Managing your data for your entire family

Everybody I talk to saves their data (either knowingly or unknowingly) to some device or cloud service. When discussing with families on how they backup their photos, music, videos, and other documents, most plans of attack usually involve a variety pack of solutions. With so many devices syncing to cloud services and people running backups to external drives or USB flash drives, it’s easy to see how we all end up in some sort of data disarray. Below are some steps that I’ve taken to ensure that my private data (not including music) is backed up in some way that keeps it safe in case of disaster. The top recommendation I can give to families to ensure all of their data is backed up properly is to pick a certain methodology and STICK WITH IT.

Laptops, desktops, tablets, phones, and everything else

With most households nowadays, you’ll usually see more than one of the above devices. This can quickly turn into a headache if you want to make sure everything is being backed up to a cloud solution or to an external drive that gets stored away safely. For me, the easiest thing to do is to have a “home base” of sorts, where most current and up-to-date data was stored. I decided to choose my home laptop which also has an external drive attached to it (for all backups of media). All of my photos and documents are easily located in centralized locations (for Windows, usually the ‘My Documents’ folder is almost a standard spot to put data like this), and I typically run Microsoft SyncToy to sync everything to the attached external drive. Currently, my fiance uses her laptop and external drive for her backups. Fortunately for us, it’s only two people that know how to easily manage and backup their data.

Once you add a kid or two, you’ve got a whole different ballgame. There will be lots of training (and even more re-training) to ensure that they know where they’re keeping their data. All you need is for one of your kids to go and delete something permanently and then get really sad/mad about where it went.

Below is a brief checklist to hopefully make family data management a little bit easier:

  • Try to trim down devices – laptops, desktop, tablets, eBook readers, smartphones, storage arrays/NAS devices, this list goes on nowadays
  • If your kids are old enough, have them manage their own data – personal pictures, music, books, TV/movies, games
  • If you have little ones and chose to give them devices, make sure you use proper software to lock down what they can actually do. Also, you’ll want to give friendly reminders to keep them aware of all the data at their fingertips (and to use it for good!)….this isn’t so much a data management tip, but more of a ‘hey, you might want to think about this’ tip.
  • I personally find it simplest to keep a main storage device and to use syncing software (clients) on my endpoints to constantly keep the main storage up-to-date with any changes. For people that hear of the “cloud”, there are numerous services that you can get to help manage this easily.

I’ll be writing a bit more about SyncToy in a future article, which will hopefully help to keep things a little more tame when managing all the data. Eventually you’ll be the CIO for your extended family!

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