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Importance of data storage




Last week, as I awaited news about the possibility of recovering research data from my corrupted USB flash drive, I found myself recalling what one of my university professors shared with the class about her obsessive fear of losing the data she had collected from sociology research done in Pakistan for her doctoral dissertation. Besides the original stored on her computer, she had kept a copy of the data on a flash drive in her home in a safe; in case of a burglary or fire at her home, she also had kept one at her friend’s house; and in case of a mishap at her friend’s house, she had kept one in a bank safety deposit box. I can’t recall the exact number of copies she had stored away, but I’m sure there were more. It registered on me enough for me to keep at least three copies of all drafts of my book, Passage of Time, on various storage devices, including my computer.


If I had been as diligent about backing up the three weeks of research data I collected in Denver last January, I likely would not be writing this blog. I foolishly had put too much faith in the new flash drive I had taken to Denver, and saw no need to rush out to buy a second one to store copies of the research data after I returned home. A disaster also might have been averted had my old desktop been capable of storing a copy of the 16 gigabytes of data residing on the flash drive. Although I had every intention of buying a new desktop computer, again I had seen no need to immediately do so.


My prime reason for going to Denver had been to access copies of the Rocky Mountain News, specifically the newspapers published between 1859 and 1865, in preparation for writing the sequel to Passage of Time. I had spent hours in the Denver Public Library downloading pertinent PDFs of the newspaper onto the now defunct flash drive, so you can imagine how upset I was upon recently discovering I could not access them. Meanwhile there were less crucial files I could access.


A saving grace was that I had photographed a lot of the research books, so even though I could not access the copies I had put on the flash drive, the originals were safely stored on the camera’s SD card. But for a lot of other historical data, I had used the library’s scanner and microfilm devices to make PDFs that were directly placed onto the now defunct flash drive.


Before taking the corrupted flash drive to Matt Kodatsky of Niagara Electronics, which offers a data recovery service, I stored on a new computer copies of whatever data I could access from the flash drive. Matt called the next day to say he had recovered some data but not all, and that I should not store anything new on the USB device because it was untrustworthy. Having learned my lesson, I ordered an external storage drive when I picked up the flash drive. Unfortunately I returned home to discover the precious newspaper files were among the data that still could not be accessed.


Another saving grace was that I had kept daily notes about the data I was collecting in Denver, as well as whether I had used the camera, microfilm machine or scanner, which made it easy to determine which data I needed to recoup. I set about searching the Internet for ways of getting the books and other data I was missing. Some books were available to buy as eBooks at a reasonable cost, others as paperbacks at a slightly higher cost. Still others were available to read online for free from Hathi Trust. Google Books was another helpful resource, where I was able to grab screenshots of a few pages I needed from a particular book.


I thought the Rocky Mountain News data I had collected would be lost to me forever…until I found a note I had made about information given to me by the Denver library’s research staff concerning the Colorado Historical Newspapers site, https://bit.ly/2HK4DNL. I was one happy camper upon discovering I could download for free PDFs of the copies of the Rocky Mountain News for the years I needed, as well as copies of other pertinent Colorado historical newspapers.


Back up, back up, back up is the lesson learned…and don’t procrastinate!


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