making a decision about how to save your precious family memories during moments of crisis because you have already saved them in a safe location. Talk about peace of mind.
It Sounds Like A Good Idea But. . . .
. . . it also sounds complicated. “I wouldn’t even know where to start,” you are probably telling yourself. And that’s a valid point. But it will surprise you to learn that the process is actually quite simple. Before you begin you will need to ask yourself some questions in order to determine what your needs are. And for most people those needs fall into a few obvious categories:
Let’s take a look at each of these individually.
The price component is pretty self explanatory and there are services available to fit almost any budget ranging from free to a few dollars a month to hundreds of dollars a month depending on what you are looking for.
As with everything else, when it comes to cloud storage you get what you pay for. Free services sound appealing but they come with restrictions such as how much material you can store, how often you can access the material, how much material you can retrieve and download at any given time, whether any third party – including the service providers themselves – will have access to your materials and your private data and under what terms they will have this access. Also, these services may not allow you to share your materials with other family members or friends. Or, they may make it difficult and charge fees in order to let you do this. Many free services also expose you to third party advertising as you upload or download material or browse through the index of your files. And finally, in some instances, you may actually have to surrender your copyright claims to your own materials to the storage provider!
So from a pricing perspective the best solution is one that fits your budget, is secure, and allows you easy access to your material when, where and how you want it with a comfortable level of privacy and few to no distractions from advertising.
Which brings up the accessibility matter. Under what circumstances do you want, or do you think you will want, to be able to access your material? At any time, from any place or just in the event that some event triggers a need for you to retrieve copies of your files? Do you want to restrict access to these materials? Or, do you want them to be shareable with other family members or friends?
In other words, do you want to be able to send links to certain files – or all of them – via email that others can open from the comfort of their own homes? Or, do you want to allow them to access the material themselves whenever they want to? If so, how do you secure your files to make sure only certain people are able to access them and that they cannot be altered or deleted either accidentally or intentionally? Who pays for this additional access? Who monitors and administrates it? And what happens to these files when you are no longer able to maintain them and pay the storage fees?
Do you pass on this responsibility to a family member such as one of your children, ensuring that your family will continue to have access to these important records? And what happens when the next generation comes along? Surely your grandchildren, your great grandchildren and your great, great, grandchildren would want to see these records that you have taken so much care to preserve. How would they even know that these records existed let alone where to look for them. Assuming they still existed.
Let’s imagine for a moment that you have a laptop computer. And on that laptop computer there is a collection of family videos and photographs spanning decades of your family’s activities. These include your children playing as they grew up, family vacations, special family celebrations such as birthdays, Christmas and Thanksgiving, graduation ceremonies, weddings and many others.
For the most part, this laptop computer sits on a shelf or in a closet and you only turn it on in those moments when you are feeling nostalgic or perhaps a little lonely if your children have all grown up and left home.
Then one day, quite out of the blue, one of your children – or even a grandchild – asks, “Do we have any old family videos or photographs that I could look at?”
And, in that moment, you realize why you have held onto that laptop computer and taken care of it for all these years. You are filled with a great sense of joy and satisfaction as you watch your child or grandchild connect with their past, with their family history.
But there will come a time when you are no longer able to take care of that laptop computer and all the treasures it holds. So the question becomes, “What do you do with it?” Do you leave it to one of your children? If so which one? How do you ensure your other children and all your grandchildren will have access to the material on the laptop today and years from now?
And suppose the child that you leave in charge of the computer decides to delete some of the videos or photos because “they don’t like the way they look in them”, or for some other reason. Once those files are gone there may be no retrieving them.
Maybe you solve the problem by distributing the files to each of your children and grandchildren and trust them to continue passing them along to future generations. But there may come a time when the sheer number of your descendants makes this impossible. And there is always the problem of files being altered or deleted for a host of reasons.
You stored those family memories on that laptop computer because you wanted them to survive intact as a record to pass down to your children and their children but, as you can see, the process is more complicated than you initially thought.
And the same issues will confront you if you choose to store these materials on the cloud with either restricted or unrestricted access. In other words, the difficulty is not creating and storing recordings of your family history. The difficulty arises when you consider what to do with them after they’ve been created. And we haven’t even brought up the issue of format obsolescence which we describe a little further on.
There are a lot of security threats on the internet these days. Hackers try to break into the data facilities of large entities such as banks and insurance companies in order to steal personal information. There are DDOS attacks, malware, worms, trojans, viruses, ransomware, phishing attacks and the ever present SPAM.
If you are planning to self store your video and other files you should be aware of what level of security the cloud service organization you choose is able to provide. Who – if any – are among their largest clients and what level of security do they require? Do they maintain materials for Fortune 500 companies such as banks, insurance companies and major retailers? What about government agencies, military clients, security and law enforcement bureaus?
Organizations like these demand a high level of security and you will enjoy a similar level of security if you store your materials in the same environment. Before selecting a cloud storage provider it’s advisable that you do a little research to find out who some of their major clients are. If they include organizations like those listed above you can be confident that you will have access to a robust suite of security options. If the provider doesn’t have clients like those listed above you may wish to reconsider your cloud service provider decision.
Nothing is 100% guaranteed when it comes to digital materials and computer technology. Hard drives crash, files go missing or get misplaced, power failures can create chaos in server environments and the same natural disasters that can befall individual homes can happen to commercial web server environments. And then there is the ever present issue of format obsolescence.
But all this news isn’t necessarily bad. There a steps that can be taken to make electronic files so safe as to be virtually indestructible. In the first place there is a process known as redundancy. In its simplest terms redundancy means storing 2 copies of your files in diverse geographic locations such as one on the US East coast and a copy on the US West coast or one in the Continental US and another somewhere in Europe.
The reason behind this is that if something catastrophic happens in one storage environment there is a backup copy safely located thousands of miles away. If you plan to self store your irreplaceable family memories you might want to make sure that the service provider you choose offers this level service.
If you want to add a higher level of protection you can choose to do the same thing we do at VivaXtecH. In addition to using a cloud storage provider with built in redundancy protocols we also store all the files we are charged with protecting with an entirely separate cloud storage provider.
This means that even if the entire cloud infrastructure of one of our providers fails we have everything backed up on an entirely different infrastructure, geographically removed from our primary storage environments. This added layer of protection is more expensive than a sole sourced solution and requires more maintenance and administration but we feel it is worth it.
The recorded memories of our clients are irreplaceable and protecting them is of the utmost importance to us. Unless a catastrophe of global proportions occurs, your recorded memories should remain safe and secure and be available to you and your descendants indefinitely.
If your plan is to self store your videos, photos and audio materials you may want explore setting up a similar level of protection for yourself.
While these steps should protect your valuable files they do nothing to address the format obsolescence issue. File formats, especially video file formats, change on a regular basis. To ensure the long term survival of your files you will need to be aware of format changes as they occur and update your files to the latest format. Failing to do so could render them irretrievable in the future.
Ask yourself, how would you watch a Betamax video tape from the 1980’s in this modern era? Now imagine your family videos were all stored on this format and you will get an idea of how important this often overlooked reality is to the long term viability of your irreplaceable family memories.
If you implement such a process yourself you may also want to ask, who will continue this course of format migration on your behalf once you are no longer able to do it yourself? It can be a daunting consideration.
Is There a Simpler Way to do This?
If you would like to be free of having to make all these complex decisions there is a simple alternative to securing, maintaining and distributing your precious audio, video and photographic memories and keepsakes. Consider using one of the many VivaXtecH preservation services. For an affordable, one time cost your material will be:
- placed in a secure storage environment that includes redundant backups and secondary server environment support in diverse geographic locations
- cataloged so that the material is easy to find by you, your children, your grandchildren and generations far into the future
- automatically reformatted as encoding formats change ensuring that your material will always be viewable (to learn why this is important to you and your future descendants click here)
If, on the other hand, you wish to explore free or inexpensive self administrated options we suggest you take a look at this blog post.