Many of you know my day job is that of a systems administrator. As one, I have to be concerned about things like data integrity, backups and disaster recovery. Somehow, while on one of my daily train rides, my mind wandered and hit on the fact that I really don’t perform these functions at home, and I should. Or, at least I should do them better. Of course, I do have the technology!

What I thought of was that my wife, like plenty of you out there, likes to keep paperwork. Now this is important stuff like tax returns, current bills, car service records, etc., and documents like birth certificates and such. Now some of these are in a small fire safe, but some of them are in a file cabinet.

So, what happens if there is a fire and I lose my file cabinet? I GUARANTEE that the IRS audits me because that’s where my tax returns are 🙂

Now a month ago or so I was reading an article on how to reduce clutter at home and one of the suggestions it made was to set up a “scanning station” where you scanned in your bills/documents/what have you and then shredded them. The basic idea was to use your computer and scanner as an avenue to better manage your paperwork. No more hunting for the last cable bill or pay stub through that grocery bag of miscellaneous paperwork you keep next to your easy chair, or worse, your “junk” drawer.

My idea was to use that scanning station idea as an avenue to not only reduce my personal paperwork clutter, but also as a security measure. Scan those important docs and get them available digitally. Get them all together. Scan all your important family photos. Imagine losing all those memories in a fire! Get all your music and anything else you can get together digitally and put all that stuff on a removable hard drive. In fact, have all that information backed up on that drive every day. You can figure out how to do that, I know you can!

Take that removable drive, maybe a big old cheapie USB drive and have your kids do an art project and cover it (not the vents or plugs) in bright red construction paper or masking tape with a white FIRE sign on it. Lastly, get it located in an as convenient spot as possible and drill everyone in the house that if there is an EMERGENCY, make sure to grab that FIRE drive on their way out the door if at all possible. Don’t even bother to unplug it, just grab and run. You can always get a new power supply or just slap the drive in a machine if need be, but you would at least have your important stuff available to retrieve.

That’s it. That’s the idea. Run with it and let me know how it works out. Now I have to go convince my wife that scanning for the next three months is going to be great fun 🙂

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3 Responses to “FIRE!”

  1. chad Says:

    We have a similar setup to the one you described. I’ve got two external 500GB usb drives. On is at my place, connected to my home server (Ubuntu LTS), and one is in a cupboard at my in-laws who live about an hour away. There are several directories on my sever that are rsync’d to to USB drive every night (/Data/Media/Photos, /Data/Media/Music, and /Data/Docs. /Data/Docs is actually an encrypted TrueCrypt file.) Whenever we take a trip to the in-laws, I grab the USB drive from the server and take it with us, and leave it there, bringing back the drive which was already at their house. I hook it back up to the Server and rsync updates it that evening.

    In addition to this, Photos and Music are pushed up to Amazon S3 via Jungle Disk (ridiculously low cost overall), and my Docs directory is rsync’d over ssh to a machine I have running at my fathers house on the other side of the state. (we are in Northern California, and he is in Southern California).

    This way, I don’t have to worry about grabbing anything digital on my way out the door in a fire. I have a relatively local (1 hour away) copy of most of my stuff at my in-laws, plus a backup of photos and music on S3. In addition, my documents, including important ones are also available from my dad’s house.

    At worse, I’m out 1 day of information.

  2. Verbal Says:

    Hey Linc,

    I just read your blog posting about saving data in case of emergencies and
    thought I’d throw my two cents in. A while back I had boxes and boxes of
    paper and I could NEVER find anything I was looking for.
    Then I decided to try using a wiki to help manage things. It’s been GREAT!

    Here are few things I store on the wiki.
    1. Phone numbers to friends, family , dentist etc.
    2. Program code, and notes.
    For example the steps to get vim to auto pretty-print/beautify code.

    No more digging through file cabinets!

    The wiki I use is Moin ( )
    Here are a few things I like about it.

    1. You can create private pages, create public editable pages,
    create public non-editable pages.

    2. You can create pages for groups of people.

    3. It stores pages as plain text files, so it’s easy to backup.

    4. When searching for text, it highlights the text that was found
    ( good for scrolling through long pages )

    5. It’s written in Python, so I can customize it if needed.
    ( Who doesn’t love Python? )

    6. It has regex search so I can get all geeky
    ( But the standard text search works just fine! )
    example r:\blinc\b this will find linc, but NOT lincoln

    7. The wife LOVES it!

    As for backup, I do a monthly backup to an external drive,
    and keep that drive at work just in case the house burns down!

    Take Care and thanks for a GREAT SHOW!


  3. gsavage Says:

    Hmmmm…. What do you think of Googles idea of a centralized server where you can dock all your information. That way if your house burns down its all available on-line. Maybe get one of those webservers where you can upload it all. You password protect it of course, but anyway, just a thought.

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