Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Data Backups for Genealogical Societies

For many genealogists and family historians, the first day of each month is Data Backup Day as popularized by several genealogy-related websites and even magazines. But how much consideration have you, as a genealogical society leader or member, given to ensuring that your society's data is secure?

Data Backup and Data Succession
A quick review of what we mean when we use the terms Data Backup and Data Succession:
  • Data Backup means taking any digital data, whether it is emails, website files or other items and creating a backup copy.
  • Data Succession means the ability for access to and management of data to be passed on to other society leaders and board members.
Issues
Here are some issues that genealogical societies should be confronting in terms of data backup and data succession, and sooner rather than later:
  • Society website administration: is your Webmaster the only person with the password to the society website for purposes of adding new information, making changes, etc.?
  • Society data: if your society is not backing up its data on a regular basis, how will you restore years of work by your members and volunteers? Will you need to scan and re-index documents manually?
  • Society website data: what if your website host were to go belly-up? Would you be able to set up a new website or blog quickly using backed up data?
  • Disaster recovery: If your society's building or space were flooded or hit by fire, how quickly could you get set up at a new location?
Don’t think that one or more of these issues can’t affect your genealogical society. Recently there have been instances of society buildings damaged by leaky roofs, fire and more. One society had their Webmaster leave the group after a disagreement and wouldn’t relinquish access to the website.

Solutions
The intent of this post is not to scare you as a society leader or board member but to get your group to think of solutions and to put into place a plan of action.
  • Update your society’s policies and procedures. Spell out clearly not only the responsibilities of the Webmaster, but also who is to serve as a backup, where login credentials and passwords are to be stored etc.
  • Create a disaster recovery plan. Just as you would have in a business, your society should prepare a plan in case one or more disasters strike. Consider what it would take to set up a new location, a new website, etc.
  • Backup your data NOW. Don’t delay! If resources are tight, see if a society member can donate an old external hard drive. Also, there are many free resources for data backup including DropBox which provides up to 2GB of free online storage.
Conclusion
Any society can take steps to better manage and back-up all of its data including website data. Most if not all of the resources are free and within reach of every society. Make sure that the topic is discussed with your board and make plans in 2011 to have a data backup plan!

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