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Family photos and how to back up your digital life

by Penina

Family photos are a wonderful piece of life’s tapestry. I remember the worn cane picnic basket my mum would keep all our family pics in. On random Sunday afternoons, she would pull those pictures of afros and bell-bottoms out and enjoy a giggle over the kitchen table while dipping a tea bag in a cup. Life was simple then.

From bell-bottoms to ankle-stranglers

Well life has changed, as has culture and fashion. Those bell-bottoms are now skinny-ankle-stranglers and mums across the country are tapping their nails on tablets instead of tables. Mums are jumping online and turning their precious pictures into canvas prints with a flick of the finger. They’re hooking themselves up to headphones for a spin around the house with a vacuum cleaner and enjoying hyper-sonic bluetooth running sessions along the beach. Their friends can even follow them live via apps like MapMyRun!

The insecurity of digital

Though digital life is a hell-of-a-lot more fun, the lack of a little cane basket full of physical pics of my kids, makes me bite my nails down to the skin.
Simply. If I can’t touch the pics, like in the good ole’ days, they just don’t seem solid, secure and well, safe enough. Being a modern digital gal (OK and techy nerd) sure has come with its share of insecurities.
Recently I spent an entire day (a day I’ll never get back) on an excel spreadsheet digging into our finances. I’d spent precious hours deciphering how much I’d spent on groceries this year and punching into a calendar when our next mortgage payment is due. (Note: Using Getpocketbook.com now – so much better!) I had just got to that satisfying part of my financial adventure (You know? The bottom-line part, the ‘where the hell are we at’ part of the exercise) when -boom! One interruption from Ms Three-turning-thirteen sent my day’s work up into into a puff of ‘sadly-didn’t-have-that-in-the-Cloud’ nothingness….
The day was gone, like a hangover badder than a busted bladder. Those figures were dust. That file had departed to the never-never regions of my computer and I had nowhere to go. There was just me, left high-and-dry, perched on my office chair, looking like a stunned IT person. I’d just been hacked, by myself! Of course I felt stupid. I rapped the knuckles in my head for hours. WHAT AN IDIOT! Smack. WHAT AN IDIOT! Smack-smack. I’ve owned a computer since their inception and I’ve got close to 1TB of work on my current Mac. Yep. That’s around ten years of work dangling precariously in front of me daily and I don’t really have an adequate backup plan.
To explain this in other words:
I’m kinda at that point where I’ve got the baking soda to put out a small oven fire, but I don’t have the fire extinguisher to start putting out a large house fire.

My old file backup system

Before my little spreadsheet experience, I had several old-fashioned backup systems.

  1. One backup was in my head. I figured if I ever lost all my ideas I would remember the best ones.
  2. My other backup was over 50 notebooks sitting in my office with scribbles all in them. I figured, losing these random notes, would be somewhat cleansing in the event of an accident-by-file.
  3. The other backup was a 1TB external hard drive I purchased for $99.00. I made copies of my family photos and placed them on the drive.

These were my little systems before the advent of the magical, fandangle pocket of air people out there are calling ‘The Cloud.’ These all seemed OK, and actually worked for me for a long time, until recently.

Robbers and reminders

Firstly, I got a knock on the door from a neighbour who told me she’d just been robbed. Secondly, all houses in the neighbourhood received a dementia video in the mail, which I watched one rainy Sunday afternoon.
The robbery and the vid really got me thinking about my old-fashioned backup tactics. And then there was the house fire on the news that night that made me nervous about my notebooks going up in smoke. I admit it. I would be sad to lose them.

I’ve been lazy with file management

Until this point, let’s just say that file management, as opposed to the more fun escapades in life, like watching auditions on YouTube, just ain’t my thang.
So last night, as I lay not-sleeping at 3am and listening to small animals partying in the roof, I decided to do something about it. I found myself by 4.30am with a coffee in hand, ready to make good with my digital storage demons – for good!

Here is my emergency memorabilia plan

  1. Take all the photos of the family and put them immediately in the Cloud. Try JustCloud. It’s cheap!
  2. Take five of my best family pics and turn them into a beautiful canvas print.
  3. Make a collage of the rest of my favourite photos and make a canvas for the living room wall.
  4. Backup my entire computer to both ‘The Cloud’ and my 1TB hard drive.
  5. Put a reminder in my calendar to backup at least once a week. Do this while paying bills or some other regular job.

Here is my hot tips for dealing with one’s digital life

  • Keep your documents folder clean and tidy. Think of this job like doing laundry. Many cloud backup services automatically backup your documents folder.
  • Clean up your desktop. I got into a bad habit of saving current docs to my hard drive. File as you go and into neat little folders and you’ll never be stuck looking for documents. Use the search function.
  • Use an online site like LastPass to save and sync passwords between browsers. This way you’ll never be stuck looking around for passwords or risk having them written down. Try to have a one set rule for the 100  passwords, but make them different.
  • Use online bookmarking to store your bookmarks. Use sites like Instapaper to read information at a later date. This way you’ll never lose those important notes you want to come back to.
  • Regularly clean out photos and organise them. With the advent of mobile devices we are taking more photos than ever. Clear out the junk. Save the best pics and save a backup of them in the cloud. Make them easy to access from anywhere.
  • Create a password protected folder on your Mac or PC for those documents you never want anyone to look at.
  • Despite the wonderful world of digital planners, there are still lots of great reasons to still use a physical planner – yep, that means paper! With good old fashioned paper you’ll never crash, lose important information, run out of batteries or risk your life being trashed by a three-year-old who loves to ‘spill her drink’ over just about everything.

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