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Digital Data and Storage

September 28, 2018



My love hate relationship with digital data and storage.


In my past job (before moving to the states and having my baby), part of my duties was to look after the library at a big engineering firm.  A firm that had been operating in that location since the 1960s. The library was really well organized and structured but was hidden away in an unused area of site.


Outside of engineering environments where historical documentation is vital for evidence and nearly impossible to digitize, corporate library type places seem to be a thing of the past now. Imagine if your boss told you he wanted to turn over a large portion of your premises and print every piece of data you had to fill up cabinet after cabinet! You’d think he was, quite rightly, crazy!


Digital data is quite simply fantastic even if evolving to it will be difficult in some industries. It means less filing space, access to documents at anytime from anywhere in the world across any device and simple sharing.


It is simply incredible to be able to send data and documents in to the cloud safe in the knowledge that they are ‘there’ and you can access them really easily.





Let me start by saying I am really embarrassed to share this story, but it’s a story many of us will be familiar with. It is completely first world problems and I am horrified that I have let it happen, but I think it’s important to share how digital data can go wrong.


This week my husband bought us new phones. I am a Mum with a smart phone and a toddler… I have a lot of photos! My iCloud ran out of storage about a year ago, I didn’t want to start paying for extra storage per month and we had always talked about researching the best online storage solutions, just one of those things you never get round to, so, I have just been keeping pictures on my phone without them being backed up – risky, I know!


So when he said he’d bought us new phones, I immediately panicked about what I was going to have to do to be able to transfer over.


When we got our previous phones (about 18 months ago), I had also run out of storage (see the theme here?!) so had taken all the images off the phone and saved them on to a folder on my laptop, ergo freeing up my iCloud account to fill up again!


Monday night I began to do the same for this phone… but I couldn’t the last set of images, anywhere! I had already started moving the new ones off and was sure I had overwritten the previous files with the new ones and that they were gone forever. Panic completely kicked in.

In hindsight, this could never have happened as the image names were different etc, but I was not thinking rationally, these were images of my nearly three year old from her birth and first year of her life and I thought I had lost them forever -  It’s not like I can go back and retake them.


I have a separate photo storing/sharing library called Lifecake, just for pictures of the little. We set that up when she was born because we live far away and that allows family members to see her but this is no way covered all of the photos that I couldn’t find.


I was so overwhelmed that I put both phones down and pretended it wasn’t happening, but it wasn’t going to go away just because I wasn’t looking at it!!!


Luckily, my super awesome husband had a vague memory and remembered that we had stored the images in another location (this vital piece of information seemed to allude him for several hours while the panic ensued!), we found this location and the panic was over, we had access to them and everything is fine!




But…. I still haven’t learned my lesson.


I have since transferred my new photos to the same location and just started a fresh and my iCloud account is happily starting to fill up again!




I have just compounded the problem. I am setting myself up for this to happen again with this new phone.


And, now I have 2800 photos that are not sorted in to any kind of structure. I am going to need to go through them and organize them but that sounds like such a daunting task. It was daunting last year at 1000 photos, its now nearly 3 times the amount of work.


I need a better process. My work life is about being efficient and incredibly organized so I’m not sure why this problem plagues me with my own photos!? Everyone has their weak points I suppose!? In some ways I feel a connection with the stereotypical carpenter who’s doors need rehanging, maybe sometimes you need downtime from your own skillset!


I will get a process, I will, I will! I am thinking it through currently but I know it has to happen. I have to organize my current photos and then start moving some from my phone periodically so I don’t get in this mess again. This was far too stressful of a week for me not to do something about it.




So anyway, the reason for me sharing this completely silly story is just to say that document management and processes really matter. They REALLY do!


Virtual data is absolutely amazing and I do encourage everyone to use it as much as possible. Cut down on space, environmental impact and allow yourself access to the information at any time or location. It also allows other (like me) to be able to help you by having access to what they need without needing to pester you for information.


But, please have a process.


Have proper data management systems. Be checking you can still access data regularly to ensure it doesn’t get corrupted and keep up with new technology to transfer data when necessary to ensure you always have the access you need.


Subscription services like OneDrive and GoogleDocs are great options. They back up the information each night and take care of all future proofing for you. They are paid for, but the risk with home management is big. Unfortunately, portable drives like USBs can (and do) fail and have a shelf life.


The subscription is usually a lot less than the cost of a filing cabinet, so overall you’re better off!


Historical data has so much importance, but not having access to it makes it pointless.