Late last year I read an article on Gizmodo that discussed one mans experiences of running a blogging service, that was then taken offline for personal reasons. He told his story of his web-based service that he took offline, tried to bring it back online, failed and then tried to get users their data back as a last resort. he tells about the outrage and inevitable negative response he received from the community, and decided to issue a warning to the world, one that would tell people to beware of the hordes of media being uploaded into social media networks such as Facebook and/or Twitter.
Although his story was full of woe, there was a moral that he tried to leave at the end of it:
In a way I’m writing this to encourage everyone who’s profiting from this stuff now to set aside some of the money to help the users in what is sure to come. But also to the users to wise up and also to stop being such children.
There’s a lot more to the article and the extract above is a tiny fragment of that, but it is mostly written from the perspective of that of a provider, not so much from that of a user of such a service (Even though these are clearly the people reading the article). As I was reading this on the train, I finished reading, and stared out of the window dreamily attempting to imagine how my own life would be affected by such a world-changing event such as Facebook or Twitter disappearing. As an (Occasional) user of both Facebook and Twitter among many other ‘cloud-based’ social media services I eventually came to the conclusion that, surprisingly, I’m mostly quite prepared for a social media apocalypse.
So why write about this? Whats the point here?
Well, bear with me and I’ll try to get to that (I may repeat myself but meh).
Firstly, consider that the way our world and social society currently work are unlike anything that we have ever had in human history. We have accepted a normality regarding releasing control of our media and identity-related assets into a ‘cloud’, which we have little idea how this data is used.
After considering my own contingencies and backups of my own generated media (And feeling a little bit good about my natural distrust of social media networks), my mind wandered to others. Those who stood out the most especially were those who’s losses in the same potential catastrophe would affect me in their unpreparedness. This may sound selfish at first glance, I admit, but I ask that you think about this… If your wife/husband/other-family-member loses (for example) your childhood photos or other important media such as the baby photos of your own children, does that not affect you? Of course it does.
Remember, this can happen at any time. PCs crash, hard drives die, fire happens, etc… I dont mean to sound like a scaremonger here, but most of us apparently at some point lost interest in keeping huge photo albums of pictures in and instead place gigabytes of photos, taken from mobile camera-phones on Facebook as backup (Once again, Facebook is NOT your friend). A lot of people don’t backup separately either, just to Facebook. Somewhere in this process, we lost the part where our parents and grandparents would meticulously maintain physical photo albums and store them in the safest of safe places.
So, if for example, my own girlfriend were to lose our holiday photos then this would be an issue for me. Likewise, I would expect it to be an issue for her if I did the same. As such, I will certainly be making sure her laptop and photos are backed up like mine are already.
This is why it is important to plan for these things, make backups, and don’t fall into the mindset that so many others (Especially the younger generations among us) that Facebook cares about you. They really do not, and I’m often surprised at those I meet that imagine Facebook as this consumer dreamland created just for them (Yes, I’m that guy that reminds people that Facebook is an evil corporation). Why else would Facebook sell your data to anyone willing to pay them enough? Worse, what happens if they throw in the towel when the next Facebook (Remember MySpace?) comes around and people move to that?
Realistically, Facebook wont last until the end of time, or even the rest of your life, so what happens then?
I put the redundancy of my digital content at the top of my list.
I have a home server which I backup my phone and PCs to remotely via Dropbox/Google Drive.
My PCs and laptops also backup directly to my home server automagically when at home.
My home server backs up my photos to external local storage nightly.
Where does this leave me?
It means I can leverage the ease of cloud based services to facilitate my own remote backup purposes.
How can you do this?
Well, it’s actually not that hard. All you need is a place to backup to (Your PC will do), a Dropbox account (Which is free upto 2GB to start) some free software and you’re good to go. Alternatively, you can backup directly to your server via WebDAV (Web folders), which takes out the middleman and also means you do not need your private photos going through some cloud company. This is an approach I’m moving to, as having complete control of my own data is important to me.