Where’s your data?

I wrote about the importance of owning your data for blogging a while back and last week’s Twitter crash coupled with the demise of an URL shortener only reinforce that in my mind. The case of tr.im may not be so obvious to some, but whenever you use a URL shortener, that connection gets stored in the cloud and if the service goes down, you won’t be able to trace back the link. This is a real problem on Twitter where everyone uses URL shorteners and that’s why I write up  Friday’s Finds with real links.

The main issue is the increasing use of software as a service (SaaS) which is simple, easy and out of your control. SaaS provides ease of use to many of us, but in return we become dependent on that service provider, much as we do with proprietary software.

Anyone who uses social media for professional purposes should know what SaaS they are using and think about a backup plan.

Here’s mine:

  • Blog: hosted on an independent server, with tape backup, using open source software (WordPress)
  • Facebook: no backup, but nothing worth losing, IMO
  • LinkedIn: contact information copied to Hard Drive
  • Twitter: Weekly synthesis of important posts put on my Blog with ‘Friday’s Finds
  • Flickr: original photos on Hard Drive
  • Slideshare: copy of presentation on Hard Drive
  • Delicious: OPML file downloaded monthly

own your data

PS: I also backup my Hard Drive 😉

27 Responses to “Where’s your data?”

  1. Frances Bell

    Very useful post Harold. When I worked in computing in industry, it was always recognised that data was much more valuable than hardware or software. I see flickr as a back up of my images on hard drive, and only make certain ones visible. I treat Twitter as ephemeral and bookmark any links from there. I haven’t backed up linked in but I suppose I could use Export contacts and create a pdf from by CV.

  2. Alan Levine

    I’d expect a few more URL shortners to drop off the tree; I had used tr.im when it first came out (liked the stats it kept) and cannot even remember why I stopped (am going now to see what URLs I may have routed through here.

    Their goodbye message was rather whiny:

    “We regret that it came to this, but all of our efforts to avoid it failed.
    No business we approached wanted to purchase tr.im for even a minor amount.

    There is no way for us to monetize URL shortening — users won’t pay for it — and we just can’t justify further development since Twitter has all but annointed bit.ly the market winner. There is simply no point for us to continue operating tr.im, and pay for its upkeep.”

    And it serves now as a bitter lesson to be more vigilant. Whats a crock is that while they are redirecting links til end of the year (my how gracious), but if you had an account you can log in to reclaim the lnks they are taking down.

    Backing things up in multiple ways never makes sense til you need it 😉 In addition to what you list, other things I do/use are:

    * I’ve ordered backups of my flickr images on DVD (I think Qoop does that now)
    * I am using Lifestreambackup to do incremental backups of Facebook (no idea why), flickr, delicious, twitter, etc. Its just another layer. I do always want my own local copies.

    And I hope you have an offsite storage location for the backup backup 😉

  3. Ruth Elliott

    Hi Harold,

    We were both part of that online seminar with George Siemens and Dave Cormier tonight. I asked a question and you said to find you on Google to get the answer. Of course, the lobby chat is all gone and I don’t remember which question I asked that you had the answer for.

    Can you remember?

    I also appreciated this blog post. With the problems with Twitter last week and now one URL shortener’s demise, your words about how you are safeguarding your data are very timely. I will put a link on my Twitter to your blog post. As well, I will let the students in the online class I am taking know about your suggestions.

  4. Harold Jarche

    Hi Ruth. The question was about citations for blogs & twitter and I know I’ve seen something about this online. I’ll ask my network and get back to you.

  5. Ruth Elliott

    Thanks Harold. I just remembered what my question was as well.

    This will be helpful information as I will be doing research towards a Masters of Education thesis at the University of Saskatchewan next year. I’m sure I will find lots of resources online and will need to cite them in an acceptable manner.

  6. Harold Jarche

    A quick Google search and I’ve found several references about citations of online sources. There is even a “Cite Me” app for Facebook.

  7. Ruth Elliott

    Thanks Harold. I will do a search like that as well. By the way, I am now following you on Twitter. What did you mean about you have not followed your first rule of project management? I did look at your blog post about it. You have been blogging for a long time. I am a newbie; almost 6 weeks and 50 plus posts.

    Do you know if there was a #hashtag for last night’s online conference? I would like to use it to refer to the blog post I wrote about the session. Too bad your audio wasn’t working and you had to leave.

    • Harold Jarche

      The 1st rule of project management is to choose the right project (one that is suitable for your capabilities) and not accept a project just because it pays. I broke that rule.

      I think that hashtag for last night’s event is #smti

      @avil I’m glad you found the post of some use 🙂

  8. Avil Beckford


    Thank you for this blog post, it’s not something that I have ever thought about. My photos are on my hard drive, but I rely on URL shorteners a lot. There are many good finds in terms of websites that I post about so I have to now backtrack and use the original URL. For clickable links on my Invisible Mentor Blog I use the original URL. Thanks again! Avil

  9. Janet Clarey

    After I read this I had a bit of a sinking feeling. I need to get my act together a bit. That, or what for you to say “told you so.”

  10. Dave Ferguson

    Nobody else is going to care as much about your data as you do, regardless of what they say about world-class service and other marketing blather.

    I like the Friday finds and may do something similar.

    In the meantime, if anyone’s interested in the mechanics of local backup, here’s my take on How to be usefully paranoid.

  11. daniel

    This is very timely and wise advice!!! I had not really thought about the value of all the contacts I have made in facebook- most of them I do not have e-mails or other contact info for… college friends who are overseas etc, that I had lost track of until recently.

    I just had my students do a survey of their own data, what do they have, where is it, is it secure, and its value. None of us thought of these social networking items.

    I really preach not trusting data you are responsible for or depend on to ANYONE else, least of all “IT” departments.

    This is a very large down side to the rehash and repackaging of old ideas as “cloud computing”

  12. Todd

    Merry Christmas

    My back-up routine is simple, inexpensive, and fail safe.

    1) I use the online back-up service Carbonite. It is encrypted and double-backed up on the Carbonite servers. Cost is $60 per year.

    2) I use a 1-terrabyte external HD and along with the free utility called “Karen’s Replicator” my entire network is backed up nightly.

    To date I have had 2 hard drive failures but I have not lost anything. Redundancy and off-site are the keys.

  13. Dennis Callahan

    Hi Harold – I think this is one of those timeless posts. The recent news of Delicious reminds me to make sure I have a backup plan for data and services. The names in the graphic might change over time but the principle is timeless.

  14. Blair Rorani

    My method:

    Blog (hosted by LightCMS) posts to Google+
    Share from Google+ to Twitter and/or Facebook (any link shortening is via Twitter and the Facebook just posts my Gplus links by the looks of it.
    Twitter auto posts to LinkedIn
    Basically all ‘shares’ link back to Google+ which is sharing from my blog and helping my Google social search-ability

    I can download my blog from LightCMS, they are pretty reliable though.

    Anyone doing anything similar?

    • Harold Jarche

      You are relying on third party systems. Even if you can download your blog, you will lose all the links if there is a failure in any part of the system. You are dependent on the kindness of corporations whose only interest is to enhance shareholder value (and you are not the shareholder).


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