It Seems That Every Week We Are Faced With A New Natural Disaster!

Photo Courtesy Of Laurel Harvey

We need your attention. Your undivided attention! Anyone watching any news coverage over the last few years has seen what is going on in the world today. There have been hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods, earthquakes, mudslides, tsunamis and a host of other natural disasters.

The devastation has been horrific.

For a more detailed discussion on this topic click here.

In the aftermath a typical scene unfolds. Dazed and shocked survivors are shown against a backdrop of carnage and destruction. The common reaction is one of gratitude at still being alive. All the destruction? Well that’s just “stuff”.  And stuff can be replaced.

Unfortunately that belief, comforting as it seems, is not entirely true. The most valuable stuff CAN’T be replaced. Priceless family treasures such as photographs, videos, letters and diaries cannot be recovered at any cost! The real tragedy here is that things do not have to be this way. Protecting these priceless treasures can be a simple thing to do but it has to be done before the unthinkable happens. Consider this your “call to action”.

Vivaxtech is a company dedicated to the preservation of these types of treasures. We realize how important and valuable these irreplaceable materials actually are and it is our commitment to this belief that has prompted the publishing of this post. Of course we would be proud to protect your precious videos and other memory assets but we are more concerned that these be protected. Period! To that end we are providing some guidelines here that will help you to do just that.

Five Important Things To Consider When Planning To Preserve Family Memories

When planning to protect and preserve your family memories there are several factors to keep in mind in order to make informed decisions. Some of the most important of these are listed below. Though this list is far from exhaustive it will provide you with enough information to help you make your decisions and raise some questions you will need to find answers to.

1) Succession

Is your plan to protect your audio, video, photographic and other materials only for the immediate future or do you hope to pass these materials on to your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc. If your intention is to pass these materials on to these groups you will need to create a succession plan.

A succession plan is simply a detailed strategy to assign stewardship of these materials to an individual or individuals who will be responsible for their ongoing protection, preservation and maintenance. These activities could include, but are not necessarily limited to, things such as making payments for use of storage facilities, maintaining access to the collection, communicating with the stake holders mentioned on the existence, status, and location of these materials. It would also include planning for format changes and other expected and unexpected complications associated with the long term storage of any kind of computer or digital files.

2) Maintenance

Maintenance includes the day to day activities associated with the ongoing survival of your collection of family memories. This includes things like paying storage fees – if this is required – tracking the collection so you know where it is and if anything has changed that will affect your ability to access the material.

Unexpected things can happen in the online storage world. Your service provider may be bought out by a larger company. Or, it may simply disappear altogether with no notice. It could also be the victim of a malicious cyber attack. If any of these things happen, how will they effect your ability to access your materials? Will the physical storage location change? What about backups and redundancy policies? If you had these initially will you continue to do so? What safeguards are in place that will allow you to recover your materials should the unthinkable happen?

You will also need to keep track of how you, and if necessary, others will be able to locate these materials. If you are storing them in a public access facility that is accessible via the internet – a service such as YouTube, Facebook, or a personal website – this may be as simple as insuring that the search engine listings for the collection are current and accurate. If you choose to keep them in a more secure, limited access facility you will need to maintain your access and provide means by which you can share these materials with others and keep them informed about any changes that may occur either to the collection itself or its location and accessibility.

3) Security

Security includes obvious considerations such as who has access to the materials, how this access is granted and how it is controlled to prevent accidental or intentional loss or damage of the materials. It also includes less obvious factors such as the physical location of storage facilities you intend to use. What are the physical security measures, if any, these facilities have in place.

Are there automatic backup procedures in place to create copies of your irreplaceable materials? If not, is it necessary for you to perform regular backups of the materials yourself? Is it even possible? Will there be costs associated with this? What will the technical requirements to achieve this peace of mind be?

The most secure physical protection of computer and digital files involves redundancy. This is a term that simply means there are at least two copies of each of your files in existence. To make this strategy even more robust these copies should be stored in separate facilities in geographically diverse locations thousands of miles apart. Perhaps even on different continents. When choosing some form of storage this is a very important consideration. The more copies of your materials that exist and the more dispersed they are the less likely they are going to be lost to an unexpected natural or man made disaster. You should choose a provider who automatically provides a redundancy protocol. If you select one who does not you should be prepared to implement such a strategy yourself.

Photo by Patrick Lindenberg

4) Accessibility

Regardless of where and how you choose to store your collection of materials you will need to have access to them. You will probably also want to be able to share this access with other family members such as parents, siblings, children, grandchildren and others.

If the material is stored in a public venue sharing it with others may be as simple as having them conduct a web search using any of a number of search engines. Even if you are using a public venue you may be able to restrict access to the materials to select individuals and control if and/or how these materials are indexed by search engines. This will involve making decisions on your part so make sure you consider your options carefully.

If you are keeping you materials in a secure, limited access cloud based facility you will have to decide how the materials can be shared. Will you be the sole person responsible for making copies of the material and distributing it to others as they request it? What if they only want to browse portions of the collection? Will you grant access in order for them to do this? How do you control this access? How do you revoke it should this become necessary? Are there costs associated with any or all of these activities? Who will bear those costs?

In order to know what exists in your collection you will need a simple catalog at the very least. This should list:

  • what the material is
  • what format it is in
  • where it is located
  • how it can be accessed.

You should also make this catalog information available to other family members who have an interest in viewing the collection or receiving copies of it. You may even want to post the catalog information online thereby making it easy for family members to find it using a search engine. There are many services available such as Facebook or blogging services that will allow you to post such things online for free or a modest cost.

5) Format Obsolescence/Migration

Photo by Gabriel Petry

We have a comprehensive posting dealing with this issue located here. What follows is just a brief overview of the issue and the process for mitigating it. For greater details we refer you to the post mentioned above.

Video formats change on a fairly regular basis. Photographic formats such as JPEG and PNG, for example, do not change so often but they do change too. As do computer file types. Remember Word Perfect? It was one of the original word processing programs and files that were created with it can still be recovered today but this can be a difficult and time consuming process.

If the format your family videos or event videos are stored on is suddenly discontinued, what happens to the videos that are stored on them? Would you know what to do to maintain their integrity, accessibility and play-ability? And suppose you were no longer around to address the problem. Who would take on the responsibility for preserving your precious video memories so that they could be accessible for the generations of the future? Would there be anyone? This constitutes the “chain of succession” issue we referred to earlier. Would you be able to create and implement such a chain of succession? And, if you could, how would you be able to ensure that this chain could continue far into the distant future?

Formats are GOING to change. If your intention is to preserve your collection of family memories for the long term you need to start planning today for what to do when this happens and incorporate it into your overall protection strategy.

Techniques And Services To Consider For The Protection Of Your Irreplaceable Family Memories

What follows are a number of techniques that you can begin using today to insure the survival of those things you cannot simply replace. Some of these are free. Some are available at a modest cost. We list the pros and cons of each of these. Our goal is to assist you in making an informed decision about asset preservation and protection. But all we can do is inform you. YOU have to be the one to take action. And we sincerely hope that you will.

Photo by Jakob Owens

Even if you decide that none of these solutions is right for you, or you want to take some time to consider your options, the very least you should do is to transfer all your video, audio, photographic and document materials to a thumb drive or an SD card. Do it today! Or by the end of the week at the latest. Place a copy of this material in a safe deposit box and mail copies to friends or relatives. The further away they live from you, the better. You may also consider updating all these materials on an annual basis so that your collection will always be current.

It is our deepest hope that you will never be in a position where you have to rebuild your life and replace your “stuff”. But in the event that it does happen we would hope that you had taken the steps necessary to protect those treasures that can’t be replaced. If you do so then we have done our job and lived up to our primary commitment. Thank you for helping us to achieve that.

In presenting this list we would like to make clear that VivaXtecH does not endorse nor promote any of the services that follow. We receive no form of compensation, monetary or otherwise, from any of the entities listed below. Be certain to read our disclaimer before accessing any of these resources.

 Google Drive

Google Drive is a file storage and synchronization service developed by Google. Launched on April 24, 2012, Google Drive allows users to store files on their servers, synchronize files across devices, and share files. In addition to a website, Google Drive offers apps with offline capabilities for Windows and macOS computers, and Android and iOS smartphones and tablets. Google Drive encompasses Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, an office suite that permits collaborative editing of documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, forms, and more. Files created and edited through the office suite are saved in Google Drive.

Google Drive offers users 15 gigabytes of free storage, with 100 gigabytes, 1 terabyte, 2 terabytes, 10 terabytes, 20 terabytes, and 30 terabytes offered through optional paid plans. Files uploaded can be up to 5 terabytes in size. Users can change privacy settings for individual files and folders, including enabling sharing with other users or making content public. On the website, users can search for an image by describing its visuals, and use natural language to find specific files, such as “find my budget spreadsheet from last December”.

The website and Android app offer a Backups section to see what Android devices have data backed up to the service, and a completely overhauled computer app released in July 2017 allows for backing up specific folders on the user’s computer. A Quick Access feature can intelligently predict the files users need.

Pros

  • First 15 Gb free (with Google account)
  • Your files in Google Drive can be reached from any smartphone, tablet, or computer
  • It’s possible to aggregate and organize all the files you upload
  • You can quickly invite others to view, download, and collaborate on all the files you want
  • Over 15 Gb to 100 Gb $2.79/mo.

Cons

  • Google Drive storage includes storage of all your Google products such as gMail
  • Your material can only be distributed to people who have access to your Google drive.
  • No redundancy back up in diverse locations.
  • No automatic format migration
  • Costs associated with Cloud Data Loss Prevention (CDLP)
  • Who administers the material once you are no longer able to?
  • How do descendants in the future know that these materials exist?
  • How do descendants find these files? (Search engines do not index private files on cloud servers.
  • Outsiders have no access to another person’s cloud storage nor can they search it.
  • March 2, 2018. Bad news, Google Drive fans – the app is going away. … You might have seen a pop-up saying that Google Drive is going away. Well, the deadline is quickly approaching: you have until March 11 to install Drive File Stream or Google Backup and Sync, the replacement apps by Google. Things change and it is the customer’s responsibility to be aware of these changes and make changes/updates themselves. This may, in future, apply to other Google and Google Drive services.
  • Since your computer and other devices sync to Google drive, any problems that occur with these platforms might negatively effect your files on Google Drive.
  • Following the launch of the service, Google Drive privacy policy was heavily criticized by some members of the media. Google has one set of Terms of Service and Privacy Policy agreements that cover all of its services, meaning that the language in the agreements grants the company broad rights to reproduce, use, and create derivative works from content stored on Google Drive. While the policies also confirm that users retain intellectual property rights, privacy advocates raised concerns that the licenses grant Google the rights to use the information and data to customize advertising and other services Google provides. In contrast, other members of the media noted that the agreements were no worse than those of competing cloud storage services, but that the competition uses “more artful language” in the agreements, and also stated that Google needs the rights in order to “move files around on its servers, cache your data, or make image thumbnails”.

Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services is the world’s largest provider of cloud computing services. They offer a free tier service of up to 25 Gb of data storage. This can be Video files, Audio files, photographs, documents or a combination of all of these. Should you require additional storage it is available at a modest cost.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a subsidiary of Amazon.com that provides on-demand cloud computing platforms to individuals, companies and governments, on a paid subscription basis. The technology allows subscribers to have at their disposal a virtual cluster of computers, available all the time, through the Internet. AWS’s version of virtual computers emulate most of the attributes of a real computer including hardware (CPU(s) & GPU(s) for processing, local/RAM memory, hard-disk/SSD storage); a choice of operating systems; networking; and pre-loaded application software such as web servers, databases, CRM, etc. Each AWS system also virtualizes its console I/O (keyboard, display, and mouse), allowing AWS subscribers to connect to their AWS system using a modern browser. The browser acts as a window into the virtual computer, letting subscribers log-in, configure and use their virtual systems just as they would a real physical computer. They can choose to deploy their AWS systems to provide internet-based services for themselves and their customers.

The AWS technology is implemented at server farms throughout the world, and maintained by the Amazon subsidiary. Fees are based on a combination of usage, the hardware/OS/software/networking features chosen by the subscriber, required availability, redundancy, security, and service options. Subscribers can pay for a single virtual AWS computer, a dedicated physical computer, or clusters of either. As part of the subscription agreement, Amazon provides security for subscribers’ system. AWS operates from many global geographical regions including 6 in North America.

Pros

  • 25 Gb free storage on “free tier” network
  • Data is stored in 2 geographically diverse facilities (Data redundancy) adding an extra level of protection to your files
  • Data accessible from any location using any device
  • It’s possible to aggregate and organize all the files you upload
  • As part of the subscription agreement, Amazon provides security for subscribers’ system
  • Materials can be downloaded or uploaded from any location

Cons

  • Files are not indexed on the internet so other family members and friends will not be able to find them
  • Access to files is restricted to those having access to user name and password associated with the account. Providing such access to third parties can present serious security problems
  • No automatic format migration
  • Costs associated with Cloud Data Loss Prevention (CDLP)
  • Who administers the material once you are no longer able to?
  • How do descendants in the future know that these materials exist?
  • How do descendants find this file? (Search engines do not index private files on cloud servers.
  • Outsiders have no access to another person’s cloud storage nor can they search it.

YouTube

YouTube allows users to upload, view, rate, share, add to favorites, report, comment on videos, and subscribe to other users. It offers a wide variety of user-generated and corporate media videos. Available content includes video clips, TV show clips, music videos, short and documentary films, audio recordings, movie trailers, live streams, and other content such as video blogging, short original videos, and educational videos. Most of the content on YouTube is uploaded by individuals, but media corporations including CBS, the BBC, Vevo, and Hulu offer some of their material via YouTube as part of the YouTube partnership program. Unregistered users can only watch videos on the site, while registered users are permitted to upload an unlimited number of videos and add comments to videos. Videos deemed potentially inappropriate are available only to registered users affirming themselves to be at least 18 years old.

YouTube offers users the ability to view its videos on web pages outside their website. Each YouTube video is accompanied by a piece of HTML that can be used to embed it on any page on the Web. This functionality is often used to embed YouTube videos in social networking pages and blogs. Embedding, rating, commenting and response posting can be disabled by the video owner.

YouTube does not usually offer a download link for its videos, and intends for them to be viewed through its website interface. A small number of videos, can be downloaded as MP4 files. Numerous third-party web sites, applications and browser plug-ins allow users to download YouTube videos. In February 2009, YouTube announced a test service, allowing some partners to offer video downloads for free or for a fee paid through Google Checkout.

Users retain copyright of their own work, but have the option to grant certain usage rights under any public copyright license they choose. Since July 2012, it has been possible to select a Creative Commons license as the default, allowing other users to reuse and remix the material.

Pros

  • Free
  • Up to 128 GB in size (If your account is verified)
  • Video can be found online using search engines (If someone knows what they are looking for and that there might be such a video)
  • Videos are indexed and searchable online using available search engines
  • Settings are available to limit who has access to your materials (This may impact negatively on the search-ability of your collection)

Cons

  • No guarantee how long Youtube will maintain videos on its site.
  • No information on where your materials are housed
  • No information on security measures in place to protect your files
  • It’s not possible to aggregate and organize all the files you upload
  • Video files are the only format that can be uploaded to YouTube
  • Video files may not easily be downloaded or shared
  • You have limited control over who can view your video, copy it or use it for their own purposes.
  • No plan to address format obsolescence
  • No redundancy back up in diverse locations.
  • No automatic format migration
  • Cloud Data Loss Prevention (CDLP) not available or applicable
  • Who administers the material once you are no longer able to?

Facebook

Facebook, Inc. is an American online social media and social networking service company based in Menlo Park, California. Its website was launched on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg, along with fellow Harvard College students and roommates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes.

Facebook can be accessed from a large range of devices with Internet connectivity, such as desktop computers, laptops and tablet computers, and smartphones. After registering, users can create a customized profile indicating their name, occupation, schools attended and so on. Users can add other users as “friends”, exchange messages, post status updates, share photos, videos and links, use various software applications (“apps”), and receive notifications of other users’ activity. Additionally, users may join common-interest user groups organized by workplace, school, hobbies or other topics, and categorize their friends into lists such as “People From Work” or “Close Friends”. Additionally, users can report or block unpleasant people.

Facebook has more than 2.2 billion monthly active users as of January 2018. Its popularity has led to prominent media coverage for the company, including significant scrutiny over privacy and the psychological effects it has on users. In recent years, the company has faced intense pressure over the amount of fake news, hate speech and depictions of violence prevalent on its services, all of which it is attempting to counteract.

Pros

  • Free
  • Materials can be found online using search engines (If someone knows what they are looking for and that there might be such material available)
  • Materials are indexed and can be made searchable online using available search engines
  • Facebook allows people using computers or mobile phones to continuously stay in touch with friends, relatives and other acquaintances wherever they are in the world, as long as there is access to the Internet.
  • It has reunited lost family members and friends
  • Facebook allows users to upload video files of less than 45 minutes in length and smaller than 1.75 GB
  • Facebook is the most popular website for uploading photos, cumulatively with over 50 billion uploaded
  • There is some control over who can have access to the material you have posted on Facebook.
  • Facebook allows users to broadcast or share content to others, and thereby to engage others or be engaged with others’

Cons

  • No guarantee how long Facebook will maintain your materials on its site
  • Facebook has experienced multiple serious hacks and other security breaches
  • It’s not possible to aggregate and organize all the files you upload
  • No information on where your materials are housed
  • No information on security measures in place to protect your files from unwanted access or tampering
  • You have limited control over who can view your materials, copy them or use it for their own purposes.
  • No plan to address format obsolescence
  • No redundancy back up in diverse locations.
  • No automatic format migration
  • Cloud Data Loss Prevention (CDLP) not available or applicable
  • Who administers the material once you are no longer able to?
  • Facebook has come under scrutiny for the amount of freedom it gives users, including copyright and intellectual property infringement
  • On June 7, 2018, chief privacy officer Erin Egan noted that a software bug had resulted in about 14 million Facebook users having their default sharing setting for all new posts set to “public”
  • Facebook gathers data on individuals who have not signed up for Facebook accounts
  • It was reported that Facebook app has been gathering Android users data for years. The data included phone calls and text messages history that were stored to Facebook database. Unlike Android, Apple limited the privilege of the apps who try to gather personal information from the iOS devices
  • Android users in California have filed a class action lawsuit against Facebook for invading their privacy by unauthorized access in storing personal contact data (especially call and text message history) without users’ consent
  • According to a study done by Jeffery Child and Shawn Starcher in 2015, Facebook is a social media platform where “both known and unknown audiences can gain access to posted content, increasing the possibility for privacy breakdowns”

Self Administered Website

An alternative that many have not considered is the deployment of a personal website specifically intended to store your family memories. The maturity and stability of content management systems (CMSs) such as WordPress can make the creation and deployment of such a site a relatively simple and efficient process. Many companies provide low cost hosting packages which include the installation of a CMS or offer tools which make this installation a fairly simple and straightforward process.

Pros

  • You have complete control over who can access materials you have stored on your website.
  • You can control what material is stored online as well as where and how it is stored
  • It’s possible to aggregate and organize all the files you upload
  • Websites are easily indexed and searched on the internet by search engines
  • No restrictions on types of files you can upload, or their size (this may vary from host to host so be certain to check out relevant policies before selecting a hosting company.)

Cons

  • Ongoing monthly hosting costs
  • Ongoing maintenance requirements including updating core packages, plugins and security patches
  • You may need to conduct periodic manual updates of core package, stored materials and database(s)
  • No plan to address format obsolescence
  • No redundancy back up in diverse locations.
  • No automatic format migration
  • Cloud Data Loss Prevention (CDLP) not available or applicable
  • Who administers the material and the website once you are no longer able to?

Other Services

These resources are far from being the only options available to you. A quick internet search will yield many, many more. Amazon, for example, provides free storage of photo collections at no cost to Prime members. And Google Photos offers a similar service.

Additionally, you may wish to explore other social media platforms or cloud storage providers. Your options are limited only by your imagination and the amount of time you decide to spend exploring them. Feel free to reach out to VivaXtecH if you feel confused or overwhelmed by the array of choices available to you. We will help in any way we can.

After Word

You now have enough information to start making informed decisions about

Photo by Chang Duong

where and how to preserve your irreplaceable family memories. Please, start working on your strategy as soon as possible! No one ever foresaw that the unexpected would happen to them but it does happen to so many on a daily basis.

It has been said that, “The best life lived is one lived without regrets”. There will always be some regrets in life but please, don’t include the loss of your irreplaceable family memories among them. You’ll be so glad that you did.

 

 

 

 

 

If you know of a resource that could enhance this section please tell us about it.

Disclaimer: The products and services listed here are for information purposes only. VivaXtecH does not endorse or recommend any of the products or services listed here. Some of the provided links may lead to different websites. While Vivaxtech makes every reasonable effort to ensure that the websites and documents listed here are legitimate and safe, it has no control over the information or content of these sites and accepts no responsibility for any actions that might result from accessing any of them. External web links provided in these listings are in no way under the control, management or jurisdiction of VivaXtecH and, as such, VivaXtecH assumes no responsibility for the accuracy and/or content of these sites. Visiting these sites and/or using any of their products or services is done at your own risk.

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