Now, I don't want to alarm you, but your digital files are guaranteed to disappear.

I don't wanna get existential here (everything's guaranteed to disappear at some point), but we're talking within your lifetime. You're gonna lose stuff, and it's gonna suck. Trust me, I can sit here and list off all that I've lost already in my short 21 years of life—album project files and renders, childhood videos, important site updates (half of my microblog from my Neocities days is gone, as are several of my rants from that time), the list goes on. Some of it's like baby photos to me, and—none of it's extant anymore.

But right now, your stuff is extant. And I'm here to make the plea to you on why and, more importantly, how to keep your stuff safe. If you're more technically-minded, you might already have some system in place; you might even go grey over it like I do. I hang around art people. They don't usually have a system in place.

So welcome to a minisite I've decided to pen on the topic, since I work with a lot of data and think about how to keep stuff safe a whole lot. It's called the Center for Data Redundancy, or CDR if you prefer. I should mention before we begin that a lot of this is conjecture and opinion, and I'm gearing it towards hobbyists and small-time creators who can copy some files between drives, but by and large aren't tech geniuses. Business backups are a whole other world, and I'm sure they have some actual expert in this stuff on staff anyway.

Losing Data is Passive; Backups are Active

I'm gonna mention this really quickly before we start: you're not gonna get away with simply dumping your stuff somewhere and trusting that it's good forever. Losing data is a passive operation. You simply have to wait for that. Keeping your data? Takes effort.

In other words, you have to maintain your backups. That means, every month, every year, whatever you choose, taking your backups and copying them to fresh media. That means keeping multiple copies of the same data, and in multiple places. That means putting money towards backup solutions!

If you're not willing to do this, you're gonna lose stuff. Human error is why stuff gets lost, always. I've certainly gotten lazy with backups, but my dedication with backups also means I've saved the Somnolians' asses many times when they've accidentally torched their site assets. Cammy saves 'em every month, and it means I have full, restorable backups going as far back as July of last year.

The good thing is that backup solutions don't have to be expensive! A good, solid external runs you as little as $60, flash drives are $6-20 generally, and a good, name-brand spindle of DVD-Rs (and yes, I do stump for them, and I've explained why and I'll explain why again later) go $15-30, depending on layers. I'll run down the math and maintenance later, but if you're smart, you won't be spending more than $100 a year on this stuff.

If you're an adult with a job and a concept of budgeting, you can spare that for your precious data. Beyond that, it's all just good habits, and you too can build them.

Table of Contents

  1. Taking Stock of Your Stuff
  2. What is Redundancy?
  3. On Backup Media
  4. Backing Up Web Presences
  5. Keeping Up With Your Backups

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