08 Sep 2009
Back. Up. Your. Stuff.

You possibly have a lot of stuff out in the Web, scattered among social networking sites, blogs, Flickr, Google apps … and some of you don’t have local copies or backups of it, right?

This is just a friendly reminder that you really should consider what you’re gonna do if any of those sites shut down or for some other reason become inaccessible. You may think that some of those sites are “too big to fail” (tossing out a trendy political phrase) — check out the Archiveteam‘s Deathwatch: “… meant to be a central indicator of websites and networks that are shutting down, or to serve as an indicator of what happened to particular sites that shut down quickly”.

Jason Scott, in “Eviction, or the Coming Datapocalypse” (Dec 2008), discussed the AOL Hometown shutdown (with 4 weeks notice), and the grief it caused:

I’m saying that, like a real eviction, there should be practices in place. When you open your doors to hosting user content, you should have rules in action that, unless it’s a complete and total fire sale and you have no hope of even staying open that long, then you should be required, yes by law, assholes, to make the data available to customers for an extended period of time.

In a follow-up post “Datapocalypso!” (Jan 2009), he responded to various criticisms and misdirections:

This was a case where someone or a group of someones made a decision to take the site down, and by take down, they chose to rip it down posthaste, with a specific amount of “warning time”, and accompanied by a flawed, scattershot attempt to mail everyone associated with the sites, and then doing a massive, global redirect of many tens of thousands of “sites” to a single weblog posting. This procedure happened because of money issues, most certainly, and likely not out of a sense of evil or meanness, but it also happened in an environment where this approach was considered legitimate and valid. This is the heart of what I’m trying to get to: they saw absolutely nothing wrong with this.

While you wait for that to be fixed (or not), make some contingency plans. For example, last year I posted how I make MySQL backups of my blog. WordPress has built-in export options and backup plugins are available. Use them.

Check to see which of your web sites and services have options to export, download, or transfer your data. Use these options, if available, ask for them if they don’t exist. In any case, don’t upload stuff and delete it — keep your local copies, just in case.

DRM-protected media is a whole other problem, since you may not be able to make copies that are playable (or make copies at all) without access to the hosting / vending site.

Update 2009-09-12: see the companion post “Delete your stuff
Update 2009-09-17: also see “Liberate your stuff

image: Paul R. Potts, SixHardDriveFormFactors.jpg, Wikimedia Commons

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Site last updated 2014-02-05 @ 19:22:45; This content last updated 2009-09-17 @ 05:59:15