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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Now it gets harder 

Data Backup

I have around 4,000 individuals in my genealogy data base with close to 500 supporting sources. (I know. That's not nearly enough. I have a lot more in boxes in my 'office" (see background at Unbuttoned Mind) but, when I first started doing genealogy, I just kept paper copies in family folders and didn't worry so much about sources in the program (Roots III then).) (That's a GEB pop pop not a smiley. ;-) In compressed format about 4MBs. Even with a dial-up connection, about 5 minutes to upload.

It would take me 6 months to re-enter everything and I am pretty sure I wouldn't get all of it back in. Yet, I would put in all the sources this time. >o(

GenSaf Journal

Domains

I reserved the gensaf.com domain in 1990. I never used it so it was parked at my ISP. Last year I renewed the reservation for 5 years more. When I decided to start GenSaf and had my web host, I needed to move my domain to my web host. I had never done this before. I clicked the wrong button and told my web host that I wanted to move the domain registration to them. Then I realized that my five year registration would be wasted. So I quickly had to learn how to manage a domain.

Fortunately, 1&1 wanted me to sign for the transfer. Altogether it took 7 or 8 days to get the form, sign, and mail it back. In the meantime, I discovered my error and also discovered that I had put my ISP on the form and not my registrar. The transfer was rejected because I had the wrong registrar. I asked 1&1 not to make the transfer. I also went to the registrar and learned how to lock out changes on the domain. Which I did.

Then I went to the 1&1 set up and attached the domain without changing registrars. This worked but the 1&1 system was still hung up on changing the registrar. It took a while to get that straightened out.

Because this was weekend 1&1 was not replying to emails and I needed the Domain Name Servers at 1&1 to link the domain to. I used whois to find the 1&1 name servers and linked them to the domain. But by then 1&1 caught up with my first email request to delete the domain and did it. I went back and reinstalled it. Then 1&1 sent another email to give me the DNS names. They were different than the ones I had put in but I believe that they were just aliases. I changed them again at my registrar and everything has been fine since.

Next - Creating a market

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Data Backup

Over the years I have read many posts to genealogy mail lists which explain that the sender cannot reply to a post because they had a computer crash and lost their files. Backing up never seems important when you are backing up. It is only important when you are restoring.

We all have the belief that our computer will never crash, that our house will never burn down, or slide away, or get blown away. Yet every year exactly those things happen to some of us. I tried not to be too dramatic on the GenSaf web site. (I am not, by nature, the hard sell type.) But I can say it here. Even if you have done a reasonable backup on CDROM, you can lose the backup and your computer in a home disaster. Insurance won't help. You can claim the 30 cents for the CDROM disk but the data is gone. Even worse the files and documents that you used to compile the data may be gone.

GenSaf is your genealogy insurance policy. Once you have made a copy off-site and away from your home you have at least the assurance that at some point you can get back your computer files for your genealogy. You can even backup the scanned documents in most genealogy programs and have everything back as soon as you get your life back to normal.

Think about how long it would take to start your genealogy research over even with what you know as a starting point. How long would it take and what would it cost?

GenSaf Journal

Where to put the Web Site

My original plan was to use my regular ISP to host the GenSaf web site. I have been using their services for email for a number of years and have my personal web page with them. I did some research and then had a meeting with them. They were not very encouraging and the cost was more that I could justify on an unproven concept. Then serendipity struck.

I was offered a free subscription to Information Week. I found that 1 & 1 was trying to enter the U.S. web hosting market and was offering three years of free web hosting. Originally, I had ignored the ads because it seemed too good to be true and I am usually of the belief that if it seems too good then it usually is. However, my meeting with my ISP and a good word in a Webmasters' mail list indicated that I should give them a look.

It has been some work for me but their service seems to be working fine. It is free and there are some trade offs. Support is by email only and there is no response on weekends. Since I came online that has not been a problem. During the setup of the site that did create some slow downs. It also seemed that their admin web page was very, very slow even with a high speed connection. In the past two months they have redesigned the web interface twice and it is now considerably faster. There are still a few glitches but I am coming to have some faith that they will improve overtime.

So I settled on 1 & 1 for web hosting. Then I needed my own domain.

Next - What I learned about domains

Monday, March 08, 2004

I spent some time thinking about what to do with this. I have decided to do two part posts. The first will deal with backing up genealogy data (which seems like a good idea because of the name of the blog. ;-) The second will a journal about starting up this business.

Data Backup

Genealogy is a hobby for most of us. We gather family information out of curiosity and we plan to pass it along to a son or daughter or anyone who will take interest in what we have gathered. Many of us have spent years and invested considerable sums in gathering our information. We have chosen a genealogy program because it helps us organize, print and share our information with fellow researchers.

Yet backing up the genealogy program is not a high priority. It takes some extra minutes when we close down and I don't close down until there is something else immediate to do. I have backed up on the default location which is usually on the same hard drive as the original file. I have also backed up on floppies, in the old days, and CDROM, today. The floppies and the CDROMs get put in a drawer right next to the computer.

Here's what we should do. Make a backup on CDROM. Copy the CDROM. Check both copies to make sure they work. Keep one copy somewhere else in the house. Keep the other copy somewhere out of the same building where you have your computer. We should do this often. How often? It depends on how much information you add to your files. (Really, it depends on how much time you are willing to spend re-entering.)

(To be continued)

GenSaf Journal

I have had the idea of an on-line genealogical data backup service for at least three years. I started writing the web page but then other things intervened. This past December I cam back to it in earnest. The time lapse was probably a good thing. In the interval, there were advances in the available utilities and I was able to find off-the-shelf components for some of the hard parts.

I used PayPal for payments because I wanted to make credit cards and international sales available and PayPal makes that easy. I have had some difficulty in paying for some services in currencies other than my own and PayPal handles all of it.

I used a plug-in security system which keeps track of login and password information. It also protects my web site, at least the subscriber portion, from copying. I also fund a JScript FTP applet which allows a subscriber to use File Transfer Protocol without having to learn or purchase a new piece of software. I put the site and its components together in less than two months.

Next - Where to put the web site.

Good morning to all

I have started a service which allows the backup of genealogy data online. This means that I am flogging my service in this blog. However, I will leave the discussion open for any topics related to genealogy backup and recovery efforts.

I invite you to look at my backup site at GenSaf and my genealogy site at Unbuttoned Mind.

Regards,

John Middleton

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