History Lesson: Back Up Your Data for Now and for Those to Come Later

By Charles Kelly, President, Computer Exchange

I have tried to get this point across to customers for 25 years and I have probably said it 10,000 times, but invariably the point has been missed, so I would like to illustrate the issue with a true story.

If you are familiar with me, you may know that my father, Major Charles Kelly, was commander of the 57th Medical Detachment in Vietnam. He set the standards for medical evacuation of the wounded by helicopter early in the war, which carried not only throughout the Vietnam War, but stand today.

On July 1, 1964 he attempted the rescue of a wounded American advisor in the Vin Long Province. As he approached for landing, he had been told to leave because the area was hot and enemy fire was detected. He replied as he had many times before, “I’ll leave when I have your wounded.”

A few moments later, a sniper’s bullet came through the open cargo door, striking him just below his left arm, piercing his heart, killing him instantly. The helicopter pitched to the right and crashed, but no one else was injured. If you Google Major Charles Kelly you can learn much more and, in fact, I am working on a book, but this will take some time. We also have the documentary that was commissioned by the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps History Unit available at our stores, entitled “When I Have Your Wounded, The Dustoff Legacy.”

This story leads me to the topic at hand.

My father was killed when I was not yet 4 years old, so for me to write a book means that I have relied on his fellow soldiers, which I have done, but also on his personal thoughts, which were written in diaries and letters. I have also been able to rely on oral histories provided by Vietnam veterans that have been archived across the web. In fact, the day I wrote this article I had a discussion with Leon Smith, a Vietnam veteran who pointed me to a medevac history that I had never read before.

Over the years, as I inherited a box of artifacts, I came upon dozens of reel-to-reel recordings but never had the time to do anything about them. Last year, I attempted repair of the recorder, but finally gave up and ordered one from e-bay. I had no idea what was on the tapes as they were not labeled, but I felt sure that I needed the contents. I assigned the work to a technician and a couple of weeks ago, I had the product of that tape to digital conversion on a tiny flash drive.

I listened to that audio one day while I was alone and heard a strange voice, one I did not recognize, talking to a young girl, then another. I realized that it was my father and he was talking to my sisters, Barbara and Carol Kelly. I did not know the year, but then I heard a voice say “Charlie Brown! Do you like helicopters?” I heard a small child say, “Yes. I do.”

It was my father and he was talking to me! I had heard his voice as a child but did not remember it and there it was, coming out of my computer, a recording of my father over a half century old.

I say all that to point out that if it were not for the fact that I had a physical object that seemed to want to be recovered, I may well have missed those words forever. Fifty years is a long time. Now that we live in the digital age, we record pictures, video and audio without a thought, but in 50 years, will your children be able to find those digital recordings?

It’s all data and digital data is the most fragile of all.

I can pull out an enormous box of pictures from my closet, but they are all from the ‘90s, double Kodak prints from Eckerd’s mostly. One hundred years from now, my grandchildren’s children can go through them if they want to, but what about the digital? Where will they find the data from 20 smart phones? Who will sift through it all – and if it’s on the cloud, who will have the password to our digital past? Maybe Facebook will become the scrapbook of our lives…maybe, but maybe not.

Back up your data for your business because hardware failure, intentional destruction and viruses – the moth and rust of the digital age – are always at your door. Back up your pictures, your writings, your scanned images of your heritage and your home videos, because someone will want to know what your voice sounded like – someone will want to know what you looked like as a teenager and as an adult.

Someone will also want to read the soldier’s last letter home that comes with the folded flag of America. I have my father’s last letter and I preserve it and share it with my family and those who may care to know what he had to say about the Vietnam war, he who carried the wounded not only as a combat medic in WWII, but in Huey helicopters known as Dustoff all over Vietnam from one end of the country to the other until his very last breath.

Back up your data, because you spend time and effort on it and that data may contain a treasure of immense value to someone who perhaps never got to know you. Back it up with the gold standard of backups, but don’t let a changing standard get in the way of the fact that any backup is better than no backup at all.

It may not be important to everyone, but will be important to someone, somewhere, sometime. Back it up for your business, for your children, for your future great-great-grandchildren and anyone else that might care to know what you were up to in your life.

Charles Kelly is President of Computer Exchange, with four locations in the CSRA: South Augusta, North Augusta, Martinez and Grovetown. Computer Exchange specializes in computer solutions for home and business. For answers to your computer questions, email him at charles@computerexchange.com.

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