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Personal Preservation Tips: Digital files

An overview of basic storage best practices to help with preserving personal photographs, papers and digital files.

Organizing files

The hardest part of personal preservation is keeping files organized.  The easiest way to do this is with a digital folder structure system. This is basically folders that have subfolders which then either have sub-sub-folders or the files within them.

A popular and very easy method is to create an "Archive" folder on your computer.  Within that folder create subfolders for each year you have represented in your collection.  In these folders break it down one last time using sub folder with your item types (ie. "photos", "letters", "videos," etc.).  In these folders put your items.  Also sort files into folders organized trips, events, or by person is a good way to keep things easy to find.

Having a single master "Archive" folder lets you know that all your archival files are in one spot and makes transferring files to other devices a breeze.  All you have to do is copy the entire folder, and then "paste" it into the new device and wait for it all to load.

File storage

Good file storage will keep the things you want to save safe from time and hackers.  Remember the ransomware viruses that went around in 2017? These steps will also help you keep files safe from that!

The best thing a person can do is to save your data in an external hard drive.  This hard drive lets you store copies of all of your data off of your computer, this serves as a backup in case your computer's hard drive crashes.  A step put from a regular hard drive is a RAID.  RAIDs are like an external hard drive on steroids. The best ones for personal use have two drives and are set up as a "mirror," meaning that each drive is a copy of the other.  This way if one of the backup drives gets corrupt, you already have a backup built in.  New RAIDs don't come set up "mirrored" from the store, so you'll need to use the software that comes with the drive to do that yourself.

The size of the drive is important as well  A closet filled with letters and photos fully scanned can take up to 500 GB of space

With your external drive it is also a good idea to store this in a different "geographic location".  This means don't keep it in the same place as your computer.  Bring it to a family members place, an offsite storage facility, or even something like a bank's safety deposit box. A different geographic location is good incase of disasters like hurricanes, fires, or your upstairs neighbors bathroom flooding your apartment.


Free storage you might already have

Cloud storage is another popular option for people.  If you have a Gmail account, subscribe to Amazon Prime you already have access to secure storage for things like photos and documents.  Dropbox is also a good free could storage that lets you easily share files.  Flickr is great for photos too, and with their privacy settings set the right way, lets you keep photos from being public

You might also be wondering what exactly is cloud storage? Basically it's a service that lets you store files on a server at a facility run by the company you signed up for.  These servers are maintained and backed up by that company. This is great since if you have only a few files, it's usually free and usually is pretty cheap after that.  It keeps documents safe from disasters and damage, usually well protected against hackers, and lets you have one less device to worry about.

Privacy issues- the one down side to cloud storage is that you do not have complete control over where your files are stored and who has access to it.  Google for example, is well known for data mining emails and other documents you keep with them so just keep that in mind when storing documents that might be sensitive. 

Remember, for digital files having lots of copies of an item stored in different places is a good things and keeps things safe.  The best thing to do for preservation is to store your files on your computer, an external hard drive, and make use of cloud storage. 

Lots of copies keeps stuff safe.

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