This is the post I was planning to write last week, your annual reminder that you need to archive your data at the end of each year. (If your fiscal year is different from the calendar year, you should create these archives then.)
I’ve written about year-end backups on several occasions before. Because (as I pointed out in December 2005) these aren’t really backups, I’m going to stop talking about “year-end backups” and start talking about “annual archives.” At the end of 2004, and again in December 2006, I described the kinds of data that goes into one of these archives. My focus up to this point has been on archiving your data for tax purposes, so those posts address primarily financial and business data.
The need to back up–and archive–all supporting documents relating to your business income and expenses has not gone away. I’ve just made 4 DVDs to add to the tax box. There’s one for each of my business personas (the FileSlinger, the Author-izer, and the Podcast Asylum) and one with the new promo photos the Ur-Guru took this year. (You can see some of them on Flickr.) The most time-consuming thing about making them was isolating 2007 data. In some cases I had already done this, but I haven’t been completely consistent.
Once it was done, I removed all finished projects from 2007 from my C drive to make room for 2008 projects. I’m not that pressed for storage space on my machine, but it’s annoying to have to look through folders for clients I’m finished with, or previous versions of documents I’m working on, when I want to get to my current work. So I use making the annual archive as an opportunity to tidy up my hard drive.
That’s all business as usual. But more and more people are using computers to do more and more things. You might well want to make an annual archive even if you don’t have to worry about tax audits. Here are a few examples of data that it pays to be able to save each year even if you’re a student, a stay-at-home parent, or retired.
Coursework and Student Records
You might want to go back and use that essay or project for something else one day, and chances are you’re going to remember it by what class you had to do it for. You might need your grades and transcripts in order to pursue an advanced degree or get a job. And you might need to provide someone with evidence that you really did take such-and-such a class. But you’re probably not going to need it all on your main hard drive, and you may not even need it on your main backup drive. Burn it to a CD or DVD, label it with the year, and archive it. (Preferably off site.)
Some class projects take up more space than others. If you’re studying video, you’ll probably need more than one DVD per year. You might consider using an external drive to store your annual archives. Toshiba has just announced 1.8-inch hard drives with capacities up to 120 GB. I wonder how long it will take before someone comes out with a tray, rack, or box designed to store them safely.
And Speaking of Photos and Video…
Film cameras have all but disappeared. Digital cameras mean we take more pictures, because we don’t have to worry about running out of film, and if they don’t come out, you can always delete them. How are your photos organized? In some cases, it might make sense to sort them by subject, but if you archive each year’s photos into a folder with the date, you’ll have a much easier time when it comes to showing your grandchildren what you looked like in high school, or embarrassing your child by showing his baby pictures to his first girlfriend.
Also, if you take a lot of photos, your hard drive starts to fill up. Keep the best ones on your hard drive and store the rest on DVDs or an external drive. Then you won’t have to look through 1000 photos to find the two you actually wanted to print.
If you use a photo-sharing service like Flickr or Photobucket, those can act as backups of the pictures you upload, as well as helping you organize them and letting you show them to other people. There are even programs to back up your Flickr photos.
E-mail and Contacts
Even if all your correspondence is personal, you might want to save it–and to save the e-mail or postal addresses of the friends and family members you write to. If you make a copy for each year, it will save you a lot of time and trouble when you decide to write your memoir or family history. Your calendar information can be useful there, too. Even if you never write a memoir, your children or grandchildren might want to know what your life was like back when. If you’re like me, you forget a lot of the details.
Most of the blogs I read are business blogs, but many people do use blogs to write personal journals. If you think you’re going to want to read what you wrote on LiveJournal or MySpace or Blogger, better make a copy of what you’ve posted. It’s good to back these things up regularly, but even if that’s too much trouble, save your blog onto a CD or DVD at least once a year. (Most blogs don’t take up a lot of storage space.) If you want more details about backing up your blog, see my previous posts on the subject or do a Google search for “backup
That should be enough to keep you busy for a while. Remember to store your annual archives somewhere other than the place you keep your working files: in another room, at a friend’s house, in your safe deposit box.