It's just a matter of time until your data file with all of your genealogy information in it blows up. I know, I just know, you have your important files backed up some place else - RIGHT???? I'm sure some of you are nodding yes and feeling pretty smug. I also imagine some of you are thinking that it's something you had not thought about, lately.
Well, here is the truth. Hard drives fail, computers break, laptops get stolen, viruses spread. I know you know these things but what may be more dangerous and much more likely is a program failure. I use Family Tree Maker 2011 software and have backed up my data daily for ages. It's also nice to know that the program itself does a back-up for you just in case you don't.
Why do you care? Well . . .
Software programs can have bugs that make them fail or malfunction. Computer hard drives can also malfunction. If this malfunction happens when you are saving or changing a lot of information - like global name or location changes - your data can be scrambled and become unusable.
Think of your family history files as a sequence of 3x5 cards all neatly arranged in drawers. (it's much more complicated and powerful than that but stay with me) What would happen if you dropped that file drawer upside down on the floor? OK,OK, after the crying, gnashing of teeth, and possible unprintable expletives; you'd try to put it all back together and might even be successful.
If your computer data file gets scrambled, though, the computer would not be able to figure out what cards went with which people. That is why programs have a repair feature hidden somewhere in the menus to re-index the database. If the re-index/compact function does not fix the problems, then you have to use a back-up of your file.
So, back-up your family history files on a daily basis and keep prior versions of these back-ups just in case your data file gets damaged and you need to restore the older file.
Why do you need to keep older copies, also? Well - I hate to tell you this but .....
sometimes the file damage has been around for awhile and the newest back-up file might be broken, too.
So - It's only a matter of time.
BACK-UP your data! Know where it is. Keep a copy away from the computer.